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PSM I should be the start of your journey....not the end.

Last post 11:37 pm August 7, 2018 by Blake McMillan
11 replies
02:14 am August 4, 2018

Do you know Kung Fu?

Awesome Kung Fu pic

When we say we know something, that can be true but at the same time there can be considerable differences in level of competency between those professing their knowledge. That is the point I was trying to make with the image for the blog article. A student who is in their first few months of studying Kung Fu could claim to know Kung Fu. However, they wouldn’t compare to someone like Bruce Lee who was not only an extremely skilled practitioner but also a teacher as well. They both know more about Kung Fu than someone who has never studied, but only one of them would be considered a Kung Fu Master.

One of the roles on a Scrum team is the Scrum Master. The word Master is included and applied to anyone who anyone who functions in this role. This implies mastery in Scrum in the same way Kung Fu Master implies a mastery of Kung Fu. However, the designation of mastery for a Scrum Master is misleading. When I attended a 2-day Certified Scrum Master class back in 2006…at the end of the class I was congratulated for becoming a Certified Scrum Master (that was before the assessment was required). Did I exponentially increase my knowledge of Scrum over those two days? Absolutely! Did the two days of training give me the knowledge I would need to claim mastery over the subject of Scrum? Not even close! I did my best to incorporate some Scrum concepts into how the team worked, but I did not continue to pursue knowledge and mastery of Scrum.  Many years later, when I decided to pursue Professional Scrum Master training through something different happened. Although I successfully passed my PSM I assessment, that was not the end….it was just the beginning. I kept studying Scrum using a variety of methods and you can see some of the books I read and recommend in the Resource section of One of the discoveries I made as I learned and progressed: the more I learn…the more I realize how much more I must learn.

As Scrum Masters, it is important for us realize that we should be continually learning to best serve our teams and gain mastery of Scrum. Here are a few reasons pulled directly from the Scrum Guide about the role of the Scrum Master:

  • The Scrum Master is responsible for promoting and supporting Scrum as defined in the Scrum Guide. Scrum Masters do this by helping everyone understand Scrum theory, practices, rules, and values.
  • Ensuring the Product Owner knows how to arrange the Product Backlog to maximize value;
  • Understanding and practicing agility
  • Coaching the Development Team in organizational environments in which Scrum is not yet fully adopted and understood.
  • Leading and coaching the organization in its Scrum adoption;
  • Planning Scrum implementations within the organization;
  • Helping employees and stakeholders understand and enact Scrum and empirical product development

To do those things, we need to become experts in understanding and applying Scrum. What is the right way to keep learning continuously? I don’t know…. that will depend on how you learn the best, where you live, and what your level of experience is. Here is a list of some suggestions to explore:

  • Learn continuously by getting feedback from the team that you support. As you help your team learn and grow in Scrum, look at it as a gift when they provide feedback to you about how you could improve.
  • If you haven’t taken the Professional Scrum Master training from, consider it. Although there are differences between instructors, the content is standardized and very useful for gaining a good understanding of Scrum.
  • Read books…or if you are like me and you have a somewhat long commute listen to audio books. I’ve included some of my favorites at
  • Another great option for the commuters out there is listening to Agile/Scrum podcasts. I enjoy listening to the Scrum Master Toolbox Podcast with Vasco Duarte and hearing from different Scrum Masters around the world.
  • Go to Scrum meet-ups. This is why I said it might depend on where you live. There are opportunities to meet with other Scrum Masters here in DFW.  Improving in Plano TX does a good job of supporting those types of Scrum/Agile Community events.
  • Talk to other Scrum Masters. I get together weekly with two of the Scrum Masters (Brit & Tanner) that work at the same consulting company. It is great to share ideas and experiences and learn and grow with each other.
  • Look for opportunities to help or support other Scrum Masters in their endeavors.

Do you have other ideas of how to continuously improve and gain mastery of the Scrum Kung Fu we are called upon to know and practice as Scrum Masters? Please provide your feedback or comments. Keep learning! Keep practicing! Keep Scrumming!

09:10 am August 6, 2018

Hi Blake, 

I am writing here just to continue conversation :) 

I agree with all you've written, but I have the doubt about this: 

If you haven’t taken the Professional Scrum Master training from, consider it. 

