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I'm looking to take the exam and am wondering if any vendor/trainer listed through the Scrum Alliance will do or if I should be selective in who I pick.

Specifically, I have the option of taking the class locally, or paying an extra few hundred dollars for a flight to take a class with Mike Cohn of Mountain Goat Software, who I'm a big supporter of. Is the premium worth it?

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    I can see why this question will be a downvote/close magnet, but think the question is sufficiently on-topic with the certification tag added. Editing it to make it less of an opinion poll might help, but I think it's okay as-is. – Todd A. Jacobs Sep 23 '14 at 17:44
  • +1 - I am really interested in seeing this pan out since the question is something I was planning to ask in the future. For a start, why is there multiple SCRUM organisations at all? – Venture2099 Sep 23 '14 at 18:06
  • Hi all, didn't mean for the question to be out of bounds or cause as much push back as it appears to have caused. My intention wasn't for anyone to endorse or not endorse a specific trainer or vendor, but rather to simply understand if the quality of the course/material varied between trainers/vendors. The course isn't cheap, so if I'm going to make the investment I want to ensure I get the most of of it. – Dan Sep 23 '14 at 23:27
  • Nevertheless, I appreciate everyone's thorough responses. It appears the answer to my question is, yes, quality/material/content does vary. And what option I choose or who I choose will depend on what my objectives are. I think several folks have offered some great approaches as to how one might go about finding a trainer that's the right fit. If anyone has suggestions on how to better frame the question I'd be happy to edit. I do think the answers offer value to others as well. – Dan Sep 23 '14 at 23:32
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    @Venture2099 This post by Tobias Mayer sums up why Ken Schwaber left to found Scrum.org fairly well, I think. Having said that, I rate Scrum.org a little higher than ScrumAlliance these days. agileanarchy.wordpress.com/2009/10/06/… Also, Scrum is not an acronym... – Lunivore Sep 24 '14 at 8:27
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TL;DR

I refuse to offer a personal opinion on the qualifications of individual instructors because we don't allow polling questions on PMSE. In addition, evaluating the cost/benefit of any particular class is out of scope for PMSE. However, the question about whether instructor qualifications matter for Scrum training seems valid and on-topic here.

Define Your Educational Objectives

Certification training has two goals:

  1. Get certified.
  2. Get educated.

If you only care about #1, then it doesn't matter who the instructor is as long as you learn enough to pass the exam. On the other hand, if you want to learn things and get an education, then of course the experience, teaching skills, and background of the instructor will matter.

Would you rather learn about space-time theory from Stephen Hawking, or from my cat "Mittens?" My assumption is that you'd learn more from a respected expert in the field, but it's up to you to assess whether any given instructor is sufficiently expert (and talented at teaching) for your educational needs.

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Most people, when they learn a skill, start by learning the practices and simply performing them, until they understand a bit more about why those practices work. Martial arts has the concept of "shuhari". In the Agile domain I've heard these mapped to concepts like:

  • shu: follow the master; perform the steps
  • ha: understand, apply in context
  • ri: adapt, add to the body of knowledge.

So, if you're after "shu" level training, it won't matter; just follow the steps, take them away, practice them. You may find yourself frustrated if your context doesn't lend itself to the practices preached.

Most people really want "ha" level. They want to know what the basic practices are that work in most contexts, but also have a bit of an understanding of the theory, so that they can make them fit better for the context they're in.

The "ha" teachers tend to focus less on practices, and more on principles and outcomes. So for instance, compare this course outline:

You will learn how to run a planning meeting, showcase and retrospective, and how to facilitate a Scrum or stand-up

versus:

You will learn how to adapt plans to discoveries made during the sprint, how to gain stakeholders' trust, and how to encourage a team to reflect and continuously improve on their processes.

It should be fairly easy to work out which one to go for. Look for the courses which skip the buzzwords, and provide advice which could work in any context. The learning will last longer, and outlast the buzzwords.

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    I'd vote up but I can't yet. I'm definitely a "Ha" individual. I think your answer will really help me understand what to look for when I'm researching courses. The mere fact that course outlines vary suggest some of autonomy in how the course is structured and subsequently taught. Thank you. – Dan Sep 23 '14 at 23:37
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I like CodeGnome's 1. Get certified, and 2. Get educated. This is key to every type of training and education, from formal universities and professional degrees to the trades to certificate programs, etc. We get educated because that is one of the necessary elements of growing our capability. The getting educated part is for you.

We get degrees, certificates, licenses so that others have some degree of confidence that you possess a capability. The certificate part is for others to evaluate you.

The predictive validity of both the education and the certificate / degree is never a guarantee and can range from zero to rather strong, depending on a lot of different factors. Where you get the education is one of the factors and can really drive your performance with real results or can really drive someone's biased assessment of your performance.

I do not really observe, in my limited experience, hiring managers worrying about where and how a candidate received his/her certificate but just that (s)he possesses one. That is not the case for degrees; there is a lot more bias with the schools from which one hails whether or not it really matters. So the answer to your question is what hiring managers are asking for in your geographical area and industry. Are they checking off the box that you have the certificate or are they digging deeper and asking how you got it?

Since you framed the question the way you did, I am assuming you do not really care about CodeGnome's #1, getting educated. If you did, then you would not have asked the question because you already have the right answer.

So, find out in your area what will get you noticed. My guess is, just get the certificate as cheaply and quickly as you can.

  • David, your assessment is spot on; I definitely care more about getting educated than I do getting certified (although this is important too). I didn't look it from the perspective of the employer/potential employers so thank you for bringing that to the table. I think you're right, employers are likely to place more value on the fact that you have a certificate rather than where you got it from. Thanks for your analysis. – Dan Sep 23 '14 at 23:45
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One might think that when one wants Scrum training all they have to do is pick a CST near them. Unfortunately, there is a tremendous variation in the curriculum and quality of Scrum training in the industry today. Picking on the basis of location or their certification alone has resulted in many teams being taught a CSM course that really doesn't meet their needs. This, of course, makes it difficult to achieve the results they desired. What you experience at a CSM course is basically at the discretion of the individual trainer - certification does not mean any standardization. Some teach the class assuming people already understand Scrum and focus on the Scrum Master role. Some recognize many people there won’t know much about Scrum so teach more of an introduction to Scrum class. At a minimum, you should know what is being covered in the class.

Unfortunately, the variety in curriculum is not the greatest challenge. Nor is style – different trainers have different styles – an interactive lecture course is not necessarily better or worse than a fully experiential course. Ironically, it is the mindset of the trainers that often causes the problem. Not that any CST's mindset is wrong. It is just that this too has great variation and may not match the mindset that would work best for the client at hand. By mindset, I mean a person’s view of how the world works - software development in particular. Many in the Agile community are firm believers that the team is king and that management needs to stay out of their way. In our mind this is an over-reaction to when management over (micro) managed. The new paradigms of Lean and Kanban allow for a better collaboration between management and teams. Some CSTs have embraced this while others have not. This variation also needs to be addressed to ensure the effectiveness of your training.

-http://www.netobjectives.com/what-to-ask-your-trainer-about-their-csm-training

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