Sunday, July 5, 2015

Say No To Agile Certification and The Fall From Agile Grace

I have recently been tweeting with the hashtag #SayNoToAgileCertification. So why would I, or anyone take such a view?

The Roots of the Idea - Four Inspirations

The seed of my renegade stance was planted by Bob Martin when I watched a video that was recorded at the Norwegian Developers conference in 2011 entitled "The Land That Scrum Forgot". The video actually reinforced a lot of unease that I had been feeling about agile and Scrum in particular.  I was feeling that agile has been moving away from what was intended by the manifesto.

I was excited to see that I was not alone in my feelings again when I read Tim Ottinger's blog on I Want Agile Back.

Martin Fowler was blogging about Flaccid Scrum - a common pattern of how Scrum was being misapplied most of the time. I was beginning to be bold enough to publicly identify Scrum as more of a problem than a solution and combined with Martin's material, Scrum certification to be a root cause of Scrum's wide acceptance.

Then my mind was made up to finally take a stance when I read Tobias Mayer's book "The People's Scrum". In the introduction he talks of his split from the Scrum Alliance as a CST due to disillusionment with Scrum certification - "I always struggled with the idea of certification. It seemed to hark back to exactly what we wanted to escape from: a hierarchical, check-box model of management".

The Fall From Agile Grace

  • Scrum lends itself to be easily misapplied and become Flaccid Scrum. (There will be another blog coming just on this subject.)
  • Scrum Certification was a large contributor of why Scrum became so widely accepted. Project Managers wanted a piece of the agile pie and they were used to having certification to prove their worth in the market. People want something on their resume/CV to show that they are "agile" in today's market and sitting a 2-5 day class is a low hanging fruit as it comes with little to no work for the return of putting letters after your name on LinkedIn.
  • The widespread acceptance of Flaccid Scrum was the beginning of the end (and is what most people know agile as today).

Scrum is the best and worst thing that happened to Agile

Whilst Scrum brought Agile to the masses (the best thing), I feel it is a flawed framework because it is so easily misapplied and has left the masses with a poor understanding of what Agile should be like (and hence, the worst thing).

We now live in the era of Flaccid Agile. #TakeBackAgile and #SayNoToAgileCertifications are positions that I am standing behind in the fight to stop the agile rot.

Most Agile Certifications are Mickey Mouse

Putting letters after your name used to be an indicator that you were a recognized professional by means of an examining body and rigorous testing. To pass those examinations meant study and learning - for more than 2-5 days!

Now understand - I have no problem with handing someone a certificate to say that they sat your course. That is good! But to certify someone as an expert just because they sat your class is very different to certifying that they sat your class. Anyone can sit a class, but not everyone can be an expert. And therein lies the key differentiation and why I dislike (most of) the agile certifications.

I have no problem with the content of any of the agile classes I have seen. But calling yourself a Certified because you sat a class is a mockery to any industry. Why has it become so pervasive in Agile? It just adds to the Fall From Agile Grace in my opinion.

The one Agile Certification that is OK - the Trainer

Even though some of the agile certifications do require more than just falling off a log, I still question their value and benefit to your career e.g. CSP and CSC.

The one certification that I feel is of value however is certifying instructors. This has value by way of ensuring that a message does not become diluted and granting a certification status to individuals only after they have proven that they are capable of delivering training and not diluting or changing the message.

A Possible Solution

Stop it! To make a change, first you have to change yourself. And that is what I am doing publicly. I am letting go of my certifications that I feel are either valueless or pointless and encourage others to do the same rather than continue to prop up a systems that seems to be more about making money than changing the world. #SayNoToAgileCertification

FAST Agile

My association with a new Agile Methodology called FAST Agile has nothing to do with my stance on Saying No To Agile Certification.

But as a founder of FAST, it has however impacted my resolve on FAST and certification. There will never be any Certified Fast (other than maybe trainer) nor will there ever be a FAST Alliance. We have the Agile Alliance and that is enough. FAST is behind the Agile Alliance 100% and sees no need for creating alliances around specific frameworks and splintering the industry.

There may one day be certified instructors and perhaps even certified FAST organizations but I'm (not) sorry to say Project Managers - you ain't gonna get no certification from FAST. You become a FAST professional by doing it. Period.

(Read more about FAST Agile at

I created FAST because I wanted to fix agile and not just moan about how broken it has become. That includes the certifications and Alliances nonsense. I have a dream. Join me. Become an agile activist and take a stance. Let's stop the rot and #TakeBackAgile.

Jurgen Appello's take - Certificates are evil

Decorated Agile Certifications Take Away the Sweetness in your Name

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