The Scrum Compliance

For over seven years I have been active in the Scrum community as a developer, scrummaster, trainer, coach and business consultant, as a list participant, a conference attendee, a workshop facilitator and a blogger. I have made some strong and fast friendships in this community, engaged in passionate dialog and debate with some of the software industry’s brightest people, and been privileged to share the journeys of discovery with many individuals and organizations.  And now it is time to move on.

At the end of August I renounced my SA certifications of CSM, CSP and CST, and at the end of September I resigned from my SA staff role as creative director. The role was meaningless; the SA is not a creative organization.

I had joined the SA staff full of hope for change, but over the course of this year I began to recognize that my desired future was very different to many others active in the Scrum community, where certification, tests, and definitions (one true Scrum) are valued over exploration and risk, where keeping Scrum bound to the world of software is more important that harnessing its values and principles for the betterment of all business, and where competing for the “best” certification program becomes more important than collaboration towards a common goal.

And then there is the failure of the Scrum Alliance itself to rise to the leadership challenge, and live up to its own mission to “Transform the World of Work”.

The Scrum Alliance, the organization that Ken Schwaber started five years ago to manage the CSM program, and spread the word of Scrum has become the epitome of the dysfunctional organization that Scrum practitioners are committed to transforming. The irony is quite poetic.  The SA is the archetypical unScrum organization, a big lumbering machine, intent on maintaining its status quo, valuing profit over service, control over trust, and engaging in operating practices that are opaque, undemocratic and lacking in integrity.

The Scrum Alliance: Complying with the World of Work.

Watching the decline from within has been a very painful experience, and one that raises the question: who (or what) is the Scrum Alliance?  There is no leadership, no guidance. There is no purpose, no vision, no direction. The SA appears to exist to certify new trainers who will teach more CSM classes so the membership grows, and the demand for more CSM classes grows, so more trainers can be certified, and so on ad infinitum. Each trainer, each certification adds more money to the SA bank account. And I don’t see where anything is being given back to the community.  Even Gatherings are run on a for-profit basis, causing distress to the board if a “loss” is incurred.

So what is the Scrum Alliance? Maybe it is the CSTs, the ones effectively supporting the organization financially. No CSTs, no income. The CSTs effectively hold all the power, but can never exercise it as there is no mechanism in place to allow influence.  It is an oddly castrated form of power; it is an illusion. So maybe the SA is its wider membership of CSMs and CSPs. But with little in the way of meaningful services offered, and no real voice for that group of people in any matters of governance, this seems unlikely.

It seems more accurate to say that the SA is the board of directors. The members of the board run the show. But who are these people, and how did they get to be in those roles? Many were selected by one another, and two came in through a somewhat elitist and undemocratic election process. The by-laws this group crafted for themselves with legal expertise enable the status quo to continue.  To quote my good friend and colleague Alan Cyment (a CST) in a recent email to the SA trainers and coaches group:

“[the SA bylaws] seem to be crafted in order for an a priori chosen group to remain in absolute control of an non-profit organization […] The members of this community have absolutely no voice nor vote in this organization. Augusto Boal defined oppression as monologue where there should be dialog. My soul implodes whenever I consider the idea of the SA being an oppressive institution. The only people entitled to change the bylaws, restructure and even shut down the organization are those on the board. To me this autocratic structure goes directly against the vision of the organization. How can a non-profit pretend to change the world of work if its very own structure and internal rules resemble those of an old-fashioned, industrial-age corporation?” (reproduced with permission)

There was a recent glimmer of hope. Scrum Alliance board of directors met in Denver, in early September 2010, in a rare face-to-face meeting to discuss the future of the organization.  The situation had perhaps reached its lowest ebb, with much in-fighting, members calling for each other’s resignation, and an overall failure to agree on anything, or set any strategy or vision.  Individual board members seemed ready for change.

My own hope for the meeting was that the current board would voluntarily resign en masse, and call for a member-wide election to vote seven new members (including a new chairman).  I also hoped a decision would be made in Denver that Certified Scrum Trainers (CSTs) could not be accepted on the board.  I believe the motivation for CSTs to keep the CSM money-making machine alive would outweigh any desire for change, and would block innovation and new thinking. Having members of the board of directors making money from the decisions the board of directors makes… well, you decide how that sits with you.

Sadly, but predictably, these changes didn’t happen, and the decisions made at the Denver meeting rooted the SA firmly in what can only be described as more of the same.  The SA reestablished itself as an organization of certification, with no change to the board structure.  No member of the board had the courage or integrity to step down and call for a fair election. No mention was made of running the board on the principles and values of Scrum. I believe there was even talk of creating the ultimate anti-Scrum artifact: a Scrum BOK.

But being ever the naive optimist, I’ll make a last plea for action to the wider Scrum community. Stand up for your principles. Shape your own future.  Scrum needs an organization run by its members, for its members, and not by some randomly selected group of individuals, some with monetary interest and others with little or no commitment to the Scrum community, and in some cases a dubious understanding of Scrum.  And such an organization should be pushing the constraints of traditional non-profit orthodoxy, certainly not complying to the status quo.

The SA, as the leading representative of Scrum is at a critical juncture. It can reinvent itself as a truly community-centric alliance, living the values it espouses, or it can remain as a certification factory, defending the right of an elite few to make a lot of money from the ignorant masses by selling software snake oil.  The SA still has a choice: it can rise above the fray, and lift the industry with it, or it can tough it out in a Scrum fight club, slowly getting its head kicked in by the tougher, the slicker ICAgile, and all the other new-kids-on-the-block who will soon join the barroom brawl.

