Drop the "Certified" tag, guys!

Scrum Alliance has now launched its "Certified Scrum Developer" qualification. It's a seductive idea - hire people with this certification and they will have been pre-bootstrapped into an agile way of thinking and working, same as Certified Scrum Master. So why do I think it is such a bad idea?

It's taken a while to work it out, but I think I finally understand why I (and some others) don't like it. It's wordology. Pure and simple. "Certificate" and "Certification" carries a whole bunch of mental baggage.
Consider these two phrases:

"I attended a 5 day Object Oriented Design course"
"I am a Certified Object Oriented Designer"

I am referring to the exact same thing - way back in the Dark Ages I did indeed go on a week long course in OOAD. They gave me a certificate at the end, presumably because I turned up and didn't snore too loudly. Yet the first phrase carries far less authority than the second.

And here lies the problem with Scrum so-called "Certification". It suggests that you are an "expert", or at least have attained a level of competence over and above "I have stayed awake through a 2 day course". However, on the flip side, it undoubtedly does make for a better sales pitch and allow people to make a ton of hard cash issuing the certifications. Then there are the courses to certify the trainers, and certify the trainer trainers, not to mention the yearly subscription to keep your certification....

The problem could be fixed with the strike of a pen. Renaming Certified Scrum Master to the "Introduction to Becoming A Scrum Master Course" would be a great start. While we're at it, rename Certified Scrum Developer as the "Introduction to Agile Development in Scrum Course". You get the idea. Reserve "Certified" for anything that gets assessed properly, where you show that you have indeed mastered the skills.

Needless to say I won't be rushing out to become Certified just for the paper certificate. I'll let my CV show that I'm post-certification standard. If a company believes that attending the course is more important than actually being able to do it then I probably don't want to work there.


  1. I heard a story last year about someone who failed their Scrum Master Certification course.

    That's the point: one person who failed, out of how many?

    If certification means more than "I turned up" there has to be a significant failure rate. But then, who would buy from a provider with a high failure rate?

    This is a problem schools, Universities and exam boards have been wrestling with for years so we shouldn't be too hard on the Scrum folk.

    As things stand the Scrum Master course has become Scrum 101 and the certificate a tick list item which almost be definition the good people don't bother with.


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