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Why a LeanSSC? Why a Lean Certification?

Mike Cottmeyer Chief Executive Officer
Reading: Why a LeanSSC? Why a Lean Certification?
As you guys know, I was down at the Lean/Kanban conference last week and got involved in the formation of the Lean Software and Systems Consortium. As a result of all my blogging and Twittering… Mark Levison, an agile coach and editor from InfoQ… asked me why we needed a LeanSSC and why a new certification? It was a great question that needed more than 140 characters so we took the conversation off Twitter and into e-Mail.
After responding to Mark… it seemed that you guys might be interested in my response as well. For completeness, I’ll give you Mark’s question he posted to the Lean/Agile Yahoo! group and then my complete response:
Mark’s Note

I wasn’t at the conference and so all I can do is read the press release. After reading I’m confused.
  1. Why does the world need a Lean Consortium?
  2. What does the Consortium hope to achieve?
  3. Why do we need another certification?
  4. How will this certification be different from the CSM/CSC/CST?

Confused in Ottawa

My Response:

Hi Mark,

I don’t know that I’ll have all the answers here… the organization is brand new…. just barely out of concept… so some of this will shake out over the next few weeks. I can tell you the reason that I was interested in exploring creating a new organization.

As it stands right now, the DSDM Consortium and the Scrum Alliance are the only organizations offering certification. Very few people have heard of the DSDM certification and clearly the Scrum certification has exploded over the past few years. I like Scrum, I practice Scrum, and while not a CST… I teach Scrum. Scrum is a great small team framework but I do not believe that Scrum by itself is scalable.

Most of the teams that are scaling Scrum have expanded the idea of a single Product Owner to the idea of a Product Owner team. This is not part of base Scrum but is essential to coordinate the activities of many teams working in concert. Also, many large organizations are built around large system components, components that are products in themselves… these teams are building integrated systems within large component architectures. Scrum gives no guidance on how to do this.

In any organization that is large and complex enough for the feature team model to break down, you have to start looking for effective ways of managing flow across the organization… how to manage work in progress… how to manage constraints… how to manage dependencies. Scrum gives no guidance on these scaling issues… Lean does.

There were two primary camps in the room when the LeanSSC was formed. There were people that thought of Lean as a discipline unto itself… one with its own body of knowledge. The were also people in the room that felt strongly a LeanSSC needs to build on the foundation of agile, embrace what we know, but build lean scaling principles into the fabric of that body of knowledge. Personally, I am hoping the LeanSSC takes the latter approach.

So to answer your questions directly:

1. The world needs a LeanSSC because there is an agile body of knowledge that is bigger than what Scrum is prepared to address. By creating an organization that is broader than Scrum, one that can embrace a broader body of knowledge, we have the opportunity to engage academia, corporations, and individuals that are interested in advancing that body of knowledge.

2. Some of this will be worked out over the next few weeks but the general idea is to identify the body of knowledge, create a set of Lean/Agile competencies, and provide certification around these competencies. You might also imaging a structure that allows member organizations to contribute to and benefit from the growing collection of intellectual property. Ideally we create a very open system.

3. The Scrum certification has been great in leading the software industry to a broader knowledge of Scrum in particular and agile in general. Scrum as it stands now does not meet the needs of the enterprise… people that are making Scrum work in the enterprise are using techniques that are counter to Scrum and certainly not contained in the Scrum training material. The LeanSSC has the opportunity to broaden the certification track and give companies a path to build a more competent workforce. I can’t imagine that people believe Scrum is all you need to know to build large scale software projects.

4. I suspect it will be based on a set of published competencies. I suspect that there will be multiple training courses to address the various competencies. I suspect that any training organization will be able to deliver competency training and that to receive certification in a competency will require a test. I suspect there will be multiple paths through the competencies based on the objectives of the person or persons receiving the training (developer, manager, senior leader). This is not defined yet… but I suspect it will be a much more open system.

I would like to reiterate that this is all MY opinion and may not reflect the official position of the LeanSSC or any of the individual founders. There is a lot of work to do… the formation of the organization is just a first step.

What do you guys think of my response? Does it carry water? Do you think this team of people is off base? I am interested in your opinion….
Next ProductCamp Atlanta

Comments (6)

  1. Kevin E. Schlabach


    It’s a good start. I’m very curious in seeing what comes of it and learning from it.

    I personally am always wary of certification. I appreciate the process and the knowledge, but I believe every Agile implementation will eventually adapt and grow beyond the certification or “standard rules”. Part of agile’s core is this continuous change. You touch this with your mentions of Scrum’s shortcomings.

    This doesn’t make it a certification’s fault, but people tend to get certified and instead of using that knowledge as a foundation for growth, they treat it like a set of laws that shouldn’t be broken (or else they aren’t doing scrum, lean, whatever.)

    Keep it up, looking forward to the outcome!

  2. Ryan

    Thanks for sharing these and your summary from Lean/Kanban 2009.

    I agree with your point regarding Lean and Agile building into one body of knowledge. I disagree with Lean building upon Agile. I see Agile as domain specific implementation of Lean in the software context. In addition, I see the limitations in scaling with regard to Scrum.

