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Mentoring of candidates for CST

Page history last edited by Joe Little 13 years, 9 months ago

Mentoring for candidates for CST


This page describes the best practice guidelines already in use by many senior CSTs.  Reviewers of CSTs have been requested to consider this in their reviews. 


These best practices were later also agreed by the CSTs interested in this topic at the ScrumGathering in Orlando.

We recommend that a duly elected Representative Committe (from the CST community) approve these best practices.  Immediately.

We recommend that the ScrumAlliance board approve these best practices immediately.



Mentoring serves two purposes.

* Enable the mentor (and others) to make an informed recommendation or decision.

* Enable the candidate to learn more about being a CST, so that, if approved, he or she can be more successful.


Scrum is important and very strong CSTs are critical to its continuing success.  Thus, mentoring is important.


It is in the best interest of the customers who ultimately benefit from Scrum that the CST community be improved.


Current Situation:

A candidate must complete an application.  Two CSTs must review and approve an application before it is submitted to the Scrum Alliance board.  The Board has final authority to accept or reject candidates.  (The Board meets 3 times a year.)


Currently the application must include recommendations.


These additional practices did not and do not change the existing process, except to clarify and make more consistent what happens before an application is complete.  After the application becomes complete (as described below), then the current "two reviewer approval" process can begin.


What is described below is happening already in many cases.  (The percentage might already be high or even all.)


Summary of Proposal:

* Before starting the mentorship, a candidate must already have done teaching or leading of courses in a related subject.  One-day courses or longer, by himself or herself.

* The candidate will find a Mentor CST, and co-teach at least 3 CSM courses with that person.

* The candidate will find two other CSTs, and co-teach at least 1 CSM course with each of them.

* These courses may not happen in extremely rapid succession.

* The 3 CSTs will provide feedback to the candidate during the mentorship.

* After each course, the candidate is expected to describe how he or she would conduct the course differently, as a learning opportunity for both.

* The candidate will be able to stand up to 1 hour of questions from attendees.

* Over the 5+ courses, the candidate will teach all major topics in the CSM course.

* Assuming the 3 CSTs decide to recommend the candidate, each must disclose any conflicts of interest.

* This is not to be construed as a minimal "if-you-can-survive-this" bar.  The 3 CSTs involved in the mentorship should only recommend very strong candidates.  In general, the CST community should improve when a new CST is added.


Key Considerations in Making a Recommendation:


A CST may consider many factors in a recommendation, not just those mentioned below.  The 3 CSTs involved in the mentorship will discuss the meaning of these and other ideas on what makes for a strong candidate.

* Knowledge of Scrum, and what is and is not part of Scrum

* Teaching ability, in some sort of engaging or interactive approach

* Practical experience with Scrum in many real world contexts, probably through being a ScrumMaster or coaching

* Basic personality (one example: people in certain Myers-Briggs categories will naturally gravitate toward a command & control style; we are not in the business of re-making a person's fundamental personality)

* Clear evidence of a willingness to stay involved "in the trenches" and to learn from that (no ivory tower teachers)

* An ability to, and interest in, contributing to the Agile and Scrum communities.  And has done so

* A person able to run more successful courses on their own, including gathering sufficient signups and organizing all aspects of a course. We emphasize that this must be demonstrated in practice

* A person who would represent the Scrum community well (character, leadership, and all those other hard-to-define-yet-essential qualities)

* This list is by no means complete, nor can it deal with all situations. The CSTs involved are supposed to apply good professionally judgment. 




To complete the application, a candidate for CST must get at least 3 recommendations from existing CSTs.


One recommendation must be from a Mentor (a CST who mentors the candidate).  The mentoring process will include co-teaching at least 3 courses with that Mentor.  The mentor and the candidate will work together to define what else the mentoring will involve.


The Mentor will check that the candidate CST has or will be co-teaching with at least 2 other CSTs (ie, at least 1 course with each).  With a successful candidacy, those other 2 CSTs will also provide recommendations, with those co-teaching experiences as a minimum basis for the recommendation.


The candidate will organize those 5+ courses (thus proving their business ability to be successful as a CST in practical matters).  The Mentor will  be available to answer questions in the organizing phase. And obviously do those things that the candidate CST cannot do (eg, CSTs can add courses on the scrumalliance.org site).


The candidate and each CST involved may agree on any distribution of the revenue from each course they co-teach.  No expectation is set on whether the distributions will be the same.


The 3 CSTs (the Mentor and the 2 other CSTs) will discuss the candidate during his/her mentorship, so that they might learn about the candidate and advise the candidate on areas of improvement.  And so that they may discuss what characteristics are needed in a good candidate.  (This is an inspect and adapt process for all, on multiple levels.)


