In defense of the Scrum Alliance

Have you ever felt really let down by someone you respect?  I guess the way the world is today we can all cite a long list of people that are famous and respected who let us down (as a golfer, the picture to the left is one that comes to mind for me) so maybe the question was kind of stupid.  But the point isn’t.  We’ve all been there.  Last week I experienced it yet again.  Tobias Mayer is someone who I have respected as a person and as an amazing Scrum Trainer for a long time.  He is rather unique, interesting, creative and spontaneous.  He’s also very intelligent.  I’m pretty sure those qualities are things the Scrum Alliance considered when they hired him earlier this year as Creative Director.  Unfortunately, he is also a bit too idealistic sometimes. That doesn’t usually bother me, but right now it does.

Tobias recently wrote this blog entry which has come to be known as “Tobias’ Rant” by those in the Scrum community.  I won’t say he didn’t have the right to write it because he does.  What disappointed me is the tone and some of his characterizations and generalizations.  I recognize Tobias was/is frustrated by what occurred, but at the same time I believe he overreached in several areas of his blog post.

I don’t want to address his post point by point.  Instead I want to give my view of the Scrum Alliance and the current state of the Scrum community.  Before doing that I do need to give total disclosure: I am a Certified Scrum Master, Certified Scrum Professional, Certified Scrum Coach and Certified Scrum Trainer.  I pay the Scrum Alliance a handsome fee each year in order to maintain my certification status.  I make money as both a Scrum coach and trainer.  Obviously that makes me biased in many ways.  However, I believe people who know me would agree that money is the last thing I worry or care about and that usually makes me a pretty fair judge of most situations.  I also personally know at least two members of the Scrum Alliance Board of Directors.  Now that you know all that you can decide whether to read on or not.

Where is the Scrum Alliance today?

If I had to pick one word I’d pick… lost!  But not nearly as lost as it was a year ago.  Let me explain a bit.  The organization got lost two years ago and is still lost, but it seems to be slowly finding it’s way back to civilization.  It is now only “lost” rather than “LOST!!!” like it was two years ago.  During the past two years the pace of change has often been painfully slow at best, but at other times the change has happened rather quickly.  Tobias hoped he could help transform the organization and was distraught by the slow pace of change.  I suggest anyone who has had experience trying to change a 100,000 person organization would say change would be rather slow, even if the change was the best thing which could occur.

The Scrum Alliance is HUGE in terms of membership.  If you consider the community of Certified Scrum Coaches, Certified Scrum Trainers and Registered Education Providers there are 150 individuals who all could be considered high level stakeholders looking out for their own best interests.  Have you ever tried to transform an organization with 150 VP’s?  Or even 150 Director level people?  We don’t usually look at it that way, but in reality this is what the Scrum Alliance is today.  It is a very large organization and those that are at the upper levels all have their own best interests in mind.  It is very difficult to steer a ship when there are 150 hands on the wheel.

The good news is the Scrum Alliance recently hired Donna Farmer as the new Managing Director.  She has significant experience and so far seems to understand where the Scrum Alliance is really at today.  She has already made some sweeping changes.  Some of which I’m happy about and some of which make me a bit distressed.  She apparently didn’t get the memo about change taking a long time – and that’s a good thing!  She may not have all the answers, and she may very well make some mistakes, but she is moving forward swiftly and with conviction.  If she can correctly discern when things aren’t working and make appropriate corrections I believe the long term future of the organization is in good hands.  If yet more wrong paths are taken and not noticed, well, it won’t really be much worse than the past two years were.  She is at least “failing well” which I mentioned in this blog post as something important for agile organizations to embrace and understand.

What about the Certified Scrum Trainers?

This is a group I can’t possibly hope to describe adequately.  In various articles on the web they are either:

  • greedy, money-hungry low-lifes
  • great people trying to make the world a better place
  • the ones that have all the power
  • the ones that have no power
  • great trainers
  • lousy trainers
  • people who willingly give back to the community
  • people who take whatever they can get from the community

The list goes on and on and for every bad example there is another good example.  Unfortunately, I can agree with all of the statements listed.  They are all true, and they are all false at the same time.  Like any sufficiently large organization there are people who fit in all those categories, many of them shift between categories constantly.  From what I am exposed to as an “insider” I believe far more fall into the good side of each list rather than the bad side.  In fact, I’m not sure I can think of even one CST that fits in the bad category far enough for me to be concerned about it, but if I were to just draw a good/bad line, some would be on the wrong side (in my opinion and no, I won’t name any names!).  We don’t all share the same philosophy, we don’t all share the same teaching style, we don’t all share the same business strategy, but we do all teach Scrum and we all do it hoping people will leave our courses knowing more than when they arrived while feeling it was worth their investment.

