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An Introduction to Becoming a Licensed Scrum Master (LSM) and a Description of My Journey to Gaining This Certification.

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Introduction

My name is Kinoshita, and I am from the my route Development Group. Normally, I do advanced development for Proof of Concepts, spanning mobile, front-end, and back-end development. I was given the opportunity to take the Licensed Scrum Master Training, which I passed successfully, granting me certification as an LSM. This is an account of my journey to gaining this certification.

What is LSM?

The LSM is a certification from Scrum Inc. awarded to those who take the Scrum Inc. certified Scrum Master training course and pass the exam.

There are multiple Scrum Master certification bodies, with each granting different titles for the same certification.

Title Certification Body URL Fee License Renewal Fee
LSM, Licensed Scrum Master Scrum Inc https://scruminc.jp/ 200,000 JPY (tax excl.) $50 / year
CSM, Certified Scrum Master Scrum Alliance https://www.scrumalliance.org/ 300,000 JPY (tax incl.) $100 / 2 years
PSM, Professional Scrum Master Scrum.org https://www.scrum.org/ $150 N/A

[Reference: https://www.ryuzee.com/faq/0034/]

LSM is a two-day course comprised of lectures and workshops. Completing the course qualifies you to take the examination. The certification must be renewed every year, for which a $50 fee must be paid and the examination passed each time. As such, you have an opportunity every year to consider whether you want to maintain the certification.

Reasons for Obtaining Certification

KINTO Technologies is aiming to be a cutting-edge online business organization. To that end, it is currently working to change those factors within the Japanese manufacturing industry that hinder progress in terms of culture and the environment, while also tearing away vendor locks, making improvements to legacy systems, systematizing business flows, and other digital transformation (DX) activities. As the company proceeds down this path, there have been a greater number of opportunities for it to choose Agile software development as its methodology. In fact, even the group that I belong to has been choosing to use Agile. And, in reflection of that fact, my manager recommended to me that I take the Scrum Master Training.

As in many small-scale development teams, the my route team that I belong to also only has a small number of team members, and, so, it is the case that the Product Owner and Scrum Master roles are fulfilled by the same person. After the recommendation, I talked with a number of friends and colleagues who were both developers and Scrum masters and I began to become more interested in taking the training. I talked again with my superior and, based on the following, decided to take the training.

  • It was not vital that I become a Scrum Master and there would be no issues if I didn't get the certification; however, given that it was not something I had learned systematically up until that point, it seemed like a good opportunity to educate myself;
  • In pushing forward with Scrum and Agile, it might be possible for me to build a Scum personal network;
    • For example, at seminars, I might be able to exchange information on how to utilize Scrum and Agile with people from companies who are facing similar organizational issues as our company; and
  • As a developer, learning what other Scrum Masters think and feel about issues has many benefits in terms of knowing how to respond to these issues.

Reasons for Selecting LSM

Given that my goal was not to simply gain certification, PSM was not an option for me. Early on, I learned from someone in my company about the well-known CSM certification; however, I was then recommended by another colleague to look at LSM, through which I might be about to build a Scrum community network. Also, I saw that TRI-AD (currently, Woven Planet Holdings, Inc.) of the Toyota Group had adopted it and that it had proven a good match for the company. This increased confidence in LSM within the company and was the reason why I ultimately went with that particular certification.

Prior Knowledge

With regards to my prior knowledge of what being a Scrum Master comprises, I had read SCRUM BOOT CAMP THE BOOK and the Scrum Guide. In terms of actual experience, while I hadn't worked in any organization that had formally adopted Scrum, I had worked in teams that had loosely incorporated Agile.

Contents of Training

The training was held online over Zoom. It basically comprised of workshops with participants split up into teams, and lectures. The day before the training, I received an e-mail including the following content:

  • Scrum Guide
  • Glossary
  • Text
  • Zoom
  • Worksheets for Each Team
    • I received a URL for an online white board tool called MURAL.
    • I was able to download completed worksheets in PDF format.