After each course, the candidate will discuss how he/she would conduct the course differently.  In part due to different skills, interests, abilities, and in part perhaps due to other reasons.  This is also to demonstrate that the candidate is not a mere recording device of the mentoring CST.


All 3 CST recommenders will review the candidate's application.


It is expected that all candidates will have areas of improvement, and that the CSTs will provide feedback on that during the mentorship.


It is likely to be normal that a large number of candidates will need further development before becoming a CST, ie, that this will extend the mentorship in some way or other.  It is also likely that some number of candidates should be encouraged not to continue their candidacy. Being minimally qualified is not enough. 


All 5+ co-taught courses will be CSM courses (although one of them could be a CSPO course).  All 5+ courses must be taught while the CSTs are aware that person is a candidate (eg, they are looking at things with those eyes).


After all 5+ courses are completed. the three CSTs will discuss the candidate and, if they concur that the candidate is sufficiently strong, then independently write (or finalize) each recommendation.  Or the candidate may be requested to co-teach more courses.  Or the candidate might be advised to end their candidacy. Etc.


For any reason, the candidate may find another CST (or CSTs) to work with in the mentorship (any of the 3 original CSTs).  This change must be disclosed to the new CST group.


Any issues that might be deemed conflicts of interest or bias will be disclosed by the 3 CSTs in their recommendation letter (email).  Positive or negative.  Obviously, in the case of any large conflict of interest, a CST should use good professional judgment and withdraw from the situation. 


The reviewers may take conflicts of interest (whether disclosed or not) into consideration is their reviews of candidates.  Reviewers may contact CSTs to discuss a conflict of interest.  Reviewers are expected to use good professional judgment about this, and consider the long-term best interest of the users of Scrum and the customers who get the benefits of Scrum teams. And the impact on the Scrum community generally.


Failure to disclose a conflict of interest could lead to action by the Scrum Alliance board, including rescinding the person's CST certification.


We foresee an inspect and adapt process for light gray conflicts of interest.  We recommend erring on the side of fuller disclosure.


Effective Date: 


Already in effect for years as a best practice.  Immediately, for all candidates that have not yet received Board approval. 


This may require someone to explain this best practice to candidates already in process.  They may be delayed. While not an ideal circumstance, still a reasonable situation.


We urge that this page be made very publicly available.




If approved, it is normally expected that the Mentor will offer some advice to the new CST as he/she gets started acting as a CST.  Beyond that, how the relationship evolves will be up to the people involved.


There may be special circumstances that make it obvious that a less "rigorous" approach should be taken than the one described here.  For example, if the candidate's great qualifications are already publicly very well known by many, the vetting and learning process inherent in this approach may not be appropriate.  The CST community respects the judgment of the Scrum Board in identifying these special situations.  The CST community requests that such situations be disclosed to the CST/CSC community (or its representatives) beforehand, in case the CST/CSC community might have input.  And the CST/CSC community requests broad disclosure of such an exception after the fact.


Concerns & Comments:

The 3 CSTs involved should review this whole page (including this section), and discuss the meaning, interpretation and application of these requirements, ideas, and comments.  Probably at the beginning and toward the end, at least.


* It is a normal human situation that a CST will like a candidate as a person, the candidate understands Scrum basically, and the candidate can teach Scrum adequately.  So one may feel "how can I not recommend the person?".  Nonetheless, this is not sufficent for a recommendation as a CST.

* Being a CST is hard.  Understanding the role of a CST is complex.  There is much explicit and tacit knowledge to impart and learn.  In many domains.

* Understanding whether a candidate for CST is qualified typically takes time.

* The best way to see whether a person is qualified is to watch them in action over time.

* The best way to impart tacit knowledge is by interaction during real action.

* There are many qualities that make for a good CST, teaching ability being only one of them.  Business sense and the ability, from a business viewpoint, to run at least a modestly successful coaching and training business are also among them.

* We do not want an inbred CST group, where an incoming CST is just friends or a business colleague of existing CSTs, without further independent vetting.

* An inbility to think for oneself and think independently would tend to be disqualifying characteristics. (At an extreme, this would be evidenced by a candidate merely repeating another CSTs speeches and slides.)

* We need each new CST to appreciate that there are multiple styles and learnings that CSTs draw upon.  Only by working with multiple CSTs will this appreciation grow in a candidate.

* It is understood that each CST continues to be a CST no matter what position he or she may take or move to.  Thus, comments that "I only intend to use the CST in such and such a way" are not relevant.

* All CSTs must be capable of being a ScrumMaster and of coaching.  And must have continuing experience "in the trenches" in some way.  This is necessary because the training must be based on real and continuing experience.