Do you really beleive it will help? Because, the price of the training is very high and I think it is much more effective to buy different video courses and read books. But I do not insist.  

10:48 am August 6, 2018

Do you really beleive it will help? Because, the price of the training is very high and I think it is much more effective to buy different video courses and read books. But I do not insist.  

I can only speak of my own experience, in the context that I was motivated enough that I pushed for my then employer to send me on a Scrum Master course.

No training has come close in terms of the impact it has had on my life and career. I was fortunate enough to attend a PSM course led by Gunther Verheyen, along with Laurens Bonnema. The course was put together brilliantly, and helped the class unlearn a lot of unfounded preconceptions about Scrum, and laid a new set of foundations, emphasising the importance of it being a lightweight framework, centred around empiricism.
I gained a lot of knowledge in those two days, but crucially I had been primed for further learning.

01:52 pm August 6, 2018

Any training helps if you have no experience or limited knowledge.

I learned by being in the trenches, getting trained, and training others. 

The one thing I do not like about certified trainers is they tend to be very arrogant or some of them do. Some have never run a scum team just know theory. Scary to be honest you can just take a bunch of certs and be considered knowledgeable. This is really not rocket science but it does take some skill to navigate and make work.

I’ll give you a quick example. Had a company call me the other day and they were so stuck on the idea that they needed AGILE metrics to gauge success.

Metrics meaning “measure “is the PMI way of thinking. While I can say there are Agile Metrics you can use they are not the whole picture of success. I do use them of course but I don’t tell any org that they have to pull 10 different metrics to gauge success. This trainer did and left them confused what they were looking for.  

You can lean on your own or take a 2-day training course, but it cannot replace real work and real business needs.

02:08 pm August 6, 2018

You can lean on your own or take a 2-day training course, but it cannot replace real work and real business needs.

Fully agree with you Dan 

02:14 pm August 6, 2018

The training is absolutely no replacement for real-world experience. However, the training is not invaluable. When I took my 2 day class, I was with a mixture of new to scrum participants all the way to seasoned Scrum practitioners that were there with a few of their team members. The collaboration and sharing of thoughts and practices throughout those 2 days were super helpful. Now, if you've been doing Scrum for 5-6 years, the odds of you learning enough to make the cost worth it is slim. But if you're new to it, it's definitely worth the investment. 

02:14 pm August 6, 2018

I would also like to add that my training was done by Don McGreal (who just had his PO book punlished) in Dallas and he was an amazing facilitator and huge wealth of knowledge.

03:30 am August 7, 2018

I will say something very non-attractive, but anyway: I decided not to pass any Scrum certifications. Maybe you are not agree with me but I guess there is no difference how much certifications you have, the only one what is important is how you understand the Scrum and Agile. 

01:28 pm August 7, 2018

If a hiring manager were interviewing candidates for a scrum master position, how would they pick the best candidate?  If the manager knew scrum he/she could ask some questions, but if not it makes sense to rely upon certification from a credible authority like, doesn't it?

01:38 pm August 7, 2018

Alfredo the only down side to that  is that some not all employers look for Certifications as a indicator of knowledge. 

Good for you though. I have a lot of knowledge and hate taking exams but I do it because of industry needs. 

04:21 pm August 7, 2018

The likelihood of you getting hired as a SM with no certifications in a company that you don't know anyone and you're not already an employee of is pretty much impossible. You can use that same argument for college degrees. The piece of paper on the wall or letters behind your name don't necessarily equal the best of the best. However, good luck getting a white collar, high level job without either of those.

11:37 pm August 7, 2018

Orkhan I had a wonderful experience working with Ty Crockett from Improving in my PSM class.  I know Ty personally and would not hesitate to recommend attending his PSM course.  One of the things that I think is good about is that their curriculum is curated, maintained, and standardized by their PST community.  So my guess is that all of the PSM courses are good...because they are taught by well vetted, highly trained, and experienced Scrum Masters who hold the Professional Scrum Trainer designation.  I also want to point out, that although the PSM training will definitely help you with your PSM I assessment, it goes so much further than that and helps you really connect the concepts of Scrum in a practical way that helps deepen your own understanding.

That being said....I also agree that ongoing self-study after the class and getting experience in the field applying these concepts yourself is a huge part of the learning process.  Thanks for kicking off some good discussion!

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