The New Agile- Certifications

Last time we looked at how things came to be. How things converged around a group of software developers in a ski resort: There were actual experiments in the field with reported successes. There was a funnel for communication to spread those ideas. And now there was a joint vision and a name.

The agile manifesto would still remain a nice website with a very modest cult, unless for Ken Schwaber’s business savvy. He decide that he’s not just going to teach scrum. There were going to be certificates involved. This is how the pyramid scheme of the CST (Certified Scrum Trainer) and the CSM (Certified Scrum Master) and derivatives started. Many people in the agile world (that do not belong to any of the training organizations, or make money of them) usually look with disdain at those certificates. “How can one become a Scrum Master in 3 days?” We ask. The simple answer is, of course, no one can become MASTER of any kind in 3 days.

We can say what we want about certificates, it is because of them that we practice agile today in many organizations. Because much like agile inspects and adapts, so did scrum. It adapted to how business hired and trained people – through certifications. This is not new – that’s how guilds were created long ago, and scrum is a sort of guild.

If Lean started it all (even before having that very cool, marketable name), and scrum led the way, the next evolution was David Anderson’s kanban. It too grew to be  a training operation – the Lean-Kanban University. While scrum and kanban are not dealing with the exact same thing, both fall under the same “process improvement” blanket. There’s no escaping the question “should we do scrum or kanban”, although both sides will say they solve a completely different set of problems.

Both scrum descendants (after the divorce between Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland) continue on their own, the Scrum Guide (the ultimate body of scrum knowledge) incorporates both Scrum Inc and inputs. There’s also the Scrum Alliance, not affiliated with either father, but a place for all the children to come and play.

As scrum took over the world, managers took notice outside the development team. If development team can move more quickly, why not apply the same principles to bigger product development organizations? In fact, kanban was there first, because that’s what it did – kanban processes came from the Toyota Production System, which after all was a PRODUCTION system, not a software facility.

Scrum at that point did not want to answer that. But where there’s money to be made, certification will follow, and so we got Scott Ambler’s Disciplined Agile Delivery (DAD) and others, but these are small fries compared to Dean Leffingwell’s 800 pound gorilla – Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe).

We’ll talk about SAFe later, but so far it looks as the answer to enterprise agile: the scaling, the scrum and XP basis, along with an assuring cool name. It too offers certificates, and it looks like the current winner in the area.

Certifications will continue to crown the kings of framework, unless there’s going to be a major shift in how organizations hire and train people, which won’t happen anywhere soon. Just as today, organizations “want scrum” because it’s the “best in breed” and everyone doing it, SAFe is probably going to be in the next few years. And where there’s a want, somebody will answer it.

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