Equilibrium is the precursor to death, and certification has had its day. If the SA doesn’t reinvent itself at this time it will fast become irrelevant to its members, who will look elsewhere for new inspiration.

Which is exactly what I plan to do. There is a big wide world of hope, love and passion, a world of inspiring people and outlandish ideas. Oh, the places we’ll go!

99 responses to “The Scrum Compliance

  1. Congratulations, Tobias. The Agile community needs more people with your conviction to do the right thing.

  2. Thanks for this writeup, I’d like to see comments from board members or point to something as a rebuttal to this. Here’s your chance!!!

    • I’d like to see this too Derek. Not so much a rebuttal as a clarification. Perhaps I have come to some wrong conclusions.

  3. How about this: Scrum needs no organization whatsoever.

    Scrum being one of many tools for project management / work organization can be used by people with or without Scrum Alliance, certificates etc. If people want to belong to some kind of professional organization they can choose between the corporate PMI and informal groups of all kinds (like our PSUG) – or both.

    Ken’s can provide enough certs for those who need them with more integrity than the SA (as they are based on passing exams, not just sitting in class). And Ken & Jeff already provide the “Scrum Guide” which is 100% fair since they invented the thing.

    • Hi Andy,
      cool, Ken´s new organisation has more integrity than the SA? Really?
      Do you really believe that the old Scrum Version of Ken and Jeff, the overcome way of practices written down in a Scrum Guide is still beneficial in projects?
      That is really naive.

      • Andy is a Trainer with, so it is not totally surprising that he would endorse that particular organisation.

  4. “and certification has had its day.”

    It hasn’t. Certification is popular in humanity in general. And the training are not snake oil. That’s rather unfair to your former colleagues. The training helps change peoples lives for the better. Don’t let bitterness with individuals cover the true message which should be about genuine outreach and support of the community, which the SA has not done enough. Spend the CSM money to transform the world of work!

    Think of the planning onion. Different levels of detail at different horizons. The SA should cover all. Software is the main focus with support across many other areas.

    Pity to see you gone, Tobias.

    • No bitterness Nigel, just sadness. And I believe certification is kept alive (by you and others) because there is monetary value in it. People won’t attend your classes without it. This doesn’t make it right to perpetrate the model. In fact I argue strongly that all of us who truly care about “transforming the world of work” should concentrate on changing this value-through-certificates mindset too.

      • Changing the value-through-certificates mindset will be very, very hard. Mechanics, chiropractors, teachers, doctors, police, hair-stylists, behavioral scientists, etc., etc. all can seek certifications in their field. And they do so because their customers like the “warm fuzzies” from that fancy paper on the wall or letters behind their name. The “customers” of ScrumMasters also seek that same comfort from the letters CSM.

        The problem is balance, as is always the problem. The certificates become more important than they deserve. And then the people who provide them forget the more important meaning of what they teach.

        I hope elimination of certification is not the only way to achieve balance. Certification is one effective way to open doors and helps people start changing. Without it, many people and organizations would not consider Scrum as a worthy path to improvement.

    • Bravo, Tobias. I admire you twice over: once for having the bravery and enthusiasm to try, and once for having the integrity and respect for the community to quit when it wasn’t working.

      I hope this is enough to get the Scrum world to reconsider its lucrative focus on certification, which I believe is doing more harm than good to the industry.

  5. Well done Tobias. I also have been concerned of late as to the general and relatively inflexible direction the SA has gone. In my day to day consulting I see more and more people looking at Scrum as a very rigid framework with explicit rules. I have even seen organizations evaluate their team members on how well they “toe the line”. It takes a lot of courage to make a stand, and I for one appreciate both your courage and your honesty. Or, in the words of Victor Laszlo: “Welcome back to the fight my friend. This time I know our side will win.”

  6. This agile anarchist .. still a rolemodel he is … 😉

    Lucky thing: same as you I met that many people (scrumgathering!!!) that tought me that many new things (scrum and beyond) that it anyway will be enough for 2 or 3 lives. 😉

    The whole thing made me a methodist .. in terms of how i work and think with and about my colleagues. So I don’t know how everybody else is doing, but my world changed … 😉 a lot

  7. Thanks for your courage and openness.
    Organising self-organisation can not be easy, and needs boldness and risk-taking.
    Your engagement gave us hope, you were (and are) worth it!
    Keep up your spirit and don’t let anyone say you gave up.
    Cheers, take care

  8. I met you for the first time at the Scrum Gathering in Phoenix this last September. I enjoyed your candor, sincerity and your socks. 😉

    I’m pleased to have this more focused glimpse into the obviously tumultuous inner workings of the Scrum Alliance. I’m saddened, but unsurprised, by the negativity of the report. The board has done a great disservice by not using your talent and abilities to improve their world of work.

    The SA board needs to realize something. We, on the outside, alliance members or not, are not ignorant of problems inside their board room. It is very true we know little of specifics but the past several years of putting on a good face has not fooled anyone. They need to get their team together and follow what they teach. Otherwise those who would be their biggest supporters will continue to be embarrassed by their behavior until the SA becomes completely marginalized as a change leader.

  9. Tobias,

    That was a really brave move. Thanks for your courage. This is special and can really change things on Scrum Community world wide.

    Do you mind if I translate this to brazilian portuguese on my blog?

    Rodrigo Yoshima

  10. Tough words my friend! We support the efforts of others trying to continue the Agile goal of inspecting and adapting. Even the means and methods of Scrum. Inspect and adapt away!

