PMI-ACP® and Scrum Alliance CSP–Two Complementary Certifications


In John Stenbeck’s book “PMI-ACP® and Certified Scrum Professional Exam Prep and Desk Reference” (or as I refer to it, the “Agile Desk Reference” for short), he combines the material to study for two certifications, the Project Management Institute’s Agile Certified Practitioner or PMI-ACP® certification as well as the Certified Scrum Professional (CSP) certification sponsored by the Scrum Alliance.

This is particular true if you are software development, because that is the industry orientation of the CSP certification.  The PMI-ACP® certification, has a wider industry orientation, and so going after that certification alone would make sense if you are in a different industry.

Some of the other major differences are that the CSP test is slightly longer, requiring one to answers 150 questions in 3 hours as opposed to the 120 questions in 3 hours required by the PMI-ACP® certification exam.   Interesting enough, the work experience requirement for the two tests seems to be more intense for the PMI-ACP® certification, which requires 2,000 hours of project management work experience plus 1,500 hours of experience using Agile methodlogy.   The CSP test merely asks for 2,000 hours of Scrum related work.

The last comparison is that the CSP requires you to maintain your certification with a continuing education requirement over a two-year cycle, the PMI-ACP® certification requires a three-year cycle instead.

This blog is going on the assumption of looking at the PMI-ACP® certification first, because of its wider application in the PM community.   The last post in this preliminary material on Agile will discuss the Ethos of Agile Project Management, that is the justification for using Agile methodology on a project.

The Need for an Agile Desk Reference


In John Stenbeck’s book “PMI-ACP® and Certified Scrum Professional Exam Prep and Desk Reference” (or as I refer to it, the “Agile Desk Reference” for short), he talks briefly about why he created the book in the first place.

As you may be aware, for those studying for the Project Manager Professional certification exam, there is a single reference called the guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge or the PMBOK Guide® for short.    However, in creating the PMI Agile Certified Practitioner or PMI-ACP® certification exam, PMI has not yet created a definitive guide that is considered “official” by the PMI organization.

Instead, they give a list of reference materials which include the following:

  • Agile Retrospectives: Making Good Teams Great by Esther Derby, Diana Larsen, Ken Schwaber
  • Agile Software Development The Cooperative Game by Alistair Cockburn
  • The Software Project Manager’s Bridge to Agility by Michele Sliger, Stacia Broderick
  • Coaching Agile Teams by Lyssa Adkins
  • Agile Project Management: Creating Innovative Products by Jim Highsmith
  • Becoming Agile: …in an imperfect world by Greg Smith, Ahmed Sidky
  • Agile Estimating and Planning by Mike Cohn
  • The Art of Agile Development by James Shore
  • User Stories Applied: For Agile Software Development by Mike Cohn
  • Agile Project Management with Scrum by Ken Schwaber
  • Lean-Agile Software Development: Achieving Enterprise Agility by Alan Shalloway, Guy Beaver, James R. Trott

The practical problem faced by someone wanting to study for the PMI-ACP® certification exam is that these books cost over $500 if you bought them all.    However, John Stenbeck found an even more fundamental problem faced by someone who decides to buy all 11 of these textbooks:   they don’t always agree with each, which creates the risk of confusion among those who are studying for the exam.

That is why John Stenbeck created a single-volume Agile Desk Reference that taught the core principles of Agile and, in doing so, created a set of Agile project management processes that are analogous to the 47 traditional project management processes outlined in the PMBOK Guide®.    It is for that reason why I have chosen John Stenbeck’s Agile Desk Reference, not just because it does combine all of the Agile principles in one volume, but because of his innovative approach in presenting those principles.

The next post will talk about one additional innovation, and that is the fact that he has a version of the Agile Desk Reference which also contains the principles of Scrum for those who are going after the Certified Scrum Professional Exam from the Scrum Alliance.    His rationale for combining these two sets of principles in one volume is the subject of the next post.   Of course, you can get the Agile Desk Reference as a single volume without the added Scrum material if you so choose, but the next post contains a convincing argument for getting the expanded Agile Desk Reference.

