Choosing a Scrum course/trainer

This is a question I get from time to time: How should I choose between one course/trainer and another?

This is an important question and deserves some thought.  It does not deserve, in my opinion, a simple answer, as one might get from Zagat’s about a restaurant. The choice is different than choosing yet another restaurant.  For most, this is a once-in-a-lifetime choice.

Here are some criteria to consider. I believe you can think for yourself once you have some context (a key Scrum theme).

1. Date, location, price, consider these, of course.

You may think I am biased, but of those, by far the least important should be price.  Because in relation to the benefit, it is trivial.  OK, these three were obvious.

2. Knowledge of Scrum. You might think that all CSTs are the same in this regard. I do not think so, and there are many reasons for this.  In my opinion, Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber are the best and have the most experience with Scrum.

There is a 2nd tier and a 3rd tier, in my opinion.  Very few people had the opportunity to co-train many times with Sutherland and Schwaber.  I think this makes a real difference in terms of the depth of my Scrum experience.  I co-trained 8 times with Dr. Sutherland.

3. Course/workshop goal.  Yes!  What is the real goal of the course and the goals of the instructor? Even though they all say “CSM course”, they do not have the same goal(s).

My goal is this: I want results for the attendee, for the team and for the customers.  To me, those results are the only things that count.  Many other CSTs (trainers) would say something different. Or would not agree.

4. Instructor personality:  Trainers have different personalities. This affects how you learn.

How would you determine an instructor’s personality or style?  One way is to read the trainer’s blog. You might want someone who has the opposite personality to yours.

5. Instructor background: Not simple.  If you are in finance in NYC, you might want a trainer who knows finance in NYC.  There are other examples.  It can also be argued, other things being equal, the attendee should be taught by someone with a very different background. Maybe.

6. Instructor teaching approach: Each trainer has a somewhat different teaching style. To give an overly simple example: some use mainly a slide deck, some have no slide deck at all.  One related idea (theory): the training style should match your learning style.

This is hard to compare from a distance, but you can try. And you can certainly inquire.

7. Experience with Scrum. Some instructors have more experience with Scrum than others.  Jeff Sutherland and Mike Cohn would be good examples.  They have been doing Scrum for many, many years.  Other CSTs are relatively new, and often have much less experience with Scrum. Maybe the new ones offset that with enthusiasm.  I do not doubt Jeff Sutherland’s or Mike Cohn’s commitment to Scrum.

8. Accuracy of describing Scrum.  Umm. Some trainers understand Scrum better.  I do not know how wide the divergence is among the Scrum trainers.  I do know you will not hear the same thing from each one even about what I call ‘the bare framework of Scrum.’

You will hear different ideas about what to add to Scrum, to add to ‘the bare framework’ to make it work better.  This is more understandable. My usual opinion is that ‘what to add first’ will depend on your specific situation.

9. Ability to explain the ‘abstraction’ of Scrum in a way that seems (is) do-able and practical in your specific situation.

Seems pretty important, right?  And yes, it is related to some of the other things already said.  But it is different.  One suggestion: read the trainer’s blog.

10. Workshop or not. My colleague Catherine Louis suggested, against my initial judgment, to try offering a third day Workshop. Now I do that workshop – agile release planning – all the time. Most Scrum trainers do not. Or they do a different kind of thing.  In any case, that is an important feature, in my opinion. Suffice to say; I think the Workshop is very valuable, based on feedback from the attendees.

I am sure there is more criteria. This is a good start.

One thing I suggest you not pay attention to…. [At one point, the Scrum Alliance was going to publish the Net Promoter Score for each CST.  This idea is in abeyance at the moment. So, I will not describe why not to consider it.]

Some trainers gather feedback from attendees, and make it public (I do).  I think all trainers get some positive feedback.  Reading the feedback may give you some insights.  Be aware most attendees have only experienced one CST.  Their basis for comparison is limited.  Still, it may connect something for you, and help you decide.

Again, more important than the training, is great success in life. Scrum may help.  That success (with Scrum) is dependent on many things, including the training. But mainly it depends on you taking effective action.

In summary:

  1. Most or all of the CSTs are good.
  2. Probably some are better than others, in some objective sense.
  3. People say that they strongly prefer certain CSTs.  This may largely be a subjective (individual) experience. The reviewer often only has experience with one CST.
  4. I think you can make a good choice for yourself, by using some of the above criteria.
  5. Good luck.  It is not easy to obtain the best information to make the best choice.

Hope that helps. Interested in your comments.

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