Sneetches and Agile Training

star upon tharThis morning I read a tweet offering a 100% guarantee to pass the corresponding Agile exam.  Offering such a guarantee is such BS and insulting to our craft.  Reading the tweet sounded something right out of a Dr. Seuss book. I’ve come here to help you. I have what you need. And my prices are low. And I work with great speed. And my work is one hundred per cent guaranteed!

That is a quote from The Sneetches.  The two main characters of the original Dr. Seuss story are the Sneetches and Sylvester McMonkey-McBean.  If you don't know the story, I have it below.  The original text is listed in blue.  My commentary is in black.

I understand there are those who are eager to get a new Agile certification to add to their email signature or resume (Sneetches) and those willing to provide training and help them part with the money in their pockets (Sylvester McMonkey-McBeans).  But when I offer an Agile Certified Practitioner workshop, the primary goal is not to teach attendees to pass an exam (though they will as a by-product).  Rather, my primary goal is to introduce learners to multiple concepts and practices that can be leveraged later.

Are trainers primarily trying to help people be better at their craft or are they just trying to make fast money?  I'm quite certain people will get value from attending an Agile training class.  As someone who may be interested in getting a certification, what does a trainer have to do to pass your Sylvester McMonkey-McBean sniff test?

Image Source: Pictofigo "Star"

Now, the Star-Belly Sneetches had bellies with stars. The Plain-Belly Sneetches had none upon thars. Those stars weren’t so big. They were really so small. You might think such a thing wouldn’t matter at all.

But, because they had stars, all the Star-Belly Sneetches. Would brag, “We’re the best kind of Sneetch on the beaches.” With their snoots in the air, they would sniff and they’d snort “We’ll have nothing to do with the Plain-Belly sort!” And, whenever they met some, when they were out walking, they’d hike right on past them without even talking.

I’m going to introduce another character into this story.  His name is Sylvester McMonkey-McBean, an entrepreneur who offers hope to the plain-bellied Sneetches by offering them the use of his star-on-machine.

Then ONE day, it seems while the Plain-Belly Sneetches Were moping and doping alone on the beaches, Just sitting there wishing their bellies had stars, A stranger zipped up in the strangest of cars!

“My friends”, he announced in a voice clear and clean, “My name is Sylvester McMonkey-McBean. And I’ve heard of your troubles. I’ve heard you’re unhappy. But I can fix that, I’m the Fix-It-Up Chappie.

However, it soon becomes clear that Mr. McMonkey-McBean is no champion of the Plain-Belly Sneetches; in fact all he cares about is making money.  He is quite happy modifying the machine to remove stars from Sneetches who want to stand apart again.

I’ve come here to help you. I have what you need. And my prices are low. And I work with great speed. And my work is one hundred per cent guaranteed!”

Then, quickly, Sylvester McMonkey McBean Put together a very peculiar machine. And he said, “You want stars like a Star-Belly Sneetch? My friends, you can have them for three dollars each!”

“Just pay me your money and hop right aboard!” So they clambered inside. Then the big machine roared. And it klonked. And it bonked. And it jerked. And it berked. And it bopped them about. But the thing really worked! When the Plain-Belly Sneetches popped out, they had stars! They actually did. They had stars upon thars!

Then they yelled at the ones who had stars at the start, “We’re still the best Sneetches and they are the worst. But now, how in the world will we know”, they all frowned, “If which kind is what, or the other way round?”

Then up came McBean with a very sly wink. And he said, “Things are not quite as bad as you think. So you don’t know who’s who. That is perfectly true. But come with me, friends. Do you know what I’ll do? I’ll make you, again, the best Sneetches on the beaches. And all it will cost you is ten dollars eaches.”

He encourages the Sneetches to continually go from the star-on-machine to the star-off-machine and back to the star-on-machine.

