Scrum is the most popular framework used within an agile environment to convert complex problems into valuable products and services. In this blog, we will examine all things Scrum to shed light on this wonderful organizational tool that is sweeping the globe. There will be engaging articles, interviews with experts and Q&A's. Are you ready to take the red pill? Then please join me on a fascinating journey down the rabbit hole, and into the world of Scrum.

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The Scrum Celebrities

Many of us know the hit song "Fame" where memorable lines such as "I'm gonna live forever", "Baby, remember my name" and "You ain't seen the best of me yet" reached millions of listeners. It's a song about a strong inner desire to not only achieve at the pinnacle of our skills, but to also get the fame and recognition from our peers and superiors. One might be forgiven for thinking the driving force behind these lyrics only reside in this dance classic written almost forty years ago. But you would be wrong.

The need for fame doesn't just exist in music or Hollywood, it engulfs the hallways of political power, the Boards of the Fortune 500, and even small Scrum teams inside many organizations.

Scrum Teams generally consist of a handful of developers, and then a Product Owner and Scrum Master to complete the team. The core value of the product increment is produced by the Development Team. They are the ones who commit to the Definition of Done (DoD), work collaboratively to design, code and test features, and finally demonstrate the finished feature/product to stakeholders. They are the nucleus of the Scrum Team.

But quite often it is not the developers who get the recognition of senior management. In most cases it is the Product Owner and sometimes the Scrum Master who get to sing the Fame song.

The Scrum Master Celebrity
Scrum Masters who seek the limelight go against everything that is Scrum and anything that resembles a servant-leader. I met one Scrum Master who always praised the Development Team during the Daily Scrums and Retrospectives, but in meetings with the organization and other stakeholders, often mentioned themselves and the Product Owner as the real "champions" of the project. At the very least, when stakeholders praised them during these closed-door meetings, I never saw the Scrum Master object.

Scrum Masters, more than Product Owners in my view, should do everything they can to avoid the limelight. Their focus should be on guiding the Development Team and the organization to adopt the very best Scrum practices, and to ensure the developers are working efficiently and productively by removing roadblocks. They should be humble, selfless and the last to seek praise and recognition, even if it is warranted.

The Product Owner Celebrity
Many people equate the Product Owner to the traditional project manager in waterfall projects. This isn't far from the truth since the Product Owner is ultimately accountable for maximizing value of the product or service. Further, they also have the closest relationship to the stakeholders than anyone else in the Scrum Team. Therefore, they are naturally exposed to the spotlight due to these dynamics.

While it is important to have a great Product Owner who can translate stakeholder value into the features and stories that populate the Product Backlog, it is also wise for them to understand that their prime responsibility of maximizing value can only ever be achieved through the product increments produced by the Development Team.
Most developers don't crave notoriety, but since I am yet to meet a Product Owner or Scrum Master ask the developers: "Do you want fame?", why even take the risk of shutting out those that need (and in my view should get) the most recognition for the success of the project? Of course I am not advocating asking such a question. I am simply highlighting that the answer should be inferred by their merits, not by their request or intentions.

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If the Scrum Team is going to be successful long-term, the Development Team needs to be nurtured, acknowledged and rewarded at the appropriate times. Even if they don't ask or want to be recognized, a simple gesture to shine a light on their accomplishments is not only good business, but could mean the difference between Fame and Famine.

Thank you for your interest in the Scrumptious blog. If you have any ideas for Scrum topics, please message me here. Until next time, remember, projects can be Scrumptious!
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Posted on: March 20, 2018 08:38 AM | Permalink | Comments (17)

Which Scrum Certification is Best?

Scrum is what many of us eat, drink, breathe and dream about. It's more than just a framework for delivering successful Agile projects. It's a lifestyle in the project community that we Scrumians live by. We uphold the values and principles of the Scrum Guide authored by Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber. We also attempt to apply Scrum in its purest unadulterated form, while being open to modifications that make sense for the particular project or as mandated by the organization.

But who or what process can verify that we are indeed living Scrum by the book? Well fortunately, there are some certification bodies that train, test and certify individuals in the Scrum framework. These certifications are the best way to know that a Scrum practitioner is indeed qualified to assist the organization with its Scrum implementation or increasing maturity level.

But one question that many hiring managers and certification aspirants rarely understand or ask themselves is: "Which Scrum certification is best?"