  11. I confess I don’t know much about the Scrum Alliance, not ever having been certified as anything. I’m dismayed by what you’ve explained here. I’m curious about one thing though. I get upset with the Agile Alliance because they seem so intent on making a profit on the Agile 20xx conference, to the detriment of some participants (IMO). But people who have served on the AA board have made the valid point to me that they need the profits from the conference in order to run the other programs. So I’m wondering what are the other ways the Scrum Alliance can fund itself, if it doesn’t push its for-profit Gatherings and its certification programs that bring in money?

    At Agile Testing Days Berlin last week, some of us were talking about creating an ‘alternative’ agile testing certification program. There were good ideas on how to do this, but it requires software and other things. Given that one of our complaints about existing certification programs is that most of them are just generating money for the providers without giving real value to the participants, it seems difficult to find some alternative way to fund an alternative program. I’d like to know what other things the Scrum Alliance might do for funding and see if we could do something similar.

    • Hi Lisa, the SA don’t need profits from the gatherings to run other programs. Firstly, they make a ton of money from the certification program, and secondly, um… there are no other programs 😦

      The SA accounts are not available to its membership, so no one outside the board really knows the financial status but I heard back in January when I joined the staff that the bank account held something like two million dollars. I decided it was my duty to spend it 😉 but that turned out to be harder than I thought.

      • According to the IRS form 990 filed for 2008 for the Scrum Alliance, you can see that at the end of 2008, the net assets/fund balances were about $1 million (up from around $900K from the beginning of 2008) and gross receipts for the year were about $2.6 million ($1.9m from membership fees and $690K from “gathering revenue”).

        For comparison’s sake, the Agile Alliance has $637K in net assets/fund balances at the end of 2008. Total receipts for 2008 were, but only $71K were from membership dues, and around $415K from “fundraising events”, which I assume to be the Agile 2008 event.

    • As a member of both the Agile Alliance and the Scrum Alliance, I get the opportunity to vote for the constitution of the board at the Agile Alliance. I don’t recall getting an opportunity to vote for the board of the Scrum Alliance. This is a simple check and balance to help ensure greater representation. If you check out the by-laws , the only people who get to vote are the members of the board. That seems really bizarre to me.

  12. Certification exists in a lot of professions to create a barrier for entry, normally were not created with that in mind but with the ideia making the trade more professional, in the end system dynamics takes cares of the vision, were there is no vision or leadership.

    I think the SA is a transitional organization, and as so, it invented a certification that is a joke comparing with other certifications, but as certifications in my opinion doesn’t work, and what I think was the CSM in the first place, just a systemic intervention to allow Scrum to be positioned as an alternative to PMI invention in organizations.

    That was a great move… the only problem is really believing that certification is a “Good Thing”, and forgetting it’s strategic short lived, transitional porpouse.

    I hope that SA dies fast enough when their transitional mission is done, and I think that time is comming, now it serves in part to create a protected market to fifty people that sells trainings and to create a barrier of entry into that market. Hope that soon SA will not be needed anymore, not adding value anymore.

    Tobias, nice move, brave one.


  13. Disclaimer: I’m a CSM that volunteers time to the SA, even though I rarely disclose either 🙂

    I believe there is a tension here between the perceived market need for certifications and the emphasis of individuals and interactions over processes and tools.

    CSM is presently being misused as a prerequisite by HR departments. There are opportunities that now literally require CSM before they’ll even consider you as a legitimate candidate.

    Worse yet, I see some job descriptions that list CSM, CSPO, CSC, CST as a requirement. Really, I’m not joking.. it is that out of hand.

    I feel as though this drives some to pay $1200 for a class and the recurring $50 fee in hopes that they’ll recoup that (and more) in a higher salary.

    For example, my CSM is up in 2011. Will I pay the $50 because of this terrible economy? What if I didn’t, and I lost my job? Would I not even get a chance to interview because my CSM expired?

    Yes I know it is only $50, but you get my point.

    It’s unfortunate that your Creative Director gig at the SA did not pan out. It seemed as though you could bring a lot to the table with your positive vibe and energy. For what it’s worth, you’ve inspired me in the past with your “pay it forward” attitude, and I appreciate all that you’ve done for the community.


  14. Jeff Lopez-Stuit

    I wanna hear more about the last paragraph. Let’s hear your dreams, space wanderer!

  15. Who on Earth is “the board”????? I’m sick and tired of this Emperor/Darth Vader stuff. Resign. Resign. RESIGN. The SA is not yours, it belongs to its members. Or at least it should.
    The SA has a lot of potential: very good professionals, many CSM courses are of very high quality, and the certificate has helped agility get into HR budgets these past years.
    Scrum to me is basically a balance between pragmatism and idealism. Toby: I understand your disappointment after having struggled from the inside. I still have to try and change this status quo from the very border (I’m a CST, so therefore I technically don’t work for the SA).
    I’m angry, and still looking ways to focus this anger in a productive direction.


    • Alan, the SA belongs to its members and it’s governed by the board. It’s their party and let them have it.
      Scrum on the other hand broke free from Ken and the SA the moment it hit the wild. It can never be owned, copyrighted or captured. If its name is regulated, its spirit will endure beyond all of us.
      So you have a choice too – be part of the dance of visionless or spread your wings in the light.

      Response: Mike, the SA decidedly does not belong to its members. I think that is the point Alan is making.

  16. hey bro,
    I applaud you for persevering with trying to help the SA through a difficult time. and for your courage in remaining true to your convictions.
    Don’t feel sad (at least not too sad), the bigger community is richer for your efforts and where you want to go is where the community needs to also go, you are just ahead.
    You know how I feel about the whole certification and trainers issue and its perhaps best not to stir it up. If some see value in it, let them pursue it. Personally I don’t and that is OK too.
    Tobias, with courage you will dare to take risks, have the strength to be compassionate, and the wisdom to be humble. Courage is the foundation of integrity.
    Be well.

