A Scrum Master Certification Does Not Make You a Scrum Master

Earning a Scrum Master Certification can feel like reaching the top of the mountain. You’ve done it. You studied, took a course, prepared for the test, sat through it, and passed. 

You’ve made it to the summit, after a long hike up. You’re a Scrum Master now. Right?

Not so much. Just because you have a CSM after your name now doesn’t mean that you’re a Scrum Master. 

The How and Why of Scrum Master Certification Course Design

Typically, Scrum Master Certification courses provide some in-depth exploration of Agile and Scrum concepts, often over a two-day period. At the end of this period, learners can take a test to see how well they’ve absorbed the content.

PSM and CSM certification badges.

Just because most Scrum Master Certification courses end with a test, that doesn’t mean that passing the test is the purpose of the course. Learners who are laser-focused on passing the certification exam end up collecting facts and trivia but miss out on the practical, hands-on experience.

It’s up to instructors to clarify this misunderstanding. Instructors should teach in a way that emphasizes the mastery of concepts instead of simple, testable answers. Agile and Scrum are about being able to apply and adapt, not fill out a multiple-choice exam correctly. 

When all is said and done, learners should leave the program with the utmost clarity on the subject as well as information on how to apply their knowledge. This, in turn, increases their chances of passing the SM Certification exam.

So, you’ve finished the course and passed a CSM or PSM exam with flying colors. You’ve reached the summit. But your journey is far from over. There are still many more winding trails to take on your way to becoming a true Scrum Master.

Scrum Masters are Built Through Experience 

When you first step into the role of Scrum Master, your education and certification will provide a foundation on which you can build. But, you won’t fully master the role of Scrum Master until you’ve verified what you learned in class through hands-on experience

Before you can explain the how, you and your team have to understand the why.

Looking for some guidance on how to do that? Give the following six strategies a try:

  1. Clearly explain why you’re using the rules of Scrum with your team before diving in. Just because you’ve read about Scum in a book or course doesn’t mean your team will understand why Scrum matters. As the SM, it’s your responsibility to explain the why first, followed by the how
  2. Start using what you learned in class to facilitate the Scrum ceremonies with your team. As you do, study their reactions. Are they resisting or accepting? You may have to revisit the why and how with more resistant team members.
  3. If you’re working in a Waterfall culture, resistance to Scrum rules is more likely. Continue to explain how this new way of working will help the company deliver more value more quickly.
  4. During the Retrospective meetings, evaluate how well you are able to understand your team’s ongoing concerns. Are you able to guide them through the problem-solving process? If not, revisit your own approach as SM.
  5. Do you best to show empathy toward everyone in the group and their individual needs without sacrificing team objectives. 
  6. Continuously work with stakeholders and management to help them understand the new Scrum or Agile mindset you’re developing with your team. Help them understand how it will pay off in the long run. 

At the end of the day, remember that as a Scrum Master, you are a Servant Leader: always serving the needs of those you lead. 

Photo courtesy of katemangostar.

Scrum Masters Are Always Learning

It’s likely that your first time leading a real-life Scrum team as an SM will not go as smoothly as it did in class. When this happens, stop and think: Why? If you feel like you need extra support, consider calling your instructor, who may be able to offer some insights. 

This learning process and the ongoing practice, reflection, and refinement that go with it are part of what makes the best Scrum Masters. Yes, the course and Scrum Master certification are a necessary place to start. But, keep in mind that they’re just the start of your Scrum Master journey. 

True Scrum Masters know that there is always another summit to reach for — and a more Agile way to get there.

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