My fellow colleague Andrew Craig wrote a great article on his journey to the PSM certification when compared to the most popular Scrum certification; the CSM. However, we will look at some other major Scrum certifications that are both popular and trending, and assess their pros and cons.

Certified Scrum Master (CSM)

The most well-known certification for Scrum is the Certified Scrum Master by Scum Alliance. It has the most Scrum certified professionals, which may have more to do with their marketing intelligence and early adoption into the Scrum certification domain. The vast majority of job advertisements that ask for a Scrum certification ask for the CSM, but this is changing rapidly.

The reason for this change is that the CSM is very expensive and only delivered through face-to-face training, which many feel is over the top. To make matters worse, the exam's very low passing rate does not go well for its longevity as the predominant certification chosen by employers. In fact, for many years there was no exam for the CSM; the training course was enough to get certified.


  • most well know Scrum certification
  • most employers currently ask for the CSM
  • the exam fee is included in the training course


  • mandatory 2 day face-to-face training course
  • very expensive training (up to $1,500 in many cases)
  • very low passing score needed to pass the exam
  • have to renew once every 2 years for $100

Professional Scrum Master (PSM)

This certification is managed by, which is run by Ken Schwaber, one of the two Scrum founders, so you know you are in good hands. The website provides a lot of resources as well as "open" exams to assist those prepare for the PSM. Further, they have varying categories of the PSM exam such as PSM 1, PSM II and PSM III to reflect complexity and a higher level of mastery.

The PSM is not an easy exam to pass in comparison with other certifications. In fact I read the blog of a 10-year Agile veteran who had also performed several Scrum projects and yet he only passed the PSM exam by just two questions. The pass rate is 85% so it is by no means a walk in the park.


  • no training needed to apply for the exam
  • no renewal fees
  • low exam price


  • not as well known (yet) as the CSM

Agile Scrum Master (ASM)

The Agile Scrum Master is managed by EXIN, which has a long and distinguished record for authoring and delivering certifications. They have been around for almost 35 years and certified over 2 million professionals. You may also be surprised to know that EXIN is one of the founding partners in the development of ITIL.

This exam is pretty tricky even though it has a lower pass rate than the PSM. It does not just involve Scrum, but Agile as well, and touches on some other Agile methods such as XP. To add complexity, there may be more than one correct answer during the exam, and you need to choose which ones are correct from a list. I personally found the ASM to be the most difficult of all the Scrum certification exams I participated in.

A major negative point is that like the CSM, there is a mandatory training course that can cost up to $750, but this training also has it's own assessments in order to get the training certificate to use to apply for the exam.


  • the certification is almost as much about Agile as Scrum, and having the term "Agile" in it may tick some boxes for employers
  • EXIN is well known in the certification world having certified over 2 million professionals


  • the exam fee is $230
  • mandatory training course
  • double assessment

Scrum Master Certified (SMC)

This certification is managed by ScrumStudy, who also authors the SBOK (Scrum Body of Knowledge). While they don't make it mandatory for exam aspirants to first take a training course from their approved education providers, they "highly recommend it".

The exam price is almost obscene at $450, so if you fail the exam a couple of times, you may just run out of money to get any Scrum certification.


  • None


  • extremely high exam price

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So, which Scrum certification is best? When evaluating all the above certifications, and weighing up all the pros and cons, the author has decided to select the Professional Scrum Master (PSM) certification as the gold standard in Scrum certification due to trending popularity, rigorous assessment, high passing score, certification body being owned and managed by one of the Scrum founders, expected increase in future value and market share, no training course required, and low exam price with no annual renewal fees. 

Thank you for your interest in the Scrumptious blog. If you have any ideas for Scrum topics, please message me here. Until next time, remember, projects can be Scrumptious!
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Posted on: March 06, 2018 08:02 AM | Permalink | Comments (31)

3 Roadblocks to Scrum

Transformations of any kind within the organization are challenging at best, and disastrous at worst. Sometimes there are dynamics we can't avoid, like the time it takes for that transformation to take hold, or the strategic priorities of the organization not including a 100% full steam ahead of the Scrum implementation (ie. a never ending series of pilot projects).

There are, however, a few major roadblocks that we do have some control over. The first two deal mainly with process, and the third with mindset. We all know that Scrum has rules, events, roles and artifacts. But it also needs to have people with the right mindset, and who follow a proven process.