All the rest of that day, on those wild screaming beaches, The Fix-It-Up Chappie kept fixing up Sneetches. Off again! On again! In again! Out again! Through the machines they raced round and about again,

Changing their stars every minute or two. They kept paying money. They kept running through until the Plain nor the Star-Bellies knew Whether this one was that one or that one was this one. Or which one Was what one or what one was who.

Eventually, Mr. McMonkey-McBean vanishes once the Sneetches run out of money.

Then, when every last cent of their money was spent, The Fix-It-Up Chappie packed up. And he went. And he laughed as he drove In his car up the beach, “They never will learn. No. You can’t Teach a Sneetch!”

Fortunately, in the end, the Sneetches have no idea who is who and both Star-bellied Sneetches and Plain-bellied Sneetches learn to live together.

But McBean was quite wrong. I’m quite happy to say. That the Sneetches got really quite smart on that day. The day they decided that Sneetches are Sneetches. And no kind of Sneetch is the best on the beaches. That day, all the Sneetches forgot about stars and whether They had one, or not, upon thars.


Becoming a PMI R.E.P.

As you may know by now, I left my gig advising a Federal PMO to join LitheSpeed as a Senior Manager. LitheSpeed offers premium Agile software development training, coaching and management consulting services. My relationship with the organization actually started several years ago, when I attended ScrumMaster training to earn my certification. (You can't be a Certified ScrumMaster through the Scrum Alliance unless you get your training from a Certified Scrum Trainer®.) Well, the world is evolving and so is LitheSpeed. See, Certified Scrum Trainers (CSTs) play a vital role within the Scrum Alliance. They are the only ones licensed to teach Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) and Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) courses. Stringent certification requirements are imposed on CSTs to make certain that only those who are qualified to meet the commitment are entrusted to engage in this role on behalf of the Scrum Alliance.

Well, what about those out there who are members of the Project Management Institute? What about those seeking the upcoming PMI® Agile Certified Practitioner (PMI-ACP)SM certification? If you want to qualify to sit for the PMI-ACP, you will need 21 training hours in an Agile-specific curriculum. To ensure members of the PMI know LitheSpeed offers quality training that will help satisfy that requirement, we applied to and were approved to be a PMI Registered Education Provider (R.E.P.).


What does it take to become a PMI R.E.P.? Applicants must complete a 33-page application, which includes a strict quality review of both the trainers and the curriculum. The first class we submitted and got approved was our Certified ScrumMaster course; next will be our Certified Product Owner and PMI-ACP Prep courses. As an R.E.P., LitheSpeed has been approved by PMI to issue Professional Development Units (PDUs) through the PMI website. Our goal is to equip our trainees with tools they can apply on current and future projects, not just help them qualify to take an exam.

I know this post sound a little like a press release.  But, I have to admit, applying to become a PMI R.E.P. is no cakewalk.

If you would be interested in attending one of my upcoming public training sessions or would be interested in me providing a private training session, shoot me an email!

PMI® and the PMI® Registered Education Provider logos are registered trademarks of the Project Management Institute, Inc. PMI-ACPSMis a service mark of the Project Management Institute, Inc.

CSM & PMI Agile Certification Eligibility

Though PMI has published information about what is required to be eligible to take the upcoming PMI Agile Certification exam, I'm getting quite a few emails from people asking about the upcoming exam.  One of the most intriguing was from a Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) asking if (his or her) CSM training could be applied toward the required 21 PDUs. The question: Do Scrum Alliance® Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) courses qualify for the training eligibility requirement?

The answer: Yes, Scrum Alliance® courses qualify for the training eligibility requirements. Only hours in Agile training will meet the certification eligibility requirements. One hour of training equals one contact hour of education eligibility.



What is in a Name

Hello my name is Derek HuetherThis weekend, I took the first step of rebranding myself. Some know me as Derek Huether the "PMP"; some as Derek Huether the "CSM"; some even refer to me as The Critical Path blogger or Zombie PM. With the real risk of the Federal Government shutting down this next week, I'd be an idiot if I didn't eat my own dogfood and have some kind of Risk Management strategy.  Though I may have to "accept" the risk, I will do what I can to mitigate it.