    I was surprised to read so much in the LeanSSC about “more than Scrum.” It did not seem that is what the conference was about? Jean and other attendees did not bring that message back.

    If you believe Lean and Agile should be one body of knowledge, why did the LeanSSC group decide not to do this a Program under the Agile Alliance? (I am curious what Paul C would say about this?) Seems like all the LeanSSC members are presenting or sponsoring Agile 2009?

    Seems there is a huge risk to “method wars of Lean versus Scrum” while the market is seeking more standardization. What is LeanSSC planning to do reduce this risk? The Scrum community has done a ton of work in scaling Scrum.

    Perplexed in Boulder:)

  3. Mike Cottmeyer


    Good to hear from you. Thanks for reading my blog. I was wondering if I had any fans in Boulder ;-)

    These issues are difficult to hash out over blog posts. Much better suited to face to face communication. Is agile a domain specific implementation of lean? Sure. Is lean more than Scrum? Sure. At the end of the day we are ALL trying to make teams more productive and improve our collective existence.

    I really don't care much what we call it.

    Personally… I have chosen not to become part of the Scrum establishment. While a member of the Scrum Alliance and a CSM… Scrum is not the end all be all. There is a bit too much Scrumdamentalism going on right now… lot's of talk in Orlando about Scrum-but.

    I fall more into the Scrum-and camp. Scrum has its place… and it is a good and valid place. Ken and Jeff have made a significant contribution by taking Scrum so far forward. My problem is that so many people I talk to want to check their brain at the door and feel constrained by Scrum rather than liberated by Scrum.

    Scrum has a place in a continuum of practices that for me goes something like Crystal > XP > Scrum > Kanban/Lean > AUP > DSDM > RUP. Each has a place in a given context. Without situationally specific context… the discussion becomes meaningless.

    So… why not build out a lean body of knowledge within that Scrum Alliance or the Agile Alliance? Personally, I would not be opposed to either. I think that many of these thought leaders go back a while and that many of them just don't see eye to eye on many things. Talking about a combined organization is a non-starter in many ways.

    It seems to me after being on the APLN board, a part of the Agile Alliance, a part of the Scrum alliance, and now a part of the LeanSSC… not very many of us are interested in creating a big tent. I am hoping that the LeanSSC will create a big tent.

    To the best of my knowledge the Agile Alliance is not interested in pursuing certification. The Scrum alliance has certification… but I fundamentally disagree that our industry should limit itself to Scrum… Scrum is not the exclusive body of agile knowledge. APLN is not interested in certification. DSDM has certification but no one outside Europe cares.

    I can only speak for myself personally… I want to be a part of Scrum and XP and DSDM and the Agile Alliance and the APLN. I want to be a part of the LeanSSC. I'd love to think we are all trying to move the collective needle. I am not interested in methodology wars or pissing contests.

    I want to be able to go help customers with as much knowledge as I can muster. The more we know… the more we can meet them where they are… the more we can build kick-ass software organizations where people love to come to work.

    At the point the LeanSSC defines itself as the alternative to Scrum… or XP… or anything… the organization will have lost its way.

    Thanks for writing… I appreciate your comments.


  4. Ryan

    Thanks for the reply. With regards to Boulder, you have many people here pulling hard towards the same purpose non-stop for 6 years;) It has been fun and I assume we are both much better because of each other. I feel sorry for the newer entrants:)

    I really appreciate your earlier posts and this reply. (It is hard via blog posting, but I assume F2F has to wait until Chicago in August.)

    I love continuum’s, I am not sure I followed yours on methods – what is the axis? Guidance? I am glad to see you draw such an inclusive list. I would certainly call RUP iterative and thus a part of this agile world. Of course like CMMI most people just seemed to use it in phases. With all that documentation and guidance, it kind of shot a bullet in its foot. (Good solid Double Dean)

    Back to LeanSSC, I hear this group wants to build the collective tent and grow it large. I hear this group say it is different enough to hold up its own pole under this large tent. I also hear this tent pole wants certification under it. (I am starting to picture the multiple large tent poles in the main terminal at Denver International.) That model is holding together for me.

    This was helpful to me. I still have a ton of questions about philosophy and approach, but that can wait. The model for scaling quickly has to be simple and open. I look forward to learning more from the LeanSSC. The next three months of the start will tell us all if the the whole group sees the big top with multiple poles or not.

    Thanks for your perspective on the LeanSSC.


  5. Bill Gaiennie


    Very interesting post on LeanSSC. I have been slowly incorporating more and more of this material in the agile classes that I teach, and I too have seen that this may be enough of a separate subject to warrant its own training path. With that being said, I should also say that I am very much a newbie to Kanban (which is a little strange, as my major in college was Japanese, so it has been interesting to read some Kanban sites in Japanese.)

    I look forward to a possible opportunity to participate in the discussion, so if you have any pointers on the best place to start looking, let me know.

    BTW, great blog, it is one of the few I read regularly.

    (Met you in Orlando, not sure you if remember.)

  6. Mike Cottmeyer

    I do remember meeting you… subscribed to your new blog today actually. Make sure to follow-through on that commitment to write!

    As far as best places to start… try the LeanKanban Yahoo! Group.



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