So why don’t the CSTs do more to change things?  Tobias is right in that area I think.  The Board of Directors does have a lot of control over what can and can’t be done by the membership, including the CSTs.  I have great respect for Ken Schwaber and what he did to get Scrum rolling, but I believe part of the current dysfunction is due to his style of organizational leadership.  It seemed to be more about protecting the Scrum framework than it was about people.  As an original signatory of the Agile Manifesto I would have expected Ken to put individuals and interactions over processes and tools, but it doesn’t seem to have happened that way.  From the outside looking in (I was not an “insider” during those days) it seemed very command and control and rigid.  As a result the power in the organization as a whole was very centralized to a chosen few.  That is changing now, but it is slow change.

The biggest problem with the CSTs as a group is that they aren’t cohesive at all.  They are from varied backgrounds and experiences and it seems like almost every time there is an issue it is 50.1% on one side and 49.9% on the other.  No one feels comfortable claiming that as a majority and making a change.  Because we are all busy people we tend to not collaborate as well as we should – and that is sad since we all teach about this stuff!  Part of the problem is we have many who “abstain” or just don’t participate.  When we have 50-50 and there are 70% who don’t make an opinion known, it really stinks.  Other times it seems there may be a 90%-10% majority, but the minority is exceedingly vocal and don’t allow things to occur.  Yes, we are bad examples in that regard.  Consider it our dirty little secret and don’t tell anyone!  We don’t currently seem to have a good way to reach any sort of consensus.  If this doesn’t change the CST community may never be able to have a substantial voice.  Considering the money we pay to the Scrum Alliance (funding the vast majority of everything else the organization does) this seems pretty silly on the part of the CSTs.  I believe certain individuals will step forward and make some difference with this, I just don’t know when or how.  I try to stay engaged with various conversations, but it is time consuming and often frustrating.  I consider it a sacrifice I have to make to protect my investment.  I wish others felt similarly.

What about ScrumMaster certification, isn’t that a sham?

On my really bad days I sometimes almost believe that the answer is yes.  Then I’ll get an email from someone who was in one of my Certified ScrumMaster Workshops saying how the class completely changed them and the way they do things and their company is now being more successful because of it.  Are we certifying that people are masters of Scrum?  No, we aren’t.  Are we certifying that they were exposed to Scrum concepts and techniques that successful ScrumMasters can and should use?  Yes, we are.  Do I wish they hadn’t used Certified ScrumMaster because it could be considered misleading by some?  Yes, I wish we could roll back the clock many years and change that, but that horse left the barn a long time ago.  The goal now should be educating people that CSM is the beginning of the journey, not the end.  Certified Scrum Professional should be what people in HR departments look for, not CSM.  CSM is great for an entry level position as a ScrumMaster, but if you want someone experienced in Scrum you need a CSP.  That message has not yet been heard.  Thankfully, the Scrum Alliance has been moving that way for the past year and I hope will continue to move that way.

I believe certified courses come with certain assumptions and chief among them is that the trainer is skilled and experienced enough to have a great class.  A Certified ScrumMaster course goes both ways:  the participants get a certification, but it is also taught by someone who is certified to teach the material.  That should mean something, and I believe it does.

At the end of the day isn’t it all about the money?

I wish I knew the answer to that.  For me it definitely is not.  I truly love what I do every day.  I believe I’m passionate about it and do it well.  I also make a good living at it, by working hard to deliver exceptional value every day.  Gone are the days when someone could show up to teach a CSM class once per month and make $20,000 per month (if those days even existed for the majority of Certified Scrum Trainers).  OK, maybe those days aren’t gone for some of the more famous people, but that is nowhere near my experience so far.  Most CSTs do it as a full-time job and they love it.  They make good money, but none I know are going to buy their own tropical island based on their income from teaching CSM courses.

