Four great things about the SAFe 4.0 Scrum Master (SSM) course


Success can be engineered by following the right process, which means it can be learned, which means it can be taught. – Eric Ries

Sometimes something comes along whose time is right. I think this certainly can be said of the latest addition to the SAFe certification materials – SAFe 4.0 Scrum Master. When large enterprises attempt cert_mark_ssm_medium_150pxto scale agile it is common that they will experience some struggles with role clarity and role definition. For scrum masters to thrive in applying the SAFe framework they need to modify some of their behaviors, practices and principles. We do not want to abandon the tried-and-trusted habits for which we are deeply indebted to the original luminaries in agile. Some of these lessons were learned at great expense and we would do well to not lose them. But I don’t count it as particularly controversial anymore that something more is needed – from all of us – to succeed at scale.

You can read more about the newly announced SAFe 4.0 Scrum Master course prior to reading further if you wish. Four things I am particularly pleased about in this new course which I wanted to share with you are as follows:

1. Clarifies the role in key ceremonies
The newly announced SAFe 4.0 Scrum Master certification class is an excellent addition to the already-existing material. The established and proven cornerstones of the traditional scrum master role are still intact. In addition, though, the course provides specific guidance on what the scrum master needs to do in those ceremonies which SAFe prescribes (for example PI planning, Inspect & Adapt and System Demos). This one perhaps won’t be a shock to those already familiar with SAFe but I feel I need to call it out since the material does an excellent job of this.

“They must know what it is that they are committed to — that is, what they must do.” – Demming

2. Anti-patterns
In a number of places the course material calls out specific anti-patterns which need to be avoided. These are insightful and for some of us they will illicit either wry smiles or cold sweats. The sharing of specific pitfalls to avoid is especially valuable as it enables relative newcomers to get in front of certain behaviors which will not lead to a successful outcome. There are valuable insights to take away from the class and useful talking points too and I am appreciative of SAI for including them.

3. Scrum Master as coach
Something I am particularly pleased about in the material is that it sets Scrum Masters on the trajectory to become coaches to the team. It deals with some thorny issues such as how to deal with (inevitable) conflict in healthy ways, running successful team meetings, the importance of preparation. I think a lot of enterprises come to over-rely on the role of the agile coach and I am hopeful that this will help address some of that I do believe coaches add value – I perform the role sometimes – but one or two coaches in a large enterprise is not going to scale very well in my opinion. Grounding this important function in the Scrum Master role and providing specific tools and guidance is very valuable.

4. Scope of the role
I think the material does an excellent job of bounding the role (what it is and what it is not) and makes the case of how pivotal the role is to a successful application of SAFe and agile at scale. To expect individuals to simply figure it out is not reasonable and they need this course to provide them with the appropriate knowledge. For new Scrum Masters and also existing Scrum Masters who want to learn about SAFe and perhaps get a refresher on practices and principles, I highly recommend this class. SAI have high standards for the material they publish and I can say without reservation that this course also delivers on that promise.

And this leads me to a final thought … while you may not be in the role of Scrum Master it may be that  as a manager, coach or team lead you would benefit from a more formalized understanding of what the role entails and what can be reasonably expected from a Scrum Master. If so, please consider this course as a candidate for your future learning.


Note: This course is new and Agile Big Picture LLC will be offering this certification in Waltham , MA (Boston) on December 14th, 15th at the Conference Center Center at Waltham Woods. Read more here

Leading SAFe 4.0 will be following in January 2017.

Question: How many Scrum Master certifications are offered by SAFe?
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