  17. Dear Tobias,

    As a simple “Scrum end-user”, I could smell these things arising. Decided, then, to take certifications from “both sides”: CSM (from ScrumAlliance) and PSD (from But, naturally confused, is an option or another political move?

    Thanks in advance,
    Cláudio Pires.

    • Hi Cláudio,
      > is an option or another political move?
      As I see it is just another for-profit organization perpetuating the software certification myth. Choose your poison. Ultimately both will become meaningless. One by one companies are waking up to the reality that experience is more important than certificates.

  18. Dear Tobias, From my first encounter with Scrum and Agile, it has always been about the people I met, their enthusiasm, passion, and drive to make a difference. In the end, it’s all that matters.

    Interesting that in the history of Open Space, there have been many conversations about certification over the past 25 years and Harrison Owen after gifting us all with this “thing” that he founded, attracting many others along the way, has seen an organization grow in the thousands with hundreds of thousands of events touching people’s lives as I know the culture, principles and processes of Scrum and Agile do.

    Not always easy to be sustainable doing what we love! Hopefully your words will open new dialogues that retain the essence of all that is great in Scrum while exploring the best ways to learn, share and do what needs to be done in a world that could enormously benefit from all that the technology sector has to offer.


  19. P.S. Forgot to mention that in the end, Open Space did not go the certification route though training is provided by many gifted facilitators while also leaving lots of room for people to just go do it themselves, learning from each other informally, reading Harrison Owen’s user guide which has been translated in many languages or getting support from a generous community on the OS list which at any given time has nearly 700 people willing to help.

  20. From the outside looking in, it seems like you’ve fought the good fight on this for a long time, brother. Good luck with whatever is next for you.

    Scrum may or may not have started out rotted; I’ll assume not. But Scrum and the rest of the ‘A’gile community has degenerated to the point that it’s hard for me to recognize the joy and spirit of determination I remember feeling when I first read Kent Beck’s book.

    Ten years later, agility is still happening. Flourishing, even – I write this from a workstation in an old school XP lab at my current client, easily the best gig I’ve ever had. But that’s where it’s happening: in little pockets, here and there, all over. The big global Worldwide March Towards Agility took some very wrong turns and accumulated a lot of folks who smelled a buck and don’t know software. But real, beautiful, excellent agile groups are here and there and everywhere. Go find one.

  21. Hi Tobias,

    It is sad that you keep defining things to only be a certain way if you approve it.
    SA is not a creative organization, because it doesn’t do what Tobias wants, etc etc.
    I’ll be the first to admit problems with the SA, but this rant is just sad. I do wish you would actually follow your own values.


    • Bas, perhaps you could enlighten others here as to just how the Scrum Alliance is creative. I have a hard time seeing it, but perhaps, as you suggest, I am blinkered.
      I wonder if you read beyond the first two paragraphs of the post. Referring to it as a “rant” is rather a mischaracterization. It is a call for change. The focus isn’t on what was not, but on what could be.

  22. (sigh)
    Too much for words here, and others have said all the nice things I would have liked to.
    I’m so glad that your CSM class was my introduction to Scrum.
    Best on Your Next Adventure,

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  24. “There is a big wide world of hope, love and passion, a world of inspiring people and outlandish ideas. Oh, the places we’ll go!”
    You have put words to the feeling that bubbles in me every time I meet with these people and ideas. It seems like this community of interesting people always gravitate to the exciting ideas and bolds actions.
    Thank you Tobias!

    However, my cynical side wants to ask whether you are walking away from the certifications, especially the CST, because you are excluded from the money-machine in some way, although I can’t see how!, or because you are principled, bold, free and interesting?
    I sincerely hope for the latter!


  25. I am one more lucky guy who received Scrum wisdom from you on my CSM course. As far as I remember SA was in crisis at almost same time last year and it was obvious during Munich gathering. I was delighted to hear that you took role of creative director and thought that SA has perspective. I did support you on all your intentions to make SA work more transparent. It seems to me that SA is becoming “Dark Empire” more and more and that “Republic” guys retreat. On the other hand, I don’t think that you were transparent enough in your own work in a role of creative director or at least I couldn’t see all of your actions watching online community. Even so, I suppose that the Board can see the need for community development. I hope that the new SA director will become aware of SA as community based organization, and that SA would start returning value to the community. One way or another, Scrum community and the Scrum itself are not dependent on any organization. Tobias, you have all my respect and support for all moments being brave and transparent. You’re example of how to earn real and deep respect from the community.

    • Hi Marko
      > On the other hand, I don’t think that you were transparent enough in your own work in a role of creative director
      There is some truth to this. For the first few months I sent detailed updates to the ScrumAlliance Google group, and wrote the occasional blog. Around May/June I stopped doing this as there became less and less to report on, and I could see the whole creative plan being sidelined. The last update I gave on my work at the SA was the previous blog post, on the Scrum Beyond Software event in Phoenix.

  26. Wow, that’s a bold but I venture a typically progressive move. I can’t wait to find out what you do next 🙂

    I think Alan Dayley’s reply was spot on, when a certification becomes the goal you know you’re in trouble; rather like government targets!

  27. I gave a talk recently, rejecting methodology, checklists, etc. It was a real call to arms, a reminder oh how we have lost our way, and I pulled no punches against our organisations but I reminded everyone that power exists when you give it to them.

    No simple models for things that can’t be modeled simply. No soft option. No cruising when hard work – have we forgotten about hard work – was required. I was passion personified. A lady at the end said to me, ‘ok, so, if you could summarise, in five bullet points, what I can do when I get back to work’. I nearly cried.