Now, for the Scrum Alliance the answer may be different.  In general the finances have been opaque to the membership.  That is just plain wrong.  There is no excuse for this.  I also know based on recent messages that it is going to change.  Once the finances of the organization are available for us to look at then maybe we’ll all have a better idea of where the money goes.  I think we’ll find way too much money spent on things we believe are overpriced, but I don’t expect to find gross malfeasance in any way.  At least not for the past year.  Too many good people have been involved.  When it was a command and control environment things could have been different, but even then I would consider it a stretch.  I’m sure I’ll disagree with amounts and types of things they spent money on, but I’d be shocked if I found something truly disturbing like paying million dollar salaries or stadium naming rights being purchased.  On the other hand it is disappointing that some influencial magazines and other venues have not had significant advertising dollars spent on them.

What I’m doing to change things

I know this has been a really long, and for many of you, a really boring, blog post, but I needed to get this out in the open.  It seems too many people have just read Tobias’ side of the story and are now overly concerned.  Tobias is a great person.  I still consider him a friend and colleague.  I also know his view of the world often doesn’t match mine.  That’s ok and I think we can both respect that we have differences of opinion.  Given his personality and his passion I completely understand how he came to some of his conclusions.  Fortunately, I think the Scrum Alliance recognizes that some of his points have validity (while some others are somewhat incorrect) and they are trying to make improvements in those areas.  I don’t see the situation as dire as Tobias does.  I might also be wrong.  I have been trying to work to make a difference within the boundaries that have been set up.  Toward that end I have:

  • Been a member of one of the Certified Scrum Coach (CSC) application review teams.  One goal of the Scrum Alliance is to grow the number of CSCs in the community while maintaining the highest standards.  CSC is probably the hardest certification to get at this point.  I always learn from others as we look at applications and consider this a good investment of my time.  My role in this may change in positives ways in the coming few months and I’m excited about that too.
  • Worked on the CST application improvement committe and the CSP improvement committee.  The CSP-IC didn’t do a lot, but the CST application group did a ton of work.  At the end of the process something was put in place which was perhaps too idealistic, but if the goal was to only allow qualified candidates then I think it did well.  It just wasn’t terribly efficient and relied on CSTs to do too much without guidance.  I hope to be able to help give feedback on any new process the Board of Directors may consider approving.
  • I have offered to co-train with any CST candidates at any of my public courses.  It is my way to give back to the community and to help grow the next generation of CSTs.

I do lots of speaking about Scrum to user groups, conferences, etc, but the items above are more specific to the Scrum Alliance itself (if you want me to speak at a local user group, email me – I may be in your area!).

Conclusion – more people need to take action!

Hopefully people take Tobias’ blog post as a call to action, not a sign of defeat.  He did his best and feels it wasn’t enough.  I’m not nearly at that point yet.  I believe we have something special which is worth working for and saving.  I would believe that even if I wasn’t a CSC and CST and the proof is that I was successful doing coaching and training for 2 years before becoming a CSC.  I was not convinced I should support the Scrum Alliance by becoming a CSC (and later a CST), but in the end I decided to do it.  I’d make the same decision today.  I challenge those of you that are currently CSMs to show your passion for Scrum by becoming CSPs and spreading the word that CSP is the “right” certification to be looking for in the future!

Until next time I’ll be Making Agile a Reality® by helping the Scrum Alliance become the organization it should be.  If you have something you plan to do to help, please post a comment here.  I’d love to see a hundred people all say they now have a goal of becoming a CSP or a CSC or a CST (I’ll co-train with you!).  Our community can use you!

About Bob Hartman

Bob is founder of Agile For All and an agile trainer and coach. He never leaves home without his "NO" button.

Comments

  1. Hi Bob,

    Good thoughts all around. I understand Tobias’ stand, but, like you, I believe the Scrum Alliance still represents a worthwhile set of goals and is still the focus of a community that I can support. The best way to influence the direction of any organization is from the inside, even if the headwinds are stiff. Thank you for this post!

    Jan Beaver, CSP

    • Thanks Jan. I like your quote “the best we to influence the direction of any organization is from the inside, even if the headwinds are stiff.” I’ll remember that!

      – Bob -

  2. Nice post, Bob. You are consistently an example for the rest. I have a feeling that the rate of change in the Scrum Alliance is about to increase dramatically. However, for that to be sustained, we are going to need the help of lots of individuals. Hopefully people rise to the challenge and help make the organization what it can be.

    • Mike, wow, can I say you read my blog :-) Thanks for the kind words. You are right, we all have to work to make a difference here. Now is the time when we see what we are really all about as an organization.