Because I am NOT a government employee, if there is a shutdown, I will NOT get paid.  When I heard about a possible shutdown, I remembered the similarities between grief and risk.  So, what needs to get done?  I need to get my resume and social links updated.  Wherever my name is, I need to make sure the message I'm sending reflects my current frame of mind.

When I look at LinkedIn profiles, it appears some people really love adding initials after their names.  I saw one fellow had no less than 6 acronyms after his name.  Though people in the industry may understand this alphabet soup, I think many are just annoyed by it.  I did a search on him and he really had nothing to say (publicly).  So, who is this guy?  What I see happening is he'll be loaded into a database with everyone else and he'll become nothing more than a keyword search.

Though I admit, that could happen to me as well.  I'll do what I can not to pander to it.  I think people should be hired because of their personalities or because they are good culture fits.  I wouldn't want to be hired because a hiring manager needed a body with a PMP or CSM.

I'm not going to turn my back on what I've learned over the years.  I will still champion the baseline information the pursuit of these certifications or accreditations exposed me to.  But, I'm not going to continue using them in my name.  It's just not who I am.

Zombie Elephant

I read a REALLY compelling post by Philippe Kruchten, who among others, was at the 10 years agile celebration meeting in Snowbird, UT, organized by Alistair Cockburn on February 12. Philippe stated on his blog post, after covering the walls with a couple of hundred issues cards, David Anderson noted that there was “an elephant in the room”. [read Philippe's post to find out what it was]  ...A small group identified a few other such “elephants in the room”, i.e., other topics that the agile community is not really willing to tackle for a variety of reasons. They ended up with a long list of about 12 such “undiscussable” topics (or at least not discussable in the open).

The elephant that jumped out at me was number eleven.

11. Certification (the “zombie elephant”) This massive elephant was reported dead a few times, but seems to reappear…

Now, I don't want to beat this proverbial dead horse but I do think it's important to talk about this.  The idea of "Agile" Project Management certification seems to drive some people super crazy.  There are arguments against certifications (in general), saying they are just a way to make money; that they don't offer any real value.  Like it or not, certifications ARE out there and they ARE here to stay.  This argument is not unique to the Agile Community.  There are almost daily debates in the blogosphere on the subject of certification value.  There is a distinct difference between wisdom and knowledge and I think the Agile community has a lot of wisdom to offer the "traditional" project management community.  If you don't have the wisdom, you need some basic foundation of education in order to help projects (and people) reach their goals.

The ongoing problem I see is some people outside our project teams perceive those with certifications as experts.  It's either that or the Hiring Managers are so damn lazy that they go looking for certifications rather than actual people who will make good culture fits.  Either way, we have the same results.  People who don't know the first thing about project management or leadership, with certifications, get hired.  This is not an issue with the certification itself.  It's a marketing issue.  The message is being controlled by the wrong people.  The communities as a whole need to be more vocal and shape the correct message.

In my post for Agile Scout, about the State of Agile, I called it mastery-based learning and the paradox of the certification.  What is the goal?  Are we trying to discover better ways to deliver value to our customers or are we just trying to get a piece of paper and a few extra letters after our names?  Some only care about getting a passing score on a certification exam versus being a good manager or leader.  I would argue that certifications do offer some value but we may need to do away with terms like "Master" or "Professional", in order to help control the message.

So, why certification and not traditional higher education?  In preparation for writing another blog post, I was reading a University of Maryland textbook on Systems Analysis. The section on Agile & Scrum were flat out wrong!  In addition, this college textbook used Wikipedia as its reference source.

I would argue, the respective communities introduce themselves to the elephant in the room and get to work on better ways to educate people and measure proficiency.  You better do it soon, before that elephant becomes an 800 pound gorilla.

Like the drawing?  Get yours free at Pictofigo