Ken Schwaber announced a new certification program, the Professional Scrum Master, and blogs/discussion groups are now full of posts about Scrum, Scrum Alliance and Ken.

Some of the discussion is highly political and I feel some prospective from outside of the “club” is really due. Seen from where I live (Cracow, Poland) it looks like this:

  • Back in 2008 there is Scrum Alliance, led by Ken Schwaber, all Scrum gurus are together and everything goes fine, everyone wants to be a CSM. However, some point out this is a phony certificate, because to get it you just have to sit through a two day class and don’t be visibly asleep.
  • To address that there is talk of introducing an exam. By October of 2008 the exam is ready to be rolled out, participants to Stockholm Scrum Gathering can take the “test version” of the exam and report what they think of it. Exam is expected to become official pretty soon (January 1st if memory serves me well).
  • Then, exam implementation date is pushed back – I was back then told unofficially by “someone close to the Scrum Alliance”, that the reason was some CSTs sold classes promising CSMs without exams and were threatening to sue for lost revenue if exam is implemented.

    Whatever was the reason the exam implementation date is pushed back again and again through 2009, which looks bad – Scrum is supposed to be an effective project management method, however the organization behind it is unable to roll out a simple exam and keep its public commitments.

  • Finally, the final date for exam introduction is announced to be October 1st. Then there is an announcement from the Scrum Alliance posted on September 12th that the exam won’t be introduced until 2010 (the pretext this time is supposed need to translate the exam into other languages), then it disappears from site, then on September 15th Ken Schwaber disappears from Scrum Alliance. Then Scrum Alliance announces the exam-that-is-not-an-exam – the exam is introduced, but everyone passes (so calling it an exam is, well, not exactly true) – a true pearl of corporate-style wisdom.
  • Then comes the first real test for Scrum Alliance’s leadership – the Munich Scrum Gathering which is not an exact success for the board. None of the hard questions or real problems are met with clear answers then and since. Lack of leadership is clearly visible. Seems no one has not only vision and skills, but above all time and will to push Scrum Alliance forward. Enthusiasts like Tobias Mayer join in, stuff like “innovation games” is taking place, so there is some hope for the future – but overall Scrum Alliance stalls.

Amidst all that Scrum as such looses clarity and edge. Everyone jumps on the bandwagon now that it is seen as a clear winner – and everyone wants desperately to contribute, publish, write, record YouTube videos – anything, just to be known.

Some want to introduce Scrum in all industries, some want to dilute Scrum and agile into some soft-skills bag of tricks (as exemplified by this guy who proposed – apparently seriously – that members of Scrum Teams should offer one another physical affection and backrubs – link, link to prove I’m not making this up).

That leads to much noise about Scrum entering the Net – which, in turn, leads to a lot of ScrumBut. Thanks to all those “experts” who write and write and Tweet tirelessly about what they think Scrum is confusion increases, and with confusion come problems. And indeed voices appear that Scrum is failing in teams where it was introduced.

Clearly, something is wrong with the way Scrum is implemented – and that can indicate a problem with the way Scrum is taught and promoted. Maybe CSTs “club” doesn’t work all that well after all (I know, most CSTs do a great job, but “some trainers” clearly do not)? Maybe some “method creep” between trainers coupled with lack of exams makes CSMs inadequately prepared to implement Scrum?

Ken Schwaber’s Professional Scrum Master tries to address this. There is a body of knowledge (“Scrum Guide”), there is an exam already, there are clear rules as to both becoming a Scrum Trainer (as opposed to CST) as well as rules to retain that status (to ensure there won’t be “creep” of what is being taught) plus the course content itself is updated. Finally, there is clear focus on software development.

Now, I know there were hurt feelings etc., but from my prospective back here I welcome Ken’s initiative. While others were talking Ken simply moved ahead, created something new that tries to address the problems. If it is the right solution – we’ll see, but at least it is a move forward.

Having said that the best next thing that could happen to Scrum is some form of reconciliation between Ken and the Scrum Alliance. Last five months have shown that without Ken at the helm the SA drifts, but it would be a terrible mistake to waste all the enthusiasm and work invested by so many involved in that organization.