Memrise–Building the Memory Palace a Brick at a Time


In a previous post about language learning, I discussed Duolingo, a language-learning app that I use on a daily basis to learn European languages.   The ONLY criticism that I have about the program is that I wish it also offered non-European languages, that is, languages other than those in the Indo-European family which for the most part (with some exceptions such as Greek) are written with the Latin alphabet.    The languages I had in mind in particular are Chinese, and Japanese, both of which I have studied before, and Korean and Hindi, which I have not.

However, the interface can only handle the current languages based on the Latin alphabet, so I remained contented in my disappointment, until I found a recommendation by Benny Lewis, author of the blog Fluent in 3 Months (and a new book with the same name), that to memorize vocabulary in ANY language, one should try Memrise.

I tried that recommendation and now am practicing Japanese and Chinese an a daily basis along with my daily Duolingo language practice for European languages.   In the rest of this post, I would like to discuss the features I like about Memrise.

to be continued on 03/02/2015

Agile Principles


In John Stenbeck’s book “PMI-ACP® and Certified Scrum Professional Exam Prep and Desk Reference”, he talks briefly about the origins of Agile Methodology, in particular the development of the Agile Alliance that grew out of a seminal meeting of seventeen luminaries in the field of software development who met in the Snowbird resort in Utah in February 2001.    Out of that Agile Alliance came the Agile Manifesto, the Agile Principles, and the Ethos of Agile Project Management.   This post describes the Agile Manifesto, the immediate outcome of the first meeting of the Agile Alliance.

The Agile Manifesto

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

Working software over comprehensive documentation

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

Responding to change over following a plan

John Stenbeck mentions a key point, that the manifesto is saying that, while there isvalue in the terms on the right, Agile software development values the items on the left even more.

This key point is crucial, because many people interpret the Agile Manifesto incorrectly by thinking that it says “Individuals and interactions instead of processes and tools”, etc.  This couldn’t be further from the truth:   processes and tools have their place, but individuals and interactions have priority over them.

The Agile Alliance then published the philosophical background behind the Agile Manifesto, in the Agile Principles, which I will describe in my next post.

The Agile Manifesto


In John Stenbeck’s book “PMI-ACP® and Certified Scrum Professional Exam Prep and Desk Reference”, he talks briefly about the origins of Agile Methodology, in particular the development of the Agile Alliance that grew out of a seminal meeting of seventeen luminaries in the field of software development who met in the Snowbird resort in Utah in February 2001.    Out of that Agile Alliance came the Agile Manifesto, the Agile Principles, and the Ethos of Agile Project Management.   This post describes the Agile Manifesto, the immediate outcome of the first meeting of the Agile Alliance.

The Agile Manifesto

Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

Working software over comprehensive documentation

Customer collaboration over contract negotiation

Responding to change over following a plan

John Stenbeck mentions a key point, that the manifesto is saying that, while there is value in the terms on the right, Agile software development values the items on the left even more.

This key point is crucial, because many people interpret the Agile Manifesto incorrectly by thinking that it says “Individuals and interactions instead of processes and tools”, etc.  This couldn’t be further from the truth:   processes and tools have their place, but individuals and interactions have priority over them.

The Agile Alliance then published the philosophical background behind the Agile Manifesto, in the Agile Principles, which I will describe in my next post.

The Agile Alliance


In John Stenbeck’s book “PMI-ACP® and Certified Scrum Professional Exam Prep and Desk Reference”, he talks briefly about the origins of Agile Methodology, in particular the development of the Agile Alliance that grew out of a seminal meeting of seventeen luminaries in the field of software development who met in the Snowbird resort in Utah in February 2001.    Out of that Agile Alliance came the Agile Manifesto, the Agile Principles, and the Ethos of Agile Project Management.

According to one of those luminaries, Martin Fowler (see his post http://martinfowler.com/articles/agileStory.html for details), there was a retreat held for various leaders in the Extreme Programming community in the Spring of 2000.   Extreme Programming was the result of the focus on newer object-oriented methods of programming rather than the typical procedural programming that had been prevalent before.   This type of programming evolved as a response to the ever shorter product cycles which the software business faced.