      – Bob -

  3. Tom Mellor says:

    This is one of the sanest and well articluated posts I’ve read in awhile. As you address at the beginning of your post, Bob, it seems that people express themselves ever more in vitriolic rants. It seems ever more evidently that people set aside respect and trust and saunter onto their Hyde Park soap box to scream. The problem is that often there is a political type reaction to these posts that can simply digress into back and forth diatribes. On the other hand, there can be can a certain latent reaction to the original rant and that provides time for thoughtful, reasoned response. Yours here is an example of that. I was in a quandry because of my position on the SA BoD – if I objected to the post and defended against the rant, I could appear to lack consideration of any merits that might lurk below the surface. Indeed, if a person puts on polarized glasses to get passed the glare of Tobias’ vitriol, one can see the merits of his concerns. But, the emotion of the declamation obscures and mollifies the significance of his otherwise valid cares. But, as Tobias told me, “You knew what you were getting with me, Tom.” Indeed. Thanks for the post.

    • Thanks Tom. I appreciate the kind and thoughtful message. It took me several days of editing to make this post say what I really wanted it to say. It also took me calming down and looking at things in what you call “a thoughtful, reasoned response.” That’s exactly what I wanted this to be, so I’m happy you confirmed I hit the mark.

      – Bob -

  4. Hi Bob, sorry you feel “let down” by me. Not sure what top make of that. Didn’t Tiger just show his human side when he threw his club? We all have that, right? Anyway, a few responses.

    > which has come to be known as “Tobias’ Rant” by those in the Scrum community. 

    Really? As far as I can tell the only people using that phrase are CSTs on their behind-closed-doors ScrumTCC group. Of the 50+ commenters on my blog post only one (Bas Vodde) uses the term “rant”. In fact, only Bas, Tamara and Nigel from the 100+ CST community had the courage, or perhaps the politeness to respond on the blog. All the other trash talk went on in secret. Which sort of underlines my point about how the Scrum Alliance operates — it rubs off on its members, you see.

    > I suggest anyone who has had experience trying to change a 100,000 person organization would say change would be rather slow…

    This is a myth. The SA is not a 100,000 person organization. It is a board of directors, a small staff and about 150 CSTs and CSCs. No one else has a voice, and most (of the many who didn’t join the SA by choice) don’t give a damn once they have their CSM certificate. The change necessary is at the board level, and in the minds of the CSTs, no where else. I am currently working with a 300+ person organization who are entirely open to change. We have achieved more here in a couple of months than the SA has achieved in five years (or I was able to influence in nine months) towards being an agile organization. Fast change in large organizations is possible — if people are willing.

    > In general the finances have been opaque to the membership.  That is just plain wrong. 

    I have been requesting transparency into the SA finances since early 2006. It was my persistence in this more than anything else that caused Ken to fire me a s a CST. Maybe you can appreciate my frustration that almost five years later this simple request is still an unresolved issue.

    > Hopefully people take Tobias’ blog post as a call to action, not a sign of defeat.

    Yes, hopefully, especially given that I do say in my post “I’ll make a last plea for action to the wider Scrum community. Stand up for your principles. Shape your own future. ” If the SA becomes an organization that lives its espoused values I may reapply to be a member. As it stands, I am happy to be disassociated.

    • Tobias, we disagree on a number of points. You’ve pointed some of them out. There are 100,000 members of the Scrum Alliance. Whether they care or not isn’t the point. There are many very large organizations where the majority of the workforce takes home a paycheck and doesn’t care beyond that. In the case of the Scrum Alliance a certain number of people have taken home their certificate and don’t care beyond that. It is still an organization with a large membership and a fairly large number of people in supposed positions of power. Those people can’t agree on things, just like any other organization with 150+ people all having input and their own agendas. Based on my experience I never would imagine someone thinking such an organization could move fast, but you felt otherwise. I wouldn’t have tried some of the things you tried when you were Creative Director, but I’m not as big a risk taker. Some of the things you accomplished I still think are amazing.