    I’ve never claimed to be agile, just a solid engineer. We’ve got to take our community back, we need to remind businesses how engineering can be used to achieve goals and make money and create human working environments. Frankly, fuck the scrum alliance, let them do what they want to do, but the rest of us have to fight back and do what we do best. Hard, honest work, thinking intelligently, a dedication to plan-do-study-act, and a rejection of simple models – like we rejected water fall.

    Well said Tobias, good for you, and good luck moving forward. I say, we should all follow your lead and start the dissent because its the only form of patriotism.

    Jamie Dobson.

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  29. You have hit the bull’s eye. It is time that Scrum Alliance and its members first believe and practice the Values and Principles of Agile and Scrum themselves. Leaders have to lead by example. I had for long been struggling to bring these aspects of Scrum Butts to the Agile audience. My blogs at and those at echos my similar concerns. Great job Tobias…. our industry needs to be educated on how best to harness the best out of Agile and Scrum.

  30. The big problem is the lack of transparency (ironically this is a Scrum value). Got 3 simple questions for SA:

    1. Why CSPs case reports are private for CSPs?
    2. Why CST discussion list is private?
    3. If there’s more than 100.000 CSMs around, there’s 5 million dollars (minimum) on SA account. Where is this money?

  31. Tamara Sulaiman


    I read this post, and read all these “well done, Tobias” comments and am just disgusted. IMO, you are upset because things didn’t happen the way that you should, in the time frame that you think appropriate. To me, this post reads like a temper-tantrum from an idealist who didn’t get his way, in the time frame he wanted. Shame on you for degrading the efforts of everyone who does get involved and tries to make a difference.

    The Scrum Alliance is a non-profit organization, with a volunteer board setting policy. We, everyone who is involved in the SA, are the Scrum Alliance. We make things happen. That is the only way this kind of thing works.

    There are so many different opinions within the community, what the “right thing” should be;of course there is debate on what directions we should be going. I’m not always happy with what I see going on with decisions that the SA board and staff, myself. However, since I am not willing to devote my time and effort to making a difference there, I keep my mouth shut. Did you hear me complaining with the current CST process that you worked so hard on? I disagree with it, have from the beginning.

    Because I have chosen to prioritize other community work where I devote the time and energy, I keep my complaints to myself. I keep my mouth shut and watch, trusting that eventually we’ll get something feasible and sustainable.

    I feel that it’s time for you to step away from the keyboard and think hard on whether what you have to say here is ego-driven and what is truly from a desire to help the community. A call for change my ass! What are your real values here?

    • Tamara,

      Be mindful. An idea has popped up that is threatening the power structures of your organisation and you now look like you are reacting by discrediting it and have dropped into name calling. You may be disgusted – are you serious, disgusted? Name dropping, coercion, and didactic ‘step away from the keyboard’. You have reacted to this ‘foreign element’ exactly as could have been predicted… it may be you who needs to take a breather.


      • Very true. I re-read this and realise I over-reacted. I still don’t like the approach he’s taken, however it is my turn to step away from the keyboard and inspect my motivations.

        Response: Kudos, Tamara and thanks — both for this comment and your original one. You spoke out in passion, something I haven’t seen you do before, and something you probably guess I applaud =]

    • I’m confused by your response here.

      Tobias’s statements do not “[degrade] the efforts of everyone who does get involved and tries to make a difference.” At least, I don’t see that. Perhaps you could point that out to me?

      You state “…since I am not willing to devote my time and effort to making a difference there [at the SA], I keep my mouth shut.”

      Tobais spent one year working on the Scrum Alliance staff. Is that not devotion of time and effort? If one year is not enough, how much devotion and time, in your opinion, does it take before one is allowed to speak up? Does he have to be on the board to be able to point out problems and disagreements with the SA board’s actions? If so, does that mean no one but board members can provide feedback to the board?

      Your post mostly rephrases the old saying “If you don’t have a solution, don’t complain.” Meaning, if one is not willing to do the work on a solution, one should not bring up problems. You cite yourself as an example of this, that you are focusing on other areas and therefore do not speak up about things you disagree with.

      First off, such a policy is not Agile and re-enforces an echo-chamber, driving away improvements. Secondly, the policy does not apply to Tobias anyway. He participated on the “inside” and for years on the “outside.” He worked to provide solutions. I expect he will continue to work for the benefit of the community. He did far more than watch and trust, yet you want him to keep silent. Why?

      • Hi Tamara,

        As soon as I wrote that I wondered how you would take it. I was also quite trigger happy with my response, so I am sorry if it was abrupt. It’s a difficult one, isn’t it. We know that we should hold our organizations to account and that includes having the courage to criticize them. And it’s only natural that those in the organisation feel attacked.

        There is a lot of bad feeling towards the Scrum Alliance, I myself am ambivalent, and I think it would be wise to use this blog to piece together why that might be.

        Hope you are well, maybe we can talk again off-line and compare notes and try to get to the bottom of this.

        Sincerely, Jamie.

    • By all accounts the Scrum Alliance has seven figures in the bank. For what? How does keeping all this money transform the world of work? How is this non-profit exactly?

      The Agile Alliance Board is also a fairly aimless organisation that relies on the heroics of individuals rather than working as a team. It shows early signs of the same kind of ossification that Tobias describes about the Scrum Alliance, but at least the Agile Alliance funds a significant number of volunteer-led programs. It makes up for its shortcomings with real contribution to the agile software development community. What, exactly, does the Scrum Alliance do beyond taking the money of hapless people driven to want certification by a completely invented, engineered and illusory market for certified practitioners? Why, frankly, should anyone support it?

