Frequently Asked Questions
Is it Worth Getting a Scrum Master Certification?
It is certainly debatable whether a Scrum certification, backed by a multiple choice test and (potentially) a few days of training, is worth it in terms of opening doors, getting jobs, earning respect, etc.
However, even if you (or a potential employer) couldn’t care less about the “resume stamp” of a professional Scrum certification, maybe there’s still value in going for it anyway.
After learning as a group in a classroom environment for 2 days, the challenge of a post-class assessment will encourage participants to continue learning Scrum on their own. They will be much more likely to review the materials, do more research, and attempt some practice tests; as opposed to a non-certified class where they close their books after class and are less likely to ever open them again.
So regardless of what people think about the value of a Scrum certification, we’ve noticed that those that take on the challenge of certification tend to have a minimum knowledge competency level and speak in a more consistent language. That’s worth something.
What is a Scrum Master?
Ultimately, a Scrum Master is the coach for the Scrum Team. They make sure Scrum is happening and that the Scrum Team is learning and improving from it.
Direct from the Scrum Guide: The Scrum Master is accountable for establishing Scrum as defined in the Scrum Guide. They do this by helping everyone understand Scrum theory and practice, both within the Scrum Team and the organization.
The Scrum Master is accountable for the Scrum Team’s effectiveness. They do this by enabling the Scrum Team to improve its practices, within the Scrum framework.
How Do You Become a Scrum Master?
The answer comes in a few parts, depending on your context.
1. Just Do It - Simply do Scrum. Scrum is free and available to the world and beyond. (Scrum on, Martians!) Any group can simply read the Scrum Guide, and take on the accountabilities. The awesome individual who takes on the accountability of Scrum Master is now as much a Scrum Master as any other Scrum Master. Now the group can work on doing it well. Scrum Values are a supercharger in doing Scrum effectively. Start where “you are” is the common answer. If you have a project or team you are working with you can simply try Scrum. Increase your initial success by:
Connecting to a local community of practice or user group
Taking a course on Scrum
Reading about Scrum
Finding a mentor
A small suggestion to get started, if you are not able to do it at work, is to do it in other contexts. Home, school, social, religious, charities, and community groups are all awesome candidates for a Scrum Team or Teams. Consider being a volunteer Scrum Master to help someone (anyone!) do Scrum. Scrum is not just for software or technology. Scrum is simple, but excellence is not. Get started. Just do it.
2. Acquire a certification - If you mean “How do I get a Scrum Master certification?”, there are various certification bodies. Here is why we prefer Scrum.org. Note: some certifications have prerequisites to be able to take the assessment. A certification:
Proves a standard level of knowledge
Is an indicator that a shared understanding of Scrum between the certification holders
May make a difference in the marketability of the certification holder (see certification question above)
What Are the Most Popular Scrum/Agile Certifications?
The most popular Scrum certifications are from Scrum.org (PSM, PSPO, etc.) and the Scrum Alliance (CSM, CSPO, etc.).
Both involve passing an online assessment in order to receive a certification. However, Scrum Alliance requires taking a class whereas Scrum.org does not.
At Improving, we are a Scrum.org partner and offer their classes.
You can read more about the differences here.
What is Kanban?
Kanban is a strategy for optimizing the flow of value through a process that uses a visual, pull-based system.
A Kanban is simply a visual signaling system. "My father turns his medicine bottles upside down when he has taken the medication so that he does not take the same one twice." It is said to date back to ancient Japanese courts. Even today in the Royal Imperial Gardens a token kanban system is used to limit the number of guests on the property at one time.
Kanban was popularized in the 1950s by Toyota as it was used when developing the Toyota Production System.
Today, Kanban is used across all industries and has three core practices:
Defining and visualizing a workflow
Actively managing items in a workflow
Improving a workflow
Learn more by reading the Kanban Guide or by joining an Applying Professional Kanban class.
Why & How Would You Integrate Scrum With Kanban?
Scrum and Kanban are the two most popular ways of working when teams are solving complicated or complex problems. Individually, they both provide useful guidance on how teams can best manage their work. Many teams find Scrum’s structure, based on the cadence of the Sprint, provides focus for completing the work, while others get the most value from managing their workflow with Kanban.
But it doesn’t have to be one or the other, as Scrum does not prescribe what happens between Sprint Planning and the Sprint Review. Scrum simply requires that the team create an increment that is a concrete stepping stone toward the Product Goal. For many teams, the best way of solving complicated or complex problems is to use the Scrum framework and to use the principles of Kanban to manage the flow of the work during the Sprint.
Learn how to use both together in one of our Professional Scrum with Kanban classes.
What Are the Responsibilities of a Product Owner?
The Product Owner is ultimately responsible for the direction of the product or service being built. This includes making sure everyone on the Scrum Team understands who the work is for and why (vision), maximizing its return on investment (value), and making sure the direction is still the right one (validation).
While the Product Owner is accountable for the Product Backlog, they can certainly delegate the responsibility of maintaining it to others.
Read more about the Product Owner in the official Scrum Guide or the Professional Product Owner Book.
You can also join us in our next Professional Scrum Product Owner class
What is the Difference Between a Scrum Master & Product Owner?
The simplest distinction between the Scrum Master and the Product Owner is that the Scrum Master is accountable for the effectiveness of the Scrum Team and the Product Owner is accountable for the value of the product.
In other words, the Product Owner keeps their focus on the product while the Scrum Master keeps their focus on the process.
What is the Fastest Way to Get Scrum Master Certified?
The fastest, but not necessarily the best, way to get certified as a Scrum Master is to take the Professional Scrum Master I (PSM I) assessment on Scrum.org. It costs $150 per attempt and does not require you to take a class.
Do you want to see how you do before spending the money? Try Scrum.org’s practice assessment now.
If you take a class, like the ones listed here, you will get the opportunity to learn everything you need for the assessment, alongside people just like you, from a seasoned Professional Scrum Master trainer. These classes also come with two attempts at the PSM I assessment.