* Because of the variety of implementations of Scrum, it is important that the candidate have experiences of Scrum under many conditions.  Those whose experience base is limited to one context, even if quite deep in that context, may need to do "extra credit" compared to the minimal requirements of mentorship.

* The interest of the candidate to continue learning about Agile, Scrum and all the disciplines around them is a key success factor for candidates for CST (and for CSTs).

* The ultimate success is that, because of what the candidate does (and does not do), customers, stakeholders and workers benefit.  That course attendees remember key concepts is not the real success we seek.

* Candidates must be able to run a reasonably successful training and consulting business.  There are many reasons for this. One is so that the candidate is never tempted to cut corners, compromise Scrum, or engage in unprofessional activites.

* If a candidate is interested in Scrum or the CST certification mainly for the money, as with most things in life, this is almost surely not a good sign. Almost no one will admit this is his main motivation.


People who already are using this approach:

And probably contributed to what was articulated on this page.  Or agreed to use it.

Jeff Sutherland

Boris Gloger

Bas Vodde

Dan Rawsthorne

Jim York

Mike Vizdos

Robin Dymond

Roger Brown

Mishkin Berteig

Alan Cyment

Andreas Schliep

Alexandre Magno

Kiran Thakkar

Joe Little


Others are welcome to "sign on".


Best Practice:

This page represents the current best practice.  Some of the above mentioned people require (or may require) more.


Another CST has suggested that these long-used best practices be posted as the current best practice for all.  If others wish to make visible a better approach (at least in their opinion), let the CST community consider that as well.




Comments (12)

tobias said

at 4:22 am on Apr 4, 2009

Joe, this is quite a list. I agree with much of what you propose, am a little weary of things like outright rejection based on personality type, but generally think this is a decent first step to selecting good CSTs. Now... if we agree to this I'd like each one of the existing CSTs to undergo the same process.

I suggest each current CST has a "sell by" date applied based on when he/she became a CST and then has to re-apply according to these rules. Without that augmentation I'd have a hard time agreeing to this process. This re-application would only apply to CSTs (i.e. all of us) who didn't go through this process the first time, and I am not recommending the "sell by" date thing as an ongoing practice.

I realize this is a lot of work for a lot of people, but it would be hypocritical of us to expect others to come up to a standard we haven't proved ourselves worthy of, wouldn't it?

Joe Little said

at 6:57 pm on Apr 4, 2009

Tobias, I agree that we need to re-certify all CSTs. I understand others do as well.
The perfect is the enemy of the good (by which I express my personal opinion that we take this small step now, and other small steps a bit later).
Please do not think as though, as it seems you do, this is "my" proposal. This is actually the proposal of many people, perhaps least of all me. I happen to be the scribe. I am probably the stupidest, being the dupe who will be the point person for this and some other things.
Regards, Joe

tobias said

at 7:22 pm on Apr 4, 2009

Hi Joe. Thanks for the clarification. I wasn't entirely sure where the proposal came from, so responded to you as your name was attached. My apologies.

So... small steps. Yes. Let's start with the oldest (i.e. longest term SMs) and work forward from there. That makes the most sense to me. In the meantime we can continue accepting new CSTs using the existing process and let our new process catch up with them. I am no longer one of the older CSTs or I'd volunteer myself, but as soon as it get's to the 2008 group, put me at the head of the list :-)

Peter Hundermark said

at 6:16 pm on Apr 22, 2009

There have been recent posts in both the old and new trainers' (and coaches') groups that refer to a sometime CST application review and approval process put together by Brent Barton and some others. Apparently it's use was ended for legal reasons. I'd like to know whether this proposal draws on that process, the current CSC application process or any other sources.

Paul Goddard has suggested that CST wannabees should be required to publish their intent, so that the process of mentoring, application and review is more public and transparent. I support this idea.

I'd also like to have a view of the entire CST "lifecycle" from intent through mentoring, application, review, acceptance/deferment/rejection plus periodic renewal, as referred to by Tobias.

Joe Little said

at 10:17 pm on Apr 22, 2009

Hi Peter,

On behalf of the people I have talked to about this, let me say:
This proposal, as it is, is a compromise and something that we could all agree on now (all 10, maybe 15 of us). It is not viewed by me (and others I am sure) as perfect and complete. But the perfect is often the enemy of the good.

At one time I thought I understood the "Brent Barton" approach (the approached used when Brent was the key liaison person). I would not call that approach a direct source. The source of this proposal are many, and I do not know the originator. It is, basically, the mentoring process that I underwent (and used by that CST I know not how long), but many other well-known CSTs have been using this approach for a long time.

