I’m a Certified Scrum Coach (CSC) – so what?

I’ve asked myself that question more than once in the 5 or so months since I became a CSC.  I never doubted my decision to go through the process and I was thrilled to have been accepted into a very small fraternity (still only 21 in the world), but I couldn’t figure out how to really talk about it.  After spending a few days at the Agile2009 conference in Chicago I finally found the answer.  Being a CSC is a big deal because these people are clearly among the most talented agile/Scrum coaches in the world.

Before the conference I had personally known three of the other 20 CSCs and all of them impressed me as being amazing, but I wasn’t sure how I would feel about the rest of the group.  Having met several more CSCs at the conference I now have a pattern of perfection – every CSC I have met is amazing.  Because I now know a lot more of them, and I know most of the people who are on the certifying committee, I’m very convinced that each of the other 20 are amazing in their own ways.  In the past 5 months I’ve read emails and documents which were so great I really wish I had written them!  I’ve been in conversations where every one of the participants had a strongly held opinion yet each was also able to have an open mind about the topic because they wanted to enlarge their coaching toolbox.  I’ve seen this group work together for the best interests of everyone, including those that aren’t CSCs – because it is the right thing to do!  To me the group shows incredible conviction in the belief that what is good for any one of the group is good for all, and also what is good for the agile community in general will be good for the group as well.  They are selfless almost to a fault.

But what REALLY separates them is the experience they bring to the table.  I know there are a number of Certified Scrum Trainers (CST) who also do significant amounts of coaching, but a great deal of their coaching is with people they taught in a CSM or other course.  CSCs don’t always have that situation, which makes their successes even more amazing.  Imagine going into an organization and giving them agile/Scrum coaching without having built a prior relationship with all of the people there.  It is a difficult task, yet CSCs do this all the time.  They are able to be successful because they understand the difference between blindly following a process, and being successful with a process.  They understand how to be an agent for successful change.  They understand how to work within organizational boundaries and still achieve the desired result.  Most importantly, they have been in MANY different situations so they simply have more wisdom and experience helping organizations be successful.

If you are looking for an agile/Scrum coach for your organization you should at least ask the following questions of potential candidates:

  1. Does the person have significant experience with many different types of organizations?
  2. Does the person understand the difference between advising/consulting vs. just doing it themselves?
  3. Does the person know how to facilitate rather than take over a meeting?
  4. Does the person know how to be a servant leader vs. just giving orders?
  5. Does the person understand how to work with all levels of an organization, not just developers or managers?
  6. Do they have references for successful coaching engagements (at least 3)?

You can ask all those questions, or you could limit it to just one: Is the person a Certified Scrum Coach?

Why can you get away with this one question?  Because if they answer yes to this one question, they will give appropriate answers to all of the others.  The other questions are part of the application process to become a CSC.  You don’t achieve the certification without knowing and understanding each of those other items.

Until next time, if you are working toward Making Agile a Reality® in your organization, consider hiring a Certified Scrum Coach to help.  The money you invest will be minimal compared to the results.  Investing in good coaching is almost always something successful agile organizations mention as one of their keys to success.

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