      I’ll also point out that I did not trash talk you in secret. I posted my own blog entry with a clear link back to yours. I would not have felt comfortable leaving such a long posting as a comment so I did it this way. I have seen others call it Tobias’ Rant, so that’s what I said it is being called. I’m sorry if it offends you. It wasn’t meant to do that. It was just meant to give some background about how I saw it and found out about it. I’ll point out that although you posted publicly on your blog, you specifically “trash talk” the CST community and did not do it in a forum where we would have even known if it weren’t for the broad reach of social media. I certainly wouldn’t have known about it, that’s for sure. I responded in the same fashion. I hope that meets your criteria for openness. I hope you don’t feel I trash talked you. I tried to just point out we have differences of opinion. If there is something that crossed that line please let me know because I would want to edit it. Trashing you is none of the point of this blog posting.

      We have differing opinions about where the Scrum Alliance is at. We’re not really far apart, just you see the glass nearly empty and I see the glass just starting to fill. I’m sure it will all shake out in time.

      One last thing, on finances the Scrum Alliance did post financials a year or so ago. I think I even remember seeing a couple years worth at the time. They just haven’t done it consistently and not at all well. Hopefully they’ll get better. I think I’m trying to do the same thing you say in your blog – get people to DO something rather than sit around and watch. I just disagree with you about whether it needs revolution or evolution from where it’s at today.

      Best wishes on whatever you choose to do going forward. I do still respect you and sincerely wish you success. You’re still awesome. We disagree on things about the Scrum Alliance, and we probably disagree on other things like political party, how many shooters were involved in the Kennedy assassination and a bunch more stuff. :-) It’s ok, I hope we can still respect each other and that we are free to have opinions that differ!

      – Bob -

  5. Hi,
    as a lowly CSP, I have to say, from my perspective the new MD seems to be causing a great deal of confusion and concern.

    A lawyer, with little or no scrum background or presence in the community, within a couple of weeks on the job appears to have fired everyone and outsourced everything.

    Nothing on the News page on the SA website about it. In fact I have only heard about it via a couple of tweets and an email on the mailing list. It might not even be true.

    Excuse me for assuming the new MD is absolutely insane and hell-bent on destroying the SA, but I don’t have much to go on.

    I welcome being convinced otherwise.

    Many questions remain such as:
    What are the new managing dictator’s values and principles?
    What is her grand vision for the future of the SA? (A certification churning money machine right?)
    What sorts of meetings have been going on lately, and why haven’t the participants been tweeting and blogging the heck out of every little discussion and decision?

    To borrow the glass half full analogy, I can’t actually see the glass, but I do hear faint cracking sounds…

    In other words, what the hell is going on in the SA? As in right now?

    • Kurt, what the new Managing Director does have – which people seem to be overlooking – is a strong background in leading organizations of similar size and complexity. She has experience with organizations like ours. I for one am willing to see how that plays out because I prefer not to pre-judge people. Just because a person is a lawyer doesn’t mean they are evil. I recognize that they almost always are :-) but it isn’t 100% and I’m willing to give her the benefit of the doubt for now.

      You have good questions. I hope they get answered soon. I have some insight on some of them since I am a CSC and a CST, but I don’t have clarity on any of them yet. I think the reason you don’t see blogging and tweeting is because people are being cautious and want to make sure they don’t create unwarranted mischaracterizations. I know I would be cautious that way too right now. I wouldn’t wait forever to say something, and my hope is you will see something in the near future.

      We have new leadership in the organization. How it came about no longer matters. Right now what matters is how the new leadership AND current members AND current stakeholders move forward. Tobias and I agree that the time to act is now. What are YOU doing to make the organization better? Asking questions doesn’t necessarily make us better, especially when they are worded negatively. You hear faint cracking sounds in the glass so are you going to watch it break or are you going to try to find a way to help it stop breaking? I don’t know what you can do, but I think as a start, you could ask yourself how you can help promote the positives of the organization? You became a CSP for a reason. That reason probably had value and it probably still has value for others if you help them understand it.

      – Bob -

  6. Hi Bob,

    I don’t think I accused you of trash talking me. If my words came across that way I apologize, but you do know what I am talking about as relates to others. I am not offended by it, in fact I expected no less, and in fact surprised more didn’t join the mob.

    I do object to my post being referred to by you as a ‘rant”, and to Tom Mellor’s use here of the term “vitriol”. My post was a carefully considered critique of the SA, ending with a call to action. It was an emotional post, granted, but that doesn’t make it a rant. That the inner-group of the SA chose to shoot the messenger rather than hear the message is again, unsurprising.