  32. @Tamara Sulaiman:

    So keeping the mouth shut is in what angle compatible to Scrum? (Inspect and Adapt, Early recognition of impediments, teams motivated to work towards a goal)?

  33. Thanks a lot for sharing this insight with us. I personally felt the same about the SA and decided that I don’t need them to participate in a great community.
    So wish u all the best during your next steps and in the (real) scrum community.

  34. I love the lessons of Scrum – in particular, the humanity of teamwork it taught me.

    Your motivations to renounce what Scrum has become are widely held in the software communities I participate in, but few have stated the case as eloquently as you have. That the Scrum Alliance became a lumbering organization intent on maintaining the status quo is indeed ironic.

    It is no surprise that organizations eventually reflect the people that inhabit them. A principled person, like an organization, needs to be vigilant in feeding his principles with corresponding actions – lest he risk becoming the very thing he despises.

  35. I don’t know if I can say good job or not. Some of what you write is true, some of it is not true and all of it feels driven by anger. This feels like a posting by someone who did not get his way. I’ve seen this behavior with my high school kids. It comes when one of them does not like their grade. I like your posts and views, but this just feels like someone who has some sort of score to settle. At the end of the day, who cares? Life is hard. People make mistakes. Not everyone will agree. Don’t be naive and don’t get upset when someone does something different than you want. Accept it and move on.

    • Hi Bill. Driven by anger, perhaps yes to some extent. And frustration, and disappointment, despair, sadness… many emotions. Is that wrong? Please understand that I have been involved with the SA from the beginning, struggling against a tide of opacity, benevolent dictatorship, PMI influence, a focus on process rather than principles, and many other behaviors and directions I felt undermine the spirit of Scrum — the spirit of change. Should I keep my mouth shut? I don’t think so. For me that would be tantamount to supporting such behavior. Compliance through silence.
      There is far too much silence in the Scrum trainer (CST) community as it is. I wrote about that almost exactly a year ago, here. Nothing has changed. The Scrum community has the leadership it deserves. I chose to leave. And I chose to make my dissatisfaction known. I did this for two reasons, i) personal gratification and ii) as a wake up call. For me the second reason is by far the most important, but I am human, and like all of us governed to some degree by self-centeredness, by ego.
      The SA have set themselves up as the leader of a community, with a vision to transform the world of work. That they are doing exactly the opposite is enormously painful and insulting to many people (just read the majority of comments here — from the few with the courage to speak up). In the interest of our whole community the SA should be called out on its disingenuous behavior, and if not me, who will do that?

      • Hi Tobias. I can only guess when you were employed by the Scrum Alliance that you were paid well, whereby most Americans earn around $60k and teachers earn far less. If you feel this way, why did you stick around so long? I hope you don’t say it was for the money – and reading your stuff I am sure you won’t. In my profession, I deal with parents a lot. I wish the American education system would change, but that does not make me quit what I do. All I see here is that you chose to leave after trying to fight for a year, and fight longer as someone who was a teacher like you say. Where would be be if Nelson Mandela just quit? Your post still comes across as a little kid who didn’t get his candy at the store. It’s whiny and takes on a “I’m a victim” stance. I read about all that Ken stuff on his website and this just feels like you and he are made for each other. I don’t know the man and I don’t know you, but you both seem to hate the same organization. Me? I don’t care. I think Scrum has value and I try to use it. You’re just stoking the fires of hatred, and you are (or so I thought) a better person than that. Good luck with your future ventures, I’m sure you will do great once you get over this.

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  37. welcome back, Tobias….it is good to have you home.

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  39. @Bill B
    Nelson Mandela fought from outside the system. I quit the Scrum Alliance. I didn’t quit the fight. I am still here, and I still care.
    You can choose to quit the education system, and campaign for change in other ways, or you can stay and comply. By staying, and staying silent it is likely you are propagating the system. Perhaps you don’t care enough to make a stand. I do care enough.
    And for what it is worth I dislike what Ken Schwaber and are doing as much as I dislike what the SA is doing. Both are undermining the values of Scrum and the greater Agile community, to the point of making a mockery of the whole movement. Sadly, very, very few people in this community speak up against that behavior.

  40. Hey Tobias, just wanted to say – Thank You. You’ve been an inspiration to me, and you keep me honest.

    I decided to look up “Scrum” – I love words – and here’s what Wikipedia told me:

    “(Scrum) is a way of restarting the game, either after an accidental infringement or… when the ball has gone out of play.”

    Doesn’t say what happens after the game starts back up again. What do you want to happen next?

  41. You raise some interesting points Tobias.

    I have no involvement with the SA, but am involved in local Scrum and Agile organizations, and I always bristle at the notion that there is only “one true Scrum”. Agile practices and processes should be open to the same evolution as the the products that we use these practices to develop. All teams are different and no one process is going to fit.

    I have been encouraged lately in the local Agile groups I participate in that there seems to be more willingness to adapt processes (e.g. using a combination of Kanban and Scrum).

  42. +1

  43. Tobias, and readers of this comment,

    Here’s a longer version of my “+1”.

    I truly appreciate your courage and “audacity” to question what I and many others in the agile community have been questioning, and more over, to act by renouncing your titles and role in the Scrum Alliance. There are definitely some bad smells that are disturbing and distracting us from useful work… and we need to “remove the impediments”.

    I teach and coach people in Scrum, XP, Lean and other methods in a belief that I can help. I also promote adoption of agile methods in large organisations creating substantial opportunities for others to do the same. I usually offer both CSM and non-certifying options for people seeking training.

    (Much) more important to me are the experience, intelligence, values and energy of people I work with in coaching and training roles than whether they are “certified” by the SA. I don’t “sell” CST classes, but arrange for them only if requested and after comparing less expensive alternatives with clients.

