Journey towards Scrum Mastery

On July 20th, 2020, I took a courageous step to attempt the most incredibly difficult Certification in the area of Scrum Mastery.  Yes!!  You guessed it correct Professional Scrum Master III Certification from Scrum.Org.   After appearing the exam I was continually checking my mails all the time as I was very desperate for the results. Finally on 10th day, when I checked my mail immediately after waking up, I was surprised and thrilled to see the mail from Scrum.org:

The result took me to Cloud 9 and showered all the colours of Rainbow. My struggle and battle has been paid off

After sharing this news in my organisation as well as in LinkedIn, my mail box has been filled with congratulatory messages and many people approached me to share my journey.

Sharing this article with the blood, sweat and tears of my journey in world of Agile and Scrum.

Many people say about PSM III as it‘s the Monster of Certifications; it is very tough to clear; it is impossible to clear.

I would say, “Nothing is impossible until you try for the 1st time”. 

We would have not been travelling thousands of miles if Wright Brothers thought it was impossible to invent an Aeroplane. 

We would have been in darkness if Thomas Elva Edison thought it is impossible to invent a bulb.

As Nelson Mandela’s beautiful quote say “Trytry and try again until you succeed” is the mantra you have to follow until you reach your goal.

While working on projects with traditional project management mind-set, there was lot of command and control behaviour which developed abhorrence and vexation in me.

In 2012 while going through some videos in YouTube suddenly I came across videos on Scrum from Collabnet https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D8vT7G0WATM&list=PLF6BFA8BAEDF6CE70

I was excited and developed passion towards Agile, that’s when I started my agile journey. I was doing lot of research and reading different books on Agile. I felt acquiring a certification would be more beneficial to validate my knowledge. Luckily in 2014, my company sponsored Certified Scrum Master (CSM) training programme from Scrum Alliance and I nominated for that as you know just strike the iron while it’s hot. That’s my 1st step on the road of Scrum Mastery.

With the takeaways of the CSM training my way of executing the projects took a steep step. I focused more on team collaboration; stopped command and control and started servant leadership approach. I observed a change in the team dynamics and people started becoming more cooperative to each other and collaborative in the safe to fail environment.

I didn’t want to stop here and continued by doing a lot of study, analysis, learning, experiments on Agile, attending trainings, conferences and attempting other industry leading certifications such as Certified Scrum Professional (CSP) from Scrum Alliance, Agile Certified Practitioner from Project management Institute – (PMI-ACP), Agile certified Coach from ICAgile (ICP-ACC).

I tried to inspect & adapt to align with scrum framework in every project I involved. One such incident happened in 2017 when I was deputed to Manila, Philippines for implementing a migration project in onshore- offshore model.  Initially the project was planned to execute in traditional way. When I coached Steering committee and project team of the client organisation on the agile ways of working and benefits of it, they agreed to try the new way.

The result was a very massive success and received so many appreciations to the team for agile and collaborative way of working.

That was the 1st project ever executed in Agile & Scrum in client organisation that too in a cloud platform.

With all the knowledge and a little overconfidence I thought I can easily score above 90% in Professional Scrum Master I certification and preparation is not required.  So in January 2019 I have attempted PSM 1 certification and passed with just the minimum passing score of 85%. 

Difficulty of the questions is Intermediate-Advanced; with some multiple choice, True / False & Multi Answer scenario based questions, we have to answer 80 questions in 60 mins.

Scrum.org says

I realized that whatever knowledge I have is not enough to excel and I need to learn more to reach the goal in achieving the highest level of mastery.

On the other hand, I hesitated to take next step, due to the strenuousness of the Scrum.org certifications.

PSM II Preparation

It took a year for me to gain the Courage to Focus towards the goal and be Committed to the learnings and build Self- Trust.  In April 2020 I took Professional Scrum Master II Training and learned some advanced concepts in the role of Scrum Master and attempted Professional Scrum Master II certification and failed. Not once but twice, yes, I failed twice in PSM II assessment by losing with just 1 or 2 marks both the times. I decided to burn the candle on both sides to get that extra mile.  Spent more time in reading books and Blogs

Books that are very useful to me are:

And finally, I have cleared PSM II on the 3rd attempt with 94.4%.

Difficulty of the questions is very Advanced, questions and answers are very complex, lengthy, and scenario based. One should have deep understanding of the concepts and also have practical experience to clear this certification. We have to answer 30 questions in 90 mins.

Scrum.org says

While preparing for PSMII I learned how well a scrum master can work with Product owner and also I learned about how to deal with team conflicts, and primarily the different stances of Scrum Master and different misunderstood stances of Scrum Master. This learning helped me in the application of scrum framework to next level which led to a successful adoption of scrum framework and agile way of working for another client in UK.

PSM III Preparation

All these experiences and learnings provoked me to deep dive into scrum and its implementation and decided to bone up on scrum for PSMIII. I didn’t want to repeat the same mistake by restraining myself from taking the leap to the next level. I immediately started preparing for the next level. I utilised my extra time I got while working from home because of COVID-19 pandemic.

I followed tips what Ravi & Lavaneesh has mentioned in their blog posts.  You can find the links for the same below.

Scrum.org says

Some other books and blogs I read:

Also, I followed YouTube Videos by Ravi Verma PST for clear understanding of the scrum concepts and tried to implement his suggestion to create a 3 X 3 Matrix for Scrum Elements in below video.

To test my knowledge and practice for PSM III Questions, I purchased few Practice tests from Ryan Brook & Simon

By looking at the pattern of the questions I prepared some practice questions by myself and started preparing along the lines of it. To take the preparation to the next level formed a group of 7 likeminded people and started Collaborative learning

Tips for the assessment

  • There is no time limit for each question, so I suggest you restrict your per question time to 2.5 mins
  • Always use the terminology & nuances mentioned in Scrum Guide.
  • Focus your answers with respective to Empiricism & Scrum Values for easy scoring.
  • Give to the point answers; do not try to over explain, as you might lose time.
  • For easy reading, answer in bullet points
  • Collaborative learning will help in understanding the concepts deeper.

So Finally, I would like to say don’t worry if you are not successful in the 1st attempt as it’s not a simple goal. Consider this as an opportunity to Inspect & Adapt and enjoy learning.

Good Luck. Keep calm and Scrum ON.

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Bhaskar Kiran Wunnava

Agile Trainer & Consultant

Bhaskar is the Founder of Study Agile. He is also a Scrum Trainer ® with International Scrum Institute, SAFe Program Consultant (SPC), Professional Scrum Master III ® with scrum.org. Management 3.0 Facilitator, and ICAgile Certified Coach®.

He worked with various organizations, including TCS, Microsoft, Manila Waters, Satyam Computers and many other prestigious organisations and clients.

He is also an AgilePM with APMG International.