The new CST application process

After a few months of chaos, argument and despair, the new Scrum Alliance Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) application process is now finally open for applications.  The new process is nothing like the previous processes the Scrum Alliance have used, and indeed nothing like most application processes.  It is designed as a learning experience to guide and mentor applicants, not as a test to keep people out. This is a revolutionary idea.

Traditional application processes are designed to have a binary outcome, in/out, yes/no. An applicant has to prove their worth, and if they cannot they are rejected. The new CST process on the other hand uses a different approach, perhaps best considered as one of continuous improvement. As one of the people leading the effort to create a new process, but speaking here in my personal voice, let me try to describe it.

It starts with a vision statement, the full version of which can be seen in the process document, and the short version of which is:

A CST is an ambassador of Scrum. He or she will:

  • have a solid understanding of the Scrum framework, a deep understanding of the principles and values that are the foundations of Scrum, and a clarity on what belongs to Scrum and what is an extension or complement;
  • have experience of teaching and co-teaching Scrum;
  • have experience of implementing Scrum inside organizations;
  • be active in the wider Scrum community, through actual and virtual interaction with other Scrum and Agile thinkers and practitioners;
  • have training experience beyond just Scrum, be willing to explore new ways of working and be committed to continuous improvement.

Initially, an applicant has to pass a very low bar to reach the status we call candidate-CST.  Step 1 of the process asks for a statement of intent from the applicant, and the names of two exiting CSTs who know your work and can attest to your skills, passion and integrity, and will confidently state you meet the vision of a CST.

Once a candidate has passed Step 1 she is registered as a Candidate-CST (Step 2) and entitled to privileges such as attendance at trainer retreats (previously only available to trainers and coaches), free admittance to advanced training courses, participation in trainer meet-ups, and free admittance to non-local Gatherings.  This is all with the intent of helping the candidate become integrated into the trainer and coach community in order to learn, improve and create co-training and other partnership relationships.

Step 3 of the process requires the candidate to gather evidence, in any form suitable, e.g. letters of recommendation, videos of training classes, links to personal writings, etc. and to find 3 more sponsors amongst the trainer and coach community.  Step 3 is iterative. Each sponsor may request additional evidence, or the refinement of existing evidence.  The candidate is expected to work with his sponsor team to create the most compelling application that proves beyond reasonable doubt that he meets the requirements of the CST vision.

During this step all evidence, including sponsor endorsements are visible to the whole trainer and coach community. All members are encouraged to track any application they may have concerns about, and enter into dialog with the sponsors and the candidate.  Once a candidate feels she has done all that is necessary they move into Step 4, Maturation.

In Step 4.1 the members of the trainer community are encouraged to ask clarifying questions and make suggestions for improvement.  This step is where the quality bar is really set. The more the current trainers get involved, the more likely the quality of new trainers is something the community can agree on.  The SA itself does not set this quality bar.

Using simple principles of self-organization and trust the new process actually sets the highest bar that can possibly be set while still being inclusive.  But it will only work if people get involved. If no one cares, if no one takes any action, then of course many applicants without the appropriate skills and passion will get through.  Five sponsorships isn’t adequate to avoid this.  The quality of the CST community will be in direct proportion to the effort the community members all put in to ensure the quality. It’s that simple.

Any candidate receiving suggestions of improvement can request an extension of Step 4.1 for up to six months to work on those improvements, or can opt to move to the objections phase, Step 4.2.  Only those trainers who have made suggestions for improvement are eligible to raise an objection, and every objection must have a seconder. If an objection is raised it is heard by a jury-type panel, selected at random from the trainer community. Their decision is final.

The whole process could take as long as a year, and during that time the Scrum trainer community is asked to offer support and to guide the candidates to be the best they can be. This is about mutual learning and building our community. Many candidates will have much to offer the existing trainers too.

The pushback on this process comes mostly from those who fear there will be too many trainers.  But if we truly want to transform the world of work, then the current number of 100+ needs to be vastly expanded.  10,000 doesn’t sound too many to me.

It is an unusual process, I grant you, but maybe this can be a model for the new paradigm we are trying to create with Scrum, a way of being that includes rather than excludes, that nurtures rather than neglects.  Please take time to read the full process description and decide for yourself.  And please consider applying to become a Certified Scrum Trainer.

7 responses to “The new CST application process

  1. Tobias,

    Nice to see you blogging again its been a while:)

    Having read through the new CST process and this blog I really like your personal thoughts here. A black and white document can appear just that but the way you describe makes it much more thoughtful and embracing, indeed it makes it very encouraging that the whole process is very much about the person and supporting the person through the process with encouragement and guidance all the way.

    In my view the new process is by far superior to the old, far more open and transparent and I feel will encourage more candidates who will in turn be really great CST’s having gone though this process.

    Well done to everyone who was involved in this great step forward.

  2. Pingback:

  3. Tobias,

    Thank you for this detailed explanation. I didn’t quite get this intent from what I read on the Google Docs site.

    I have received a wealth of knowledge from co-training with Michele Sliger and Tom Mellor so far. I suspect that with this new CST process that I will come out the back end a better trainer.

    I really appreciate this new process and am looking forward to participating in it.

  4. Having just started the process it occurs to me that maybe I should blog about how it is going. I am very excited by this approach!

  5. Pingback: Constant Change » Applying to Become a Certified Scrum Trainer

  6. Hello

    Great news to me, makes the CST less posh and sounds like a smart change.


  7. Pingback: Applying to Become a Certified Scrum Trainer - Aaron Sanders | Agile Coach

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