Fixing the Flaws in the Agile Community

I was just reading a case study of agile and curious about how it became part of a website about a new movement of agile. I was confused because the case study was nothing new, just good old-fashion agile, with some design sprints and leadership support thrown in. After more searching, I found that you, too, could be featured on this site for a not-so-small membership fee. In fact, for $175,000, you could “always positioned first in all publications, banners, and on the website.” Consider that, in an agile world that teaches transparency and openness, the reality that appearances can be deceiving.

For many, many years, I’ve lobbied for transparency in “changing the world of work.” The Scrum Alliance non-profit membership organization has a value stream – essentially providing quality training. There are other, smaller value streams: conferences, information to members, paths for skill progression and ability to find qualified coaches and other practitioners. But let’s focus on the main one, training and certification.

I was recently part of a class with Scrum Alliance co-founder Mike Cohn, and a student asked about the difference between Scrum Alliance and Scrum.org. My comment was that the bar is very high to become a Scrum Alliance Certifed Scrum Trainer. I think that’s part of the reason SA has been so successful – for the most part, if you go to an SA class, it will be a great experience. I’ll walk through all the details later, but the average time to become a CST is several years and may involve tens of thousands of dollars of hard costs.

As far as that Scrum Alliance value stream, with approximately 500,000 members and conservatively a one-time $50 certification fee, that equates to $25 million dollars. Sounds like a lot, but as a non-profit, no one at Scrum Alliance is buying Lamborghinis and yachts. But…if the typical Scrum Alliance Certified Scrum Trainer charges $1,000 per student, we’re talking about a little bit more money. It’s just that it’s going to the trainer, and the trainers are not non-profits. 🙂

“When morality comes up against profit, it is seldom that profit loses.” – Shirley Chisholm

On the eve of the annual Scrum Gathering, part of a recent personal retrospective for me is to stop asking for others to make these problems visible. Go and do my part to make them visible myself.

I will be telling my story, and the story of Rocket Nine, covering the last five years. It is my goal that this will lead to gathering like-minded people to make the most significant change with the Scrum Alliance in years – change many say is impossible. But we are change agents, are we not? What will be the most significant accomplishment that you will make this year? Do you desire to be a part of a movement that is bigger than you?

Obviously, there is value in being a Certified Scrum Trainer. Part of the mission of Rocket Nine is to provide everything individuals, teams and companies in Southern California (and now Nashville) need to determine and take their next step. Our unique value was that we didn’t stop at the introductory 101 level CSM class, but offered much more, and spent half our time coaching and bringing back real stories from the trenches. So, we hired someone fulltime to become the next CST. It has now been over three years, hundreds of thousands of dollars of cost, approximately 100 days of co-training. We still do not have the next CST. But I’m not faulting the CST process. I support the rigor. I fault the lack of enforcement of the Scrum Alliance Code of Ethics and no structure or policy to prevent someone being given everything to become a valuable CST and then immediately leaving so that they can keep all the return on investment themselves. And I fault a “community” of CSTs and Registered Education Providers who not only do nothing about this, but actually profit from it by employing these people.

“Greed is the inventor of injustice.” – Julian Casablancas

I have used the term “value stream,” because I believe that’s the best fit. But the current value stream is incomplete. Like the justice system, criminals have to weigh the cost of their actions with the consequences. If we had no police, our crime rate would be sky high. So how do we help make sure there is cost? The answer lies in the Civil Rights momvement…