So, with all that being said, here are 3 roadblocks to Scrum faced by organizations all over the world:

1. Partial or Late Testing
There are some who don't mind leaving testing until after the Sprint, or partially completed by the end of the Sprint. While there are some exceptional circumstances when this may be required, here is Scrum Co-founder Jeff Sutherland's view on this:

"Do not end your Sprint without your software Done and bug free."

According to Dr. Sutherland, bugs that remain at the end of the Sprint can reduce speed of development by 50%, and in some rare cases up to 1,000%. In order to mitigate this, we need to "change engineering practices, implement continuous integration, and incorporate automatic testing into the builds". 

2. Backlog Mismanagement
Garbage In, Garbage Out! The products and services we produce are only as good as the refined Product Backlog items that find their way into the Sprint Backlog. I have spoken about this in a previous blog, but a poor Product Manager can render the backlog ineffective.

Dr. Sutherland asserts that 65% of features developed are "never or rarely used by customers" which means we are doing a "terrible job" in turning customer's needs into usable and relevant features. This wastes time, money and effort. His recommendation for this problem is to get a great Product Owner, produce a quality refined Product Backlog, and get continuous customer feedback in "30 days or less" to ensure every feature in the Backlog are only the features the customers want.

3. Management Involvement
Even when Scrum has been sanctioned at the Executive level, and is running full swing at the project level, if managers do not embrace Scrum and empower the team to work at the best of their ability, Scrum is going to be running with one engine in a two-engine plane. One major catastrophe, and the whole project could come crashing down.

Dr. Sutherland has some good advice in this area:

"Train your management team on how to run a modern corporation. It needs to be Agile and it needs to be Lean. Managers need to make a big shift in the way they think and how they work with teams."

A lot of this can be facilitated through a Scrum Master or coach to guide the organization and its management in the benefits and implementation of Scrum, but more importantly, the mindset, values and principles of Scrum.

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Remember, a pitfall is a "hidden or unsuspected danger". It can also be defined as a trap; a trap for those who wish to sabotage the implementation of Scrum. We need to navigate the transformation minefield and avoid those pitfalls in order to reach our destination: a product or service that is fast-to-market, bug free, and what the customer really needs.

Sutherland, J. (2012) How to Avoid the Most Common Scrum Pitfalls. Available from:

Thank you for your interest in the Scrumptious blog. If you have any ideas for Scrum topics, please message me here. Until next time, remember, projects can be Scrumptious!
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Posted on: March 01, 2018 12:07 AM | Permalink | Comments (18)

Q&A with Ken Schwaber

With Scrum being by far the most influential and pervasive framework for delivering Agile projects, I thought it might be interesting to find out why Scrum has been so successful, any challenges it may face when scaling, and how it might evolve in the future.

To investigate these topics further, who better to ask than the co-founder of Scrum itself. Ken Schwaber, who also founded and chairs, graciously accepted my request to answer the following questions.

1. When you first created the Scrum framework, did you believe it could become as widespread as it has?

No, I didn’t. I knew it worked for me at the organizations and on the projects where I used it. I knew waterfall was draining the life out of software development and angering our customers, so I thought I would share it with others. But, as life is very complex, who can ever predict outcomes (empiricism of Scrum).

2. Why do you believe Scrum is the most popular framework for delivering Agile projects?

It is very simple. Every person adds their interpretations, so they can use it in their context and it becomes pretty universally applicable. It is just really, really hard to use; Scrum makes transparent facts that are contrary to human nature’s desire for good things to happen. Scrum sometimes makes really unpleasant things visible. The choice is to figure out what to do to solve the problems, or to “modify” Scrum so the unpleasantness is again hidden.

3. What do you see as the major challenges to scaling Scrum at the enterprise level?

Enterprise cultures are very different from Scrum’s culture. The Scrum Master has to make Scrum work as well as possible, regardless. For instance, a customer demands that something be done by a certain time. Scrum may disclose that is impossible and trade-offs have to be made. The power structure in a hierarchical organization (only tell me good news) often finds that unacceptable. So the customer is caught between desires and possibility.

4. Should the name Scrum Master be changed to Scrum Coach to adhere more to a servant-leader relationship?

I think that is a bad idea.

5. How can non-development projects benefit from Scrum?

Whenever something changes, that is development. When water acidifies, that is the water developing from one state to another. To understand the greatly needed applicability of Scrum, read Tomas Friedman’s book, “Thank You For Being Late.”  Our world is getting more complex, not less. Scrum is needed more, not less. Scrum is a way of dealing with the significant cultural upheaval that we are going through.