The content of the actual course was in-depth academic study into Scrum Master, including its history, what you should do with it, and what actions you need to take to achieve that.

With regard to organizing members, team-building exercises were held immediately before the training began where I got to know the other members I would be working with for the first time. I took the training together with a number of colleagues from my company, but a lot of care was put in to not pair people up with other people from the same companies or similar industries. In my team, I was paired with people from completely different industry backgrounds. Because of this, I was made aware of different views and exposed to different knowledge sets that I would not be able to experience in my daily work duties.

Progress through the training took the form of moving from classroom type learning to workshops with completion of each learning step, whereby questions were posed to which the goal was to demonstrate understanding of the content by answering said question or putting into practice what we learned. There is a lot of content to learn, and, personally speaking, I felt that the lectures were often longer than the workshops. However, if I hadn't paid attention to the content of the lectures, I wouldn't have been able to do anything in the workshops, so it was important that I maintained my concentration levels for the whole two days.

Examination

I became eligible to take the certification examination immediately after completing the training course. Although there was no time limit on answering questions, I felt that there were many questions which really tested your depth of understanding in the sense that if you did not understand the content of the training or the texts or Scrum Guide, you would not be able to answer them. For those who are not so experienced in Agile and Scrum, the examination might prove quite tough. However, it does seem as though you can retake the examination free of charge up to one extra time (I passed on my first attempt, so this is just what I heard about retaking the examination during the pre-examination description.) Therefore, there are multiple opportunities to pass.

Summary/Thoughts

The team mentors and members were cheerful and approachable, with a warm atmosphere present throughout the workshops. Being able to interact in the workshops with people from industries I do not normally come into contact with was really refreshing and a real plus point of the whole experience. However, seeing as how the training was held remotely, there was little interaction, and the speed and depth at which we could open up to one another was drastically reduced compared to meeting in person. Also, one of the people I took the training with seemed a little distant on the first day, never really opening up to the others. Upon listening the interactions of the other team members, they suddenly declared "I'm so jealous". I guess there might be an element of luck involved in whether the team building exercises go well, based on the personality and skill of the members and trainers. (That same person began speaking a lot more on the second day. Clearly, for them, ice-breakers are extremely important. After that, they seemed to settle down much more.)

As for the training itself, it was an in-depth academic study of the role of a Scrum Master. The training did not teach how to resolve issues found in organizations that are unable to incorporate Scrum, and so, it was not a silver bullet that would help me fix all the issues I encounter in my daily work duties. It is the responsibility of the individual to find out how best to apply what they learned in the training to their team, organization, or job. For this reason, companies who are able to incorporate everything taught on the course into their organizations and make effective use of that knowledge are rare.

Therefore, it is important that each company sees for themselves which aspects are best suited to their setup. If possible, I think it would be great if there were some opportunity to meet with and share knowledge with the people from outside of your company who you took the workshop with or those who have taken the training in the past. I think that would help people broaden their knowledge base and make the training even more effective.

Thoughts on how to make use of the training within my company

When I talked with some of the other people I did the workshops with, I realized that many of them also found it difficult to make use of Scrum within their organization and that they were facing similar issues to our company. Based on those conversations, I think that the following three patterns are fairly common:

  • If you know what you want to build, Waterfall is more suitable than Scrum
  • If you haven't decided exactly what you want to build and are going to build as you go, Scrum is suitable
  • If there is a free atmosphere in which multidisciplinary teams can be formed as part of efforts to improve a given service, Scrum is suitable

In order to make maximum use of the content of the training in your company, you need to ensure there is an environment in which that learning can be applied in the way you imagine. However, doing this from the get-go is easier said than done. I would like to conclude by saying that by making incremental efforts through occasionally correcting the product increments at which the definition of complete breaks down, and searching for ways on how to connect the small individual scrum teams dispersed throughout the company as part of efforts toward Scrum of Scrum, I think it will be possible to make improvements to the current situation.

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