    And honestly, if you had witnessed the unbelievable soap opera of dysfunction played out at the board level, including a failed attempt by three board members to overthrow Tom Mellor using an MD candidate as the cat’s paw, and ending (for me) with the complete reneging on the deal with the “Train the Trainers” facilitators, and indeed the community the workshops were set up to serve — your community, well perhaps you’d have been a little overwhelmed with emotion too. It wasn’t pretty. And this is not “perspective”, but fact.

    Regarding the size of the organization, of course you are correct. Technically. My point is that the size of the CSM membership is irrelevant. Whether it is 100, 100,000 or 1 million. There are no services provided for that membership beyond the occasional email blast and a membership website access. Nothing about the CSM membership size has any impact on the organization’s ability to change. It is the BoD and the CSTs who are the greatest opponents of that. I think you know this. Many don’t have a problem with that. I do. You seem to want a few minor changes. I prefer a complete destruction of the phony certification scheme, and a rebuilding of something that has integrity. Such change is too scary to most CSTs.

    I respect your point of view, and I am glad to see someone in the CST community responding in a mature and open way to my criticisms. But please, you and anyone reading this, take note of the 80-90% of comments on my blog post and what the message is there. I didn’t twist any arms! The dissatisfaction is tangible. Please listen.

    • Tobias, I do want major change, but culture is difficult to change without significant upheaval. I consider that upheaval to be too heavy a price right now. I’d rather prove we can change anything effectively and then build off of that success.

      You’ve mentioned a couple of things in your post which I did not know. Thanks for that. It doesn’t surprise me I didn’t know those things. I expect there are MANY more things I don’t know.

      We agree that the Scrum Alliance must change. Eventually the changes need to be significant. I’d rather change in valuable sprints than to throw out everything and restart. You may well end up being right and that is the way it must be done. We’ll see.

      As for the “rant” piece, I thought about removing that reference, but I’ve decided to leave it. It is not something I started. One definition of rant is speaking or writing in anger. I think you’ve admitted it had some anger in it. I don’t consider your blog a lunatic kind of rant. Even in your blog comments Bas called it a rant. If I had started that phrase then I would have removed it as inappropriate, but I didn’t start it so I feel it is accurate to say others have called it by that phrase. I may change my mind later and remove it. I don’t want it to be a stumbling block to the primary message which is we need to change!

      – Bob -

  7. Well,

    All relationships are about rupture and repair. Kick-offs and anger are a way to set or reset boundaries. Move the name calling aside and you are all onto something. Things are shifting and power structures are crumbling, this will lead to temporary madness. Just keep going… the new status quo will find its way out.

  8. Hi Bob,
    Did you notice that the folks who are rara about your blog post are folks in positions of power at SA?
    I do like that you’re a lot more objective about the shortcomings of SA, however understanding how Tobias was ‘smitten’ his emotions are well placed. I’ve been in situations where I’ve tried to do the right thing and have been disillusioned. I’m sure we all have.
    I’m not saying SA is evil, however, from an outsider’s standpoint, it is a factory of creating CSTs and CSMs. I also should add, working at a large financial organization, I’ve dealt with some CSTs and CSMs ratified by SA and I must say that they’re all “But Scrums” – if you know what I mean. They are all but inept.

    So Bob, I do agree with ‘Tobias’ Rant’ as you put it – I’ve not heard of this description before your blog, you just need an emotional filter to absorb an otherwise well written critique. (Case in point SA can’t even take a critique of itself ;) )

    • Observer, I have received many private emails similar to the comments. There are many who believe the same way, not just Scrum Alliance leaders.

      – Bob -

  9. I believe that the new MD is more a vessel to communicate the Board’s choices and decisions than an independent figure. The staff are seen to be there to implement board policy and not to generate new direction. Right or Wrong? We’ll see.

    An Observer; I’d love for you to name the “some CSTs”. Why sully hundreds of names when a few could be the root cause? Opacity causes disfunction, as the previous poster said. Name them.

    • Someone, I hope you are wrong about the new Managing Director, but time will tell. Painting her with that brush this quickly seems like a rush to judgment. I’ve been through many organizational transitions and the new person at the top often does similar things to what this person has done. I see nothing that makes me think they will be unsuccessful. That can change at any moment though.

      I do think getting rid of almost all of the staff was a mistake. I’m waiting to see how that plays out. I didn’t like it, but it also didn’t surprise me based on what I’ve seen happen when other top level executives have been changed in organizations.