I personally like your additional ideas. Paul's idea flickered in my mind as I converted these ideas received onto paper. It seemed administratively hard and not something that others did, so I did not ever suggest it.

Many (and I) agree with your interest in seeing this cycle end-to-end. Perhaps this will evolve like the Napoleonic Code or like British common law. In any case, those who have signed on to this so far (including myself) do not feel that "the full view" must be resolved before this becomes (more) implemented.

Peter Stevens said

at 2:49 am on May 5, 2009

As a "wannabee CST" I think it is really great that you are taking these steps to make the process open and transparent. This is first time that I have seen any public discussion on the subject. Thank you, Joe for putting the announcement on the Scrum Development list.

Further as wannabee, I don't think it is appropriate for me to comment on the actual substance of the process. Too much conflict of interest.

One point which I would like to raise, though, is the issue of notice period. Becoming a CST is a non-trivial process. It takes time, planning and perseverance. And this is as it should be. The concept of "these changes take effect immediately" is in conflict with a process which takes time to complete. Changing the rules of the game on short notice creates the impression of arbitrariness or worse. The horizon seems to recede the closer you get to it.

How will you notify the existing CSP's of a change? Will they have enough time to meet the new requirements or will it push their application back a cycle or two? Does the Scrum Alliance expose itself to legal action from frustrated CSPs?

Personally I like the idea of the wannabees announcing their intent - perhaps having a mentor for the process would be also be the first step in integrating them into the CST community. This announcement could also freeze the rules. The wannabee would have 12 months to submit his/her application under the rules valid at the time of announcing the intent. If the process lasts more than year, any changes to the rules would apply. Later applicants might be subjected to new rules, but these are in turn frozen when they announce their intention.

Joe Little said

at 8:28 am on May 5, 2009

Hi Peter,

I will respond. Others should too.
The same thing actually happened to me. In fact, "the rules" were changed twice (and also not told me). (There were many reasons; I blame no one. I am friends now with those involved. I understand why.)
What's more important: fairness to the candidate(s)? Or a better CST community? They are both important, but I think the latter is more important. And I think it is good for candidates to be aware of, and to be willing to accept, some degree of sacrifice for the good of the community. (This is not an excuse for others to be arbitrary or otherwise bad.)
"In effect immediately"...well, not actually true. These best practices have been in effect for years.
Now, to tell you what I don't know: These are not rules and I don't know which reviewers you will get (I frankly don't even know who the reviewers are). So, now that you know this best practice, would you prefer to follow it or see if you could get in otherwise? What would you want others to do? Should the reviewers today let in people who have not done this process and tomorrow not? These are moral decisions for many. Perhaps not a bad inspect and adapt process itself.

I told you my own answer, which "cost" me personally in some sense. I went in under this best practice, even when it was not public and my app was already past ready. Even for myself, it is better that I did. Thanks, Joe

Peter Stevens said

at 11:59 pm on May 5, 2009

Hi Joe,

Yep, there is a conflict here between an evolving process which is seeking to improve and wanting to know what the acceptance criteria are when you start work. I think this is why Scrum fixes the definition of done before the start of each Sprint and why the team asks the product owner how each story should be demoed before they start working on it. Is there a parallel here? Maybe the application process should like a series of sprints working down a product backlog. When the last stories are done, the application can be passed to the board for final approval.

> What's more important: fairness to the candidate(s)? Or a better CST community?

I don't believe this is an either-or. I think if "we" (meaning the CST community including the wannabees) live the core values of Scrum and Agile -- inspect and adapt, yes, but also openness, honesty, courage and trust - then the CST and broader Scrum communities will do just fine!


Randy Tangco said

at 5:11 pm on Dec 28, 2009

I am interested in this program. I hope some one would be willing to become a mentor as I am willing to be a mentee.



Doug Shimp said

at 7:59 pm on Jan 17, 2010

Dan Greening said

at 10:42 pm on Jan 23, 2010

I think this is a rather rigid mandate. Speculating here: Was it motivated by recent unqualified CSTs, who passed the official ScrumAlliance constraints but sucked? I plan to do full 16-hour non-certified ScrumMaster training for lots of fellow employees of Citrix Online, in February and months following, without a mentor physically present. (Santa Barbara is far from a CST who might "pop in," and I suspect it would cost a fortune in consulting fees to have them present in a 50-person training I was providing.) If I did apply for CST I would likely try to get one of the signatories to be the primary mentor (so I would be subject to these constraints). If you are not mentored "in person", can a mentor view videos of your work and work with you? Does that count?

Dan Greening said

at 1:12 am on Jan 25, 2010

FYI: Robin Dymond gave some sage advice on restricting the size of my training, and I will follow that. Probably will start with 20 and see how it goes.

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