In September 2019, I attended the Advanced-Certified ScrumMaster (A-CSM) 2-day training taught by veteran Scrum Alliance trainer Jim Schiel. To qualify for the A-CSM, the candidate must have completed the Certified Scrum Master (CSM) training and have at least one year of experience as a ScrumMaster after the certification is earned. The A-CSM is a key step in the progression to Scrum Alliances’ Certified Scrum Professional-SM (CSP®-SM) credential.
The level of rigor for the A-CSM is far higher than is required for the Certified Scrum Master (CSM®) certificate. Given that my experience is working with online delivery of courses for higher education institutions, I appreciated that Jim’s company, Artisan Agility, provided students with access to the Training Academy in advance. In essence, we were asked to complete pre-work prior to the face-to-face course. In total, I spent about 20 hours preparing for the 2-day class by completing all of the online activities, which included readings, videos, interactive discussion board activities, and checkpoints to test our knowledge. It was cool that Jim responded to some of our discussion posts.
Jim’s class is effective because there are plenty of hands-on lessons. In one exercise, we were asked to pick a topic that would lead us to create the product backlog. Given my topic recommendation was selected, I assumed the role of the Product Owner. We assigned the ScrumMaster, and the rest of the participants assumed the role of the Dev Team. We worked through this interactive exercise for about 15 minutes. Once we were done, Jim provided tips and advice regarding our performance. His vast experience in industry and as a trainer makes a huge difference because he can present feedback from different angles.
The class had an added benefit because an additional Certified Scrum Trainer (CST), Ram Srinivasan, was in attendance. Jim noted that Ram was present in the session to expand his knowledge base, which is important for all trainers. As a trainer and educator myself, it was good to see that Jim and Ram were committed to enhancing the learning experience. On several occasions, Ram shared feedback to the students that was on-point and valuable.
A key takeaway from the A-CSM training was related to the psychological safety topic. From an Agile perspective, this means that team members know they will not be punished when making mistakes. Jim recommends that ScrumMasters take the following approach to ensure psychological safety: (a) approach problems as a collaborator, and not the enemy; (b) speak human to human, and not boss to worker; (c) anticipate reactions and plan countermoves, and (d) replace blame with curiosity. These concepts are critical to creating a work environment where teams flourish and exceed expectations.
To complete the course, Jim provides a homework assignment that we must complete before setting up a phone call with him directly. We must pick three activities from a list of five and be prepared to discuss them. Here are two of the items: (1) Identify a challenge facing the self-organizing capabilities of your team, and devise a countermeasure to the challenge; and (2) Evaluate your vision for your career and your pursuit of advanced certifications as a ScrumMaster. If Jim feels we have adequately provided the responses, he will update our status on the Scrum Alliance website, and we will earn the Advanced-Certified Scrum Master certificate.