      – Bob -

  10. Thanks for the thoughtful post, Bob.

    I’m puzzled by some of the recent moves (e.g. outsourcing core functions to Kellen), but I’m willing to let the new MD have a go at doing things her way and wait and see how it works out. Overall, while the Scrum Alliance has problems, I think it’s moving in a positive direction. I still think CSC is a solid program, and I’m proud to be one.

  11. Richard, thanks for your take on things. I agree on the Certified Scrum Coach (CSC) program. It is an incredible program which is dedicated to identifying and accepting only the best candidates. It was the first program from the Scrum Alliance that started changing my thinking about the organization. From that I see what is possible and keep hoping for more. The new Managing Director will hopefully start steering things in a way which will continue to make a positive difference!

    – Bob -

  12. Thanks Bob. Very insightful blog! I’m in the process of applying for my CSP for the very reason you mentioned.

  13. Skip Angel says:

    Hi Bob,

    I was reluctant to post a response to your blog post, or the original one that Tobias created. I have tremendous respect for both of you and what you have done for the Agile community. I can understand why Tobias wrote what he did. Like him, I was very excited about his new role with the Scrum Alliance. I thought great things were going to happen, and it would bring renewed energy for a group that needed it. However, I believe Tobias came in with a particular vision for what he wanted to accomplish. In the end, it didn’t align with what the rest wanted to do. Out of frustration, he did something out of emotion and quit it all – his certifications, his position, and perhaps even some relationships built there.

    I am all for transparency, and think there was some truth in what Tobias and you have brought up for all to see, both the good, the bad, and the ugly. However, I appreciate your take on it Bob. You chose to see hope in the future, and am not ready to quit it all and jump off the sinking ship. I am in the same situation, wanting to look for anything positive and turn things around for the better.

    I am proud of being a Certified Scrum Coach, I am thankful for what Scrum has done to make life easier for organizations out there. The transformation that Scrum has introduced will continue to happen with organizations. I want to continue to be a part of it. I also got a chance to meet with Donna Farmer in Seattle, who is now Managing Director. She truly wants to hear from all in the community, even posting her email for people to contact her directly! She wants to be more transparent within the Scrum Alliance. While she has her hands full, I see her trying things and getting feedback. She will make mistakes, but I believe she will learn quickly from them. I think we can all do our part to support her and get involved. I know I will.

  14. Hi Skip,

    > Out of frustration, he did something out of emotion and quit it all – his certifications, his position, and perhaps even some relationships built there.

    Actually this isn’t accurate. And there are two different things here: my CST status, and my staff status. I treated them very separately.

    I had been considering relinquishing my CST for the past two years, and really only held on to it during 2009 in order to run the WelfareCSM program. Once I joined the SA as a staff member in 2010 I was interested in exploring ways of improving the whole certification program, and it made sense to stay as a CST until that was effected. I’d be glad to be a CST if the certification program is honorable and defensible. It isn’t. Eventually, I saw that it wasn’t going to change any time soon (if ever) and decided I wasn’t willing to be associated with it any longer. The decision was a very carefully considered one.

    In terms of leaving as a staff member, I had little choice in the end, for two reasons. Tom Mellor, the chairman of the board, had told me in no uncertain terms that if I didn’t quit he’d do his best to fire me, and then there was the problem of the Train the Trainers program, which I felt morally/socially obligated to pick up personally after the SA reneged on its agreements. This meant I was then in possession of $30,000 of sponsorship money from the SA, which created a definite conflict of interest with me being on the staff.

  15. Skip Angel says:

    Tobias,

    Thanks for challenging my assumption there. From my perspective, it seemed your decisions were quick and reactive. But, it appears I didn’t have all the story there. I do wish you the very best, and hope you continue to be very active and a thought leader in the overall agile community.

  16. Bob Sarni says:

    Bob – thanks for the post. Like Skip, I am reluctant to react to these type of postings because there are always two sides to a story, sometimes many more sides. I believe I read in one posting, another site, that those (CSTs) that did not respond lacked courage. Those types of general accusations really disappoint me. I do feel you provided a fair representation of your viewpoint (with which I mostly agree) without resorting to accusations and blame. As a CSC and CST, I am starting to see some great discussions and actions happening at the Scrum Alliance. I still have hope and will do my best to help the Scrum Alliance move forward.

