Qualifying to be a Certified Scrum Trainer is a long and sometimes arduous process. As part of that process,candidates seek out endorsements and mentors. The past year I’ve seen the number of requests go up, and I wanted to make my expectations explicit. As you read these notes, bear in mind that they’re simply written words; and as a result I won’t do a perfect job of getting the points across. In addition, it’s worth keeping some Manifesto statements in mind: “Individuals and Interactions over Processes and Tools” and “Working Software over Comprehensive Documentation”.
Finally, Transparency, Openness and Honesty are key Agile principles.
Certified Scrum Trainer Vision
When I qualified as a CST I was given this vision statement which I still find to be a valuable reminder:
A CST is an ambassador of Scrum. He or she will:
- have a solid understanding of the Scrum framework, a deep understanding of the principles and values that are the foundations of Scrum, and clarity on what belongs to Scrum and what is an extension or complement;
- have extensive experience of implementing and/or coaching Scrum inside organizations;
- be active in the wider Scrum community through actual and virtual interaction with other Scrum and Agile thinkers and practitioners;
- have training experience beyond Scrum; be willing to explore new ways of working and be committed to continuous improvement.
How do I measure these criteria? (These notes are not exhaustive, I’m open to finding other approaches).
Knowledge of Scrum
I need to see a deep understanding of Scrum which has evolved over a period of time. This often happens through blog posts, forum comments, etc. Some of this can be discovered through one-on-one conversation; but before I invest a lot of time I need to know that the candidate knows Scrum well.
Nobody will know everything; but I’m looking to see that a person has Scrum in their DNA and isn’t just repeating back one of the books on the subject.
NB: This isn’t a role you try to take on 3-4 years into your Agile journey; nor is it something that happens automatically after being a CSP.
Coaching and Implementing Scrum
I need to see that you’ve done Scrum with more than just a few teams at one company. I want to hear about your experiences in a variety of situations. In addition, I need to hear when it didn’t work, what failed and what you learned from it. It’s easy to talk about our successes implementing Scrum. I want to hear about the hard parts as well. In addition to taking your word for it, I need to be able speak directly to your clients and their teams about their experience with you. Don’t worry, I have no interest in trying to steal your clients from you.
As Certified Scrum Trainers we’re expected to do more than just run our businesses. We’re also expected to help grow the Scrum Community. There are a myriad of ways to do this; participate in mailing lists – at minimum the Scrum Alliance’s own list; participate in LinkedIn groups; help organize your local Scrum/Agile user group; help with a local Scrum/Agile event or conference; act as a reviewer, stage producer etc. for a major conference.
When I look at your track record I want to see a sustained commitment over a number of years. When I see people who’ve only participated in the community for six months to a year, I wonder if they will disappear as soon as they’re approved as CST’s.
Training Experience and Style
After doing this for a number of years I believe that Scrum isn’t something that you learn from a PowerPoint presentation. Additionally, I’ve found that the more words there are on a slide, the less people learn. As a result I’ve moved to an Exercise-focused, attendee-driven style of training: “Training from the Back of the Room” aka brain focused learning techniques. If your training is full of lectures and text on slides then we will not be a good fit, and I will recommend you look elsewhere for an endorsement.
I need to a see a history of your training experience; and you need to give me an idea about how it has evolved. I’m not looking for feedback forms or anything else like that; I just want to see how you have evolved.
To help me see your style I like to collaborate on building something (i.e. a new module) that we can both gain value from. Along with creating the module that you will facilitate/present it also allows me to see how you work. My goal is to deepen the relationship and build the trust required for me to surrender my class to you for a few hours.
Co-training is the best way to prove your training/facilitation abilities. It allows me to see directly what happens when you’re in front of a room and to see how you can work with your attendees. If that isn’t possible, I’m open to other evidence – video, discussions from other trainers who have co-trained with you, etc. However, if we don’t co-train my endorsement will be weaker. NB: Even if we don’t co-train we will still collaborate on producing a module.
Tips and other notes
My goal is not to make money from this relationship. Outside of conferences I try to avoid extra travel as it keeps me away from my family. As a result I’m unlikely to be able to fly to your location to co-train with you. I would prefer you meet me for one of my courses.
Given the time involved in mentoring, collaborating and helping to prepare, I can only afford to work with a few people a year. If I say ‘no’ to you I may not be saying you’re not ready; I may simply be saying I don’t have the capacity. Today I have one candidate I have just endorsed, another in the middle of the pipeline, and third who will be starting the journey soon. I might only be able to help a couple more people this year.
I have no problem endorsing a competitor – in fact, at least one competitor has an outstanding offer from me – if they apply I will endorse them. The Scrum Alliance needs great people; being in competition with me just doesn’t matter.
Your endorsement request shouldn’t be the first time I see your name. I participate in over 20 mailing lists, many LinkedIn groups and attend at least one conference outside my region (Ottawa/Montreal/Toronto) a year. If haven’t heard your name before, that speaks volumes.
If we haven’t met before, perhaps because all of your community work has been at the local level, then find someone we have in common to make an introduction. The person making the introduction should address the how you fit the vision of being a Scrum Trainer.
If you can’t manage an introduction I’m still open to hearing from you. However, you need to work to establish the bonds of trust and you need to appreciate the time involved. Due to my WIP limits this category is most likely to get an early ‘no’.
Paper and Electronics materials – Paper is an excellent way to establish your initial credibility; electronic training materials give me some sense of your style but they’re just conversation starters. This is a game of “Individuals and Interactions over Processes and Tools”. Eventually I or someone I trust needs to see you in action as a Trainer/Facilitator.
Finally, I strongly recommend contacting only a few trainers at a time and building relationships with them. Sending emails to 140-150 people at a time will likely attract the wrong sort of attention.
Caveat these are my personal guidelines, I’m sure each trainer will have different ones. In addition my guidelines are independant of Scrum Alliance.