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What’s the Difference Between CSM and CSPO?

You’re looking for great Scrum training that comes with a respected credential. Maybe you’ve seen other teams flourish with Scrum and you want your team to reap the same advantages and benefits. Maybe you’re looking for your next job opportunity, and every great gig wants you to have a Scrum credential of some flavor. Maybe […]

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August 24, 2020

You’re looking for great Scrum training that comes with a respected credential. Maybe you’ve seen other teams flourish with Scrum and you want your team to reap the same advantages and benefits. Maybe you’re looking for your next job opportunity, and every great gig wants you to have a Scrum credential of some flavor. Maybe you’ve been working on a Scrum team for a while, but you need to improve your skills to help your team succeed. You know Scrum Alliance certifications are the most recognized and valued across the wide landscape of Agile training, and you know that Certified Scrum Trainers are the most respected and vetted instructors out there, so you’ve narrowed your search down to either a Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) or Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) course. So which training should you take?

Why Scrum Alliance Certifications Are Separated into Role-based Tracks

One of the most elegant aspects of Scrum is the way it incorporates three different “inspect and adapt” feedback loops into the framework and associates each one with a specific Scrum role. One loop is centered on the current and future state of the product we’re building and is the primary focus of the Product Owner. A second loop is focused on our plan for meeting our goal this sprint and is the focus of the Development Team. And the third loop is dedicated to our continual improvement as a Scrum Team and is the primary focus of the ScrumMaster. While all three roles need to understand the basic mechanics of Scrum, each function emphasizes a different set of skills that enable a person to fulfill the core responsibilities of that role. For that reason, the Scrum Alliance offers separate education tracks for each role with distinct learning objectives tailored to that job rather than a single, generalized credential.

What a CSM Class Will Teach You

Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) is the foundational level course in the Scrum Alliance’s ScrumMaster track. The goal of this training is to give students a thorough grounding in ‘Agile mindset,’ the mechanics of the Scrum framework, and the servant leadership mentality that a ScrumMaster needs to coach a Scrum team toward high performance and continual improvement. Students in a CSM class gain a deep understanding of the functions and responsibilities of each Scrum role and patterns for each of the Scrum activities that help new teams stabilize quickly and maintain a focus on value delivery. Students practice facilitating essential team behaviors like effective product backlog refinement and daily Scrum meetings. They explore the Scrum Values as everyday manifestations within the interactions of a Scrum Team. And they gain perspective on the crucial ‘core skills’ a ScrumMaster needs to be effective in their role such as interpersonal communication, empathy, and system-thinking.

What a CSPO Class Will Teach You

Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) is the foundational level course in Scrum Alliance’s Product Owner track. The intention of this training is to give students an understanding of how to derive product vision empirically through continual experimentation, and to show Product Owners how to work with their Development Team and ScrumMaster to execute that vision in a way that maximizes feedback and emphasizes delivering business outcomes. Students in a CSPO course learn the Product Owner’s role in day-to-day interactions with their teams, and learn a variety of approaches for discovering, communicating, and managing product vision. They learn how to break down large product objectives into finite product backlog items that can be built by Development Teams in sprints. They’re shown how to harness the power of incremental delivery to focus effort on the most-needed and most-valuable work. And they learn how to embody the Scrum Value of “Focus” to handle the inherent uncertainty of efforts that are elaborative and continually new.

So Which Course Should You Take?

If you’re looking for training that’s the closest match for a future role, then obviously a CSM class makes the most sense for someone stepping in to a ScrumMaster position and a CSPO class makes the most sense for someone assuming responsibility for product direction. But both classes have a lot of value for people in other roles, too. For example, maybe you’re not a part of a Scrum team, but you lead a number of Scrum or other Agile teams across your organization: a CSM course can give leaders an appreciation for when Scrum tends to benefit a team and can help them understand the value that a dedicated, full-time ScrumMaster provides. Maybe you’re an experienced ScrumMaster who sees your team struggle with the relationship between Development Team and Product Owner: a CSPO course could give you a deeper understanding of the Product Owner role and tools you could use to coach a Product Owner to be more effective. And anyone looking to grow into full time Scrum coaching needs a comprehensive understanding of every Scrum role, so checking both boxes is a good way to start.

View our upcoming class schedule to get started on your Agile journey with Certified ScrumMaster and/or Certified Scrum Product Owner training.

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