6. Where do you see Scrum 5 years from now?

To deal with greater complexity, we may develop infrastructures that describe how to manage risks and better tolerate R&D. Scrum will be right in the middle as meaningful possibilities emerge.

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I wish to thank Ken Schwaber for his great insights, and Lindsay Velecina at for her assistance during the Q&A process. The world is a little wiser about Scrum as a result.

Thank you for your interest in the Scrumptious blog. If you have any ideas for Scrum topics, please message me here. Until next time, remember, projects can be Scrumptious!
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Posted on: February 26, 2018 04:42 PM | Permalink | Comments (27)

The Creepy Scope

We are all familiar with scope creep and how if left unchecked it can consume a project pretty rapidly. Depending at what stage of the project we are in when the scope starts to get out of hand, our risk contingencies and planned responses may be too little too late.

In the Scrum world, a major source of scope creep are the items that find their way into the Sprint Backlog and sometimes bypass the Product Backlog refinement process altogether.

Here are three ways the dreaded creepy scope can make their way into the Sprint Backlog and threaten the stability of the Scrum adoption within an organization:

1. Sprint Hijacker
In most organizations there are some very influential stakeholders or customers that don't mind bypassing protocol to get what they want. In fact, it is partly why they are so successful. These individuals want their feature included in the current Sprint and jumping the queue in order to do that is just collateral damage.

Some team members may even develop a rapport with the Sprint hijacker and let some features in, making it more a case of Stokholm Sydnrome than positive feelings toward the hijacker. In these circumstances, both the Product Owner and the Scrum Master need to step in.

The Product Owner needs to consult with the stakeholder to ensure that any requests for "urgent" features find their way into the Product Backlog, and then refined and prioritized along with all the other items. The Scrum Master must shield the development team from any external distractions which reduce their performance or jeopardize the Sprint Goal. The Sprint Hijacker is one of these external distractions.

2. The Boy who cried Wolf
If the Product Owner is not on his/her game, or they are less than honest, they may create an oversupply of Must Have's that should be Should Have's, Should Have's that should be Could Have's, and Could Have's that should be Won't Have's to enter the Product Backlog.

Incorrect prioritization gives a false impression that some features are more important than they really are. When the Product Owner allows this to happen, the Development Team soon gets wind of the boy who cried wolf and this can cause them to lose trust in the prioritization process and the Product Owner. The Development Team may then compensate by adjusting their estimates, or worse still, treat a feature as anything less than a Must Have.

If this is done enough times, the product becomes a very different beast. The key here is to ensure honesty, integrity and transparency in the Product Backlog refinement and prioritization process.

3. GPDoD
I had to fit an acronym in somewhere. GPDoD is my acronym for Gold Plating the Definition of Done. Oh yes it happens. The Definition of Done (DoD) within a Scrum Team is a "shared understanding of what it means for work to be complete, to ensure transparency". As the project progresses, the DoD can change, become more detailed, and require more steps. It is basically a checklist to ensure that everything the team said would be done, is done, and the feature/increment is potentially shippable.

But that's when everything goes right. It can also go terribly wrong. Most of us know what gold plating is. While this is a term we normally associate with waterfall projects, they can still infect Scrum projects even with a rock-solid DoD.

Gold plating can happen through a number of ways: a relationship with a customer or stakeholder that includes some bells and whistles that are not required, an enthusiastic developer who just wants to increase customer satisfaction, misunderstanding of the customer's requirements, miscommunication with the Product Owner, and the list goes on.

This phenomenon is not only limited to the features we and the customer see. Gold plating can also manifest itself down at the code level where da Vinci developers want to tweak the code beyond what is required to meet the DoD, simply because it is aesthetically pleasing to their idea of good code writing.

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If you are concerned that the creepy scope may visit your Scrum neighborhood, my advice is to grab a large poster and pin it on the wall with large block letters quoting:

"Done means Done. Not Done and then Some!"

Schwaber, K. and Sutherland, J. (2017) The Scrum Guide. Available from:

Thank you for your interest in the Scrumptious blog. If you have any ideas for Scrum topics, please message me here. Until next time, remember, projects can be Scrumptious!
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Posted on: February 20, 2018 06:22 AM | Permalink | Comments (17)

You know what I love? How there's two nuts named after people: Hazel and Filbert.

- George Costanza