    I recently responded to an interview on InfoQ with Tobias because again, I am frustrated in the type of collaboration being used in these discussions – by both viewpoints. I think I said “sides” originally but now I am hating that word!!!!

    Here is what I said, “Tobias has his perspective, unfortunately I feel he and others (from both sides) in this article and thread have taken collaboration into a “red zone”. Red zone collaboration is characterized as stating your position in the strongest possible terms, continually pointing out the validity of your own position and the incorrectness of the other’s position, creating a combative atmosphere or avoidance atmosphere, among many other attributes. Once we move into the collaborative red zone, we force others into this red zone and collaboration is ineffective. We should all be aware of this and see if we can stay focused on adopting open and non-defensive problem solving communication strategies in which we openly listen and communicate honestly with no blame and no deliberate emotional button pushing. Maybe we can do this? It is not easy but let’s see if we can move beyond blame and accusing and focus on problem solving. If I were InfoQ, I might have tried to have both sides of the issue represented and tried to set a tone of “green zone” collaboration. I am not blaming, just suggesting :)

    Some great books to read about this are “The Argument Culture” by Deborah Tannen and “Radical Collaboration” by Jim Tamm.”

    Bob Sarni

  17. Hi Bob,

    I commented on your InfoQ comment also, but wanted to add a few more thoughts here. Firstly, the InfoQ interview you read is only half an interview. The concluding part was published yesterday: http://www.infoq.com/news/2010/11/tobias-part2.

    Secondly, you come in with an assumption that I want to collaborate with the SA, and your criticism is centered on that. But neither my “Scrum Compliance” article nor my responses to the InfoQ questions were intended in the spirit of collaboration. At this stage I am not interested in collaboration with the SA. I was once, and I may be again, but right now I am in a different place: my intention is to call bullshit, to expose the hypocrisy that I see in the organization and to throw down an “improvement gauntlet”.

    If that puts me in the “red zone” then I am happy to be there, just as I am happy (honored even) to be labeled “unprofessional”. I am not seeking to comply or adapt to the existing system, but to challenge it in its entirety. To do that will court anger and unpopularity. I’m okay with that. Maybe you can be too.

  18. Whatever scrum alliance is/was, they have succeeded in making a good hype of their certifications like CSM, CSPO etc.
    I agree that it should make some profit, but only for its own expenses.

    • WhyAgile, in your opinion what should the money be spent on? If you ran the Scrum Alliance and had $2,000,000 to spend in a year, how would you allocate it? Please remember that at least some of it needs to pay people who work to implement whatever you suggest.

      – Bob -

  19. Bob,
    I agree with you that we all make mistakes and like your perspective.

    I don’t see any conflict with what you have written and what Tobias has written, you stated some things Tobias did not mention .

    I don’t understand why Scrum Alliance is a 1,00,000 organization to be transformed, isn’t it run by a small group of people , even if it is serving a large number of members. I am only a CSP , not a CST or CSC to be very closely involved with running of SA, however still part of the 100,000 members of Scrum Alliance, however I don’t think even if I wanted I would be able to transform how SA is run, I sure can contribute to events , training and articles that SA facilitates.

    My bigger question is does Scrum Alliance even want to be run by the same values that Scrum is based on , if so what is stopping it from doing it ? As an outsider , I don’t think it wants to, that does not make SA any worse that other organizations, it would be good if there is transparency around the values with which SA operates. This will enable people to to participate only if it aligns with their values and believes.

  20. Bob, I agree with you that we all make mistakes and like your perspective. I don’t see any conflict with what you have written and what Tobias has written, you stated some things Tobias did not mention . I don’t understand why Scrum Alliance is a 1,00,000 organization to be transformed, isn’t it run by a small group of people , even if it is serving a large number of members. I am only a CSP , not a CST or CSC to be very closely involved with running of SA, however still part of the 100,000 members of Scrum Alliance, however I don’t think even if I wanted I would be able to transform how SA is run, I sure can contribute to events , training and articles that SA facilitates. My bigger question is does Scrum Alliance even want to be run by the same values that Scrum is based on , if so what is stopping it from doing it ? As an outsider , I don’t think it wants to, that does not make SA any worse that other organizations, it would be good if there is transparency around the values with which SA operates. This will enable people to to participate only if it aligns with their values and believes.

  21. I wonder how the Scrum Alliance managment applies lean principles in their organization. How about a Daily Scrum?

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