Professional Scrum - Professional meaning what…?

12 Jun 2019 Steven Deneir Agile & ScrumLeadership & Management

In my pursuit of raising my understanding of Scrum in order to serve my partners better, I recently attended both Professional Scrum Master I and II trainings and a Professional Scrum Master Train-the-trainer.
One of the many A-HA moments I experienced during these very intense days was the deeper meaning behind “professional” in the title of the training. Before that moment it was just a title as any other. Professional, or Certified, hey, what’s in a name…

However, the team of Scrum.org has chosen the wording very consciously…

According the Cambridge Dictionary in Business English:

  • Certified: “approved by an official organization to do a particular job because you have successfully completed its examination and proved that you have the necessary training and qualifications” where qualifications is defined as “an official record showing that you have finished a training course or have the necessary skills, etc.”.
  • Professional: “having the qualities that you connect with trained people, such as being organized and showing a high standard of work”, where standard is defined as “a level of quality that people expect and generally accept as normal”


Reading the definitions from the Cambridge Dictionary, I feel there is an important difference in the focus of both words. Certified feels very related to being trained and passed an exam, whereas professional feels very related to the high quality of the work. And this is also what I have felt during the different Scrum.org training sessions: the high standard of the trainers’ work. Moreover, also the openness, and even the active search for feedback to raise their own standard. They focus on doing what is right with the knowledge they have at that moment. Remarkably… This also continues when you want to become part of the trainer community. They set a high standard. And support you to come closer to it. During and after each step there is personal feedback, specific attention points for you. No general “pass/fail”, but to-the-point improvement actions one can take.

Then what is “Professional Scrum”?

Continuing on the definition above it sounds like it should be something in the line of “showing a high standard of Scrum”.
Would that be an organization that has appointed a Product Owner, a Scrum Master, and Development team members, that in Sprints of two to four weeks deliver an Increment and perform a Sprint Planning, Daily Scrums, a Sprint Review and a Sprint Retrospective and using a Product and a Sprint Backlog? Only that?

During and after the training we (with my co-trainees Alberto, Andrew, Guillem, Juan Ramón, Nacho and Raju) had multiple conversations about the topic. Surely, only having the elements of Scrum is not enough. Then what else is there?

The Scrum Guide provides us with two additional key points: the Scrum Values and the Scrum Theory. Professional Scrum is about holding up the Scrum Values of commitment, courage, focus, openness and respect during each and every Sprint. All the time. In every Scrum event.
And to work in an empirical way. Being transparent, inspecting and adapting. About the product, the processes, the tools, the people and their relationships.
Have the courage to ask for help on something you missed out on. Be open towards management that a given deadline is not realistic for a certain set of features and being transparent on what is possible with the current knowledge and experience of the team. Respect a colleague's opinion even it is completely different from what you thought, and have the courage to understand this person’s idea better and come to the best solution for the team, the stakeholders, and the organization. Really commit to perform the work as well as you can, and to learn more about it to advance your skills. Having the courage to say "No" to requests that do not make sense with your current understanding of the product vision, and have the courage to say "Yes" to challenging work that makes a lot of sense for the product.

These are just a few examples of what Professional Scrum means. I want to close with the words of Andrew, who mentioned: “Professional Scrum is not just about knowing some good coaching techniques and reading the Scrum Guide. It's about duty of care to the growth and quality of those who experience from and practice the profession. We hold the values high, use the right language and embody the mastery of Scrum through word and deed. We can relate personal experiences back to roots and impact through practicing professional Scrum whilst teaching others to do the same and see the benefits it can bring”

And how will you advance your Professional Scrum?