    Personally, I have not submitted to the temptation to become a CST, though have toyed with the idea over the years, and I am not completely against the idea, in theory, if this process really raises professional standards. As the price to be a CST has risen, however, the number of obstacles have increased, and the behavior of some CSTs (who control the gauntlet for others to join their lucrative ranks) have become questionable and in some cases corrupt (requesting bribes, for example, to sponsor a candidate), my disillusionment with the system setup by the SA has grown, and my motivation to join the ranks has waned.

    Don’t misinterpret my remarks: I know quite a few fantastic people who are CSTs, or trying to be, and who I work with and love to learn from, with great characters and who are working hard to make life better in many dimensions for those they work with, and succeeding. But I don’t think that this is because they happen to be CSTs.

    I would be interested in hearing from the SA board and the CST community in an open forum, perhaps an open space conference, on how to reorganize and regain not only credibility but respect. I am prepared to work with others to create change in the SA to become an alternative self-organizing organisation that encourages and inspires.

    However, I’d like to time box that effort, because whether or not the SA changes in the direction we would like, we don’t need permission to innovate, collaborate or evolve… do we?


    • The Greed for Money corrupts everyone. The best way the Scrum Alliance can regain some degree of credibility is to ensure they focus on propagating, nurturing, supporting and encouraging the Values and Principles of Scrum and Agile in the industry in various creative and innovative ways that could achieve such objectives. They should first themselves organize and work around the Values and Principles of Scrum and Agile…. Transparency and Trust.

      As Kent Beck in his XP2 reiterated, any certification agency has to take accountability for the credibility and integrity of those certified by it. If the certification agency (SA) and the certifiers (CSTs) themselves are corrupt and seek bribes for certification or for becoming certifiers, how does the industry still believe and rely on such certification.

      If the industry still goes by such certification, the credibility and integrity of such an industry and the organizations and its people associated with the industry itself are rendered questionable.

      In my over a decade of working with organizations and people helping them understand and embrace XP and related Agile Values and Principles, I have rarely (very rarely to be honest) found a CSM worthy of his certification who can demonstrate his/her real commitment and conviction to uphold the values and principles of Scrum. Who is responsible.

      Scrum Alliance is becoming a corrupt political body trying to anarchially rule and further corrupt a group of genuine innocent people, who are trying to be honest, sincere, responsible and committed to the cause of Agile Values and Principles. This is an utter sham of the Values and Principles of Scrum and Agile.

      God help us. SOS.

    • “requesting bribes, for example, to sponsor a candidate”

      I’d report that to the SA ASAP. That sounds like something that not only breaks their Trainer Agreement – It fractures it in two.

  44. margaretmotamed

    I would like to see the SA publish a summary budget and pro forma to the SA members. In my experience on the board of a large non profit , I found that transparency with the financials was easy, painless, and effective. Transparency in annual budgeting led to improved discussion, communication, alignment, and decisions.

  45. Silvana Wasitova

    Dear Tobias,
    you’ve been an inspiration to many on the path of “improving the way we work”, and for me since our paths crossing in 2005, and I admire your integrity and commitment to this larger cause, that can not, and should not, be contained or delimited by one organization’s self-perpetuated boundaries.

    The dream lives on, in many hearts, and we take pleasure in witnessing transformations, one workplace at a time, one day at a time.

    The path into workplace utopia stretches ahead into futures and generations, and though the journey may be tumultuous, it is illuminated by presence of co-travelers and inspiring guides such as you.

    I look forward to the pleasures of future encounters, in person or in spirit, and to be a witness to your integrity bearing yet more fruits.

    Still applauding you, and wishing you well, my friend,


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  49. Hello Tobias,

    I love the insight and passion that you bring with this posting. Though I do not have the intimate knowledge of the inner workings of the SA, I do know that your post gives us a great perspective that is not often heard and I appreciate that. Keep being true to yourself!

  50. The thing is that you can certify the knowledge of a process but you can’t certify to have certain values.
    The difference is that, Tobias you promote the Agile values and the SA promotes the scrum process and indeed that’s a big difference.

    • I am not sure if I understand this right. Ken Schwaber defines Scrum as an Agile Process on his home page at

      If that is true, Scrum is a process within the Agile Value System. Agile is a school of thought bound by a system of Values-Principles-Practices (process).

      We cannot have an Agile Practice Set that violates or contradicts the core tenants of the Agile Value System.

      It is imperative therefore that when you certify the knowledge of a process, you are also certifying that the person is aware of its rationale and its lineage (Values and Principles). This is the basic conflict in whether to certify or not to certify and if certify, what to certify ?

      We should not mislead the industry and its people by saying that we certify a person for the knowledge of a process but that person may not understand the strategy behind the design of that process. We should follow process by its spirit not by the letter. Unless SA wishes that everyone follow Scrum by the letter and not in its spirit !

      So what is the difference that we are talking here ?

  51. Scrum is indeed an Agile process and a very good one by the way. The design of scrum is brilliant as it makes people orient towards the values of Agile. Personally I like Scrum as a practical framework to make cultural change happen, to orient people towards attitudes and values we’ll need in the companies of tomorrow.
    There is a huge difference between being aware of values and living those values. For about 8 year we tried within our – consultancy – company to make the transition towards a company we could call an Agile company. We didn’t call it Agile as we didn’t knew the name but the values where the same as the Agile ones. We had top management commitment, we hired a specialist, we invested the money and we had a motivated team. Internal processes where changed/abandoned, the criteria for recruitment changed, the management style changed, we had a scrum of scrums at company level and so on. After 8 years I can say that the values are not entirely internalized and only a smaller group of people really got the spirit. An excuse for this slow adoption might be that we are a consultancy company so most people do not work together on a daily basis. The point is that changing values/attitude/culture is a long term process. The more I work around this the bigger the domain of learning seams to become.
    On the other hand it took me one day to read two books about scrum and to understand the process. After two years of working with scrum and even implementing it as an official method at a large company the scrum process did not reveal much more than it did after the first day. The things I learned along the way where just small practical thing so the domain of learning is becoming smaller.
    All this just to say that the process and the values are other things. A process can be based on values but it does not mean that when you blindly use the process you will get the values.
    To rephrase my original point of view and I hope a bid more clear now. One can certify the knowledge of a process and maybe even the knowledge about values but one cannot certify that someone lives/works according to certain values.
    I remember that after a training of Tobias I attended I gave him the following feedback: what I appreciated most is the alignment between what you trained us and how you trained us. In other words, the process and the values where both present.

  52. Tobias – Bravo! You demonstrate courage.

    I had stayed away from the Scrum Alliance for many years and your entrance to the scene as Creative Director gave me hope that the SA might live the values of Scrum. e.g. Be an open transparent community-based organization serving its members.

    For my part, I am in the CSC certification process and now I am wondering why.

    – Michael

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  55. 1. you’re passionate: I love it
    2. the measure of you disappointment is equal to the love you putted in
    3. Isn’t the “storming” before “norming”
    4. ScrumBok is bullshit. I’m a PMIer and all my PMI colleagues reads the PMBok only for the PMP and nobody follows it.
    5. Clarifiying Scrum is a must-have
    6. Where are the users? Scandinavia, US, Canada, India, etc… Are the whole world US or us?
    7. Your extremist reaction (positive for me considering CAS) fosters conservative contra-measures.
    8. As a scrumer, if I feel that the SA is a impediment, I skip it.
    9. As a past boyscout, I like certifications. Certifications are helpful to connect to non-initiates: it’s a rating.
    10. One of the Scrum power is federation.
    11. If SA slowdown the continuous improving rhythm of the scrumers, let the time for digestion and follow your way.
    12. Reflexions: is it a step to maturity? Is scrum schizophrenic: management process hating managers?
    13. We are loosing the relay race… because we thought that Scrum is a “silver bullet” and “Money for nothing”.
    14. We are just humans: money and power are smooth temptations.

    Salvador Dali said: “There is only one difference between a madman and me. I am not mad.”
    Voltaire said: “There is a wide difference between speaking to deceive, and being silent to be impenetrable.”
    and at last:
    Gandhi: “Honest differences are often a healthy sign of progress.”

    • Voltaire said: “There is a wide difference between speaking to deceive, and being silent to be impenetrable.”
      Since you post it, I will ask you instead asking Voltaire:)
      are these two, speaking to deceive and being silent to be impenetrable, connected at the other end?

  56. Pierre, you have eloquently expressed the tension of opposites that is at play here. Nicely done, and thanks.

  57. I’m late on seeing this post, but nicely done and stated. It is good to see your honesty sincerity. Brave choices that I am sure will be rewarded.

  58. I am all The Way with you.
    We will continue Professional service and support for those involved in facing their Challenges – with or without SA.

  59. Tobias,
    Bravo , other day I was telling if you are not an idealist you should be lying to yourself and the world, I am glad that this world has people like you and you will create more idealists that can transform the world of work and the World in general.

    Since I know you well , we had conversation about some of these topics and I saw some of that being one of the CSP and an outsider , I agree and trust everything.

    One questions that comes to my mind is what do we need Scrum Alliance to spread and people to practices Scrum, why do we need Scrum Alliance to “Transform the World of Work ” and take Scrum beyond Software.

    I am exploring my own answer by doing what I can , would be interested in hearing opinion.

    I want to disclose that me and my organization runs Certified Scrum Master classes every other month and I get to work with wonderful people like Tobias , Lyssa Adkins and Alan Cyment , who are individuals I see lives the principles and values that make Work places human. So in my opinion it is not Certification or Scrum Alliance that matters,we just need more people like Tobias who can stand -up for a cause with laser focus on their purpose, no organization shall stand in the way of such focus.

    Keep going Tobias !!

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  62. Just found out about this. I’m a CSM through SA. Could of become CSP as I certainly have the experience and learnings but never got around to it (too busy developing, architecting and SM’ing occasionally :). I innocently went to join and mentioned that I was with SA. The response was a quite reasonable “Membership in the LinkedIn group is reserved for those certified through …” and was very confused. A bit of googling on “diiference between and scrumalliance” gave me a link to this. I’m now pretty confused on a few fronts (note: no disrespect to KenS as he’s obviously a legend with the best of intent) :
    * So KenS started SA and that didn’t “work”
    * He’s now starting and that will?
    Dare I ask what will be different this time? From my reading, there seems to be a “human nature problem” in general – I suppose that’s where we get to effecting the core change…

    Then you mention ICAgile – I checked them out and they look pretty cool and obviously backed by Alistair Cockburn
    * Now I’m super-confused – there are now 3 certifications. What should I do?
    My reaction, I’ll stay with my CSM and just put a few lines on Scrum / Agile on my CV listing the various implementations and trainings that I’ve done and let people judge for themselves.

    I suppose that this really is an evolution of the whole Scrum / Agile thing a bit like the “notation wars” before UML. Maybe there will be a Unified Scrum Agile Methodology in a few years and this will be a non-debate. In the mean time, from an “outsiders” (I haven’t been to conferences – just watch some presentations, read, then talk with and learn from SM’s at orgs I contract to) point of view this is really a bit sad as it seems things are becoming pretty fragmented.

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