Kent Beck had invited extreme programmers or XPers to  discuss various issues in XP, and he also invited a number of people who were interested but separate from XP: such as Alistair Cockburn, Jim Highsmith, and Dave Thomas.

The discussion centered around the relationship between XP and other methods that were similar, which were not called Agile at the time but Lightweight Methods, as opposed to the waterfall or traditional Heavyweight Methods.     Bob Martin decided to put together a meeting of people interested in this broader range of methods.

This meeting was held at the Snowbird resort in Utah from February 11-13, 2001.   As a result of their discussions, this group called themselves the Agile Alliance (I’m glad they used that term and not the “Lightweight League”), and they created the Agile Manifesto, which is the subject of the next post.

PMI: Slouching Towards Agile


In John Stenbeck’s book “PMI-ACP® and Certified Scrum Professional Exam Prep and Desk Reference”, he alludes to how the Project Management Institute has treated the subject of agile PM methodology in its various editions of the PMBOK® Guide.   Since I have studied both the 4th and 5th editions of that guide, I wanted to use this post to discuss how PMI’s treatment of Agile Methodology in its authoritative guide to traditional PM methodlogy aka the PMBOK® Guide has changed between the two.

1.  4th Edition PMBOK® Guide and Agile Methodology

The 4th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide was published in 2008, and although agile methodology was not explicitly discussed, an early precursor of agile called rolling wave planning was discussed.

Rolling wave planning can be considered a form of progressive elaboration, where the level of detail in a project management plan is increased in detail through progressive iterations as greater amounts of information and more accurate estimates become available.

The work breakdown structure, which takes the deliverables of a project and breaks them down into units for which cost and duration can be readily estimated and managed, which are called work packages.   Those portions of the project which are not filled in detail in the initial iteration of the project management plan are broken down into placeholders called planning packages, which are then broken down into work packages in successive iterations of the progressive elaboration.

Rolling wave planning is where this progressive elaboration is done while the project is being executed.   One informal definition of this process which I am particularly fond is “laying down the tracks of the railroad while the train is meanwhile coming down the tracks behind you.”    You can see that the flexibility that this approach demands is in the spirit of agile methodology, although again PMI does not explicitly name it as such.

2.  What Happened Between the 4th Edition and 5th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide?

As John Stenbeck mentions in his book, a seminal event in agile project management was the introduction of the iPad in April 2010.   For details of this development, you can read Walter Isaacson’s masterful biography of Steve Jobs, but in a nutshell, the iPad was a full function device that included a minimum marketable feature set focused on what the customer wanted, but it was not yet a full feature tablet PC.   It was a phenomenal success, selling 15 million devices by the end of the year and achieving a 75% market share penetration.

For those who wanted to emulate Steve Jobs’ achievements, they were going to have to challenge themselves to adopt a similar agile methodology.

3.  5th Edition of the PMBOK® Guide

The 5th Edition was published in 2013, and here PMI acknowledged the existence of agile methodology by placing it on a continuum from Predictive to Iterative/Incremental to Adaptive.

a.  Predictive

This is where the scope of the project, and the time and cost required to deliver that scope, are determined as early in the project as possible.    This is traditional or waterfall PM methodlogy.

b.  Iterative/Incremental

This is where certain activities of the project are iterated or repeated as the project team’s understanding of the product is increased.   Iterations develop the project scope, wheres increments add to the functionality of the project.    This is the realm of the hybrid project.

c.  Adaptive (Agile)

Adaptive methodology takes the iterative and incremental approach to the development of project scope seen in the previous paragraph, but differ in two respects:   the iterations are 1) very rapid (in the order of 2 to 4 weeks), and 2) are fixed in time and cost.

So PMI has finally embraced Agile Methodology in its discussion of project management methodologies (see pp. 42-46) as part of its 5th Edition PMBOK® Guide, although descriptions of that methodology are very high-level and not very detailed.

My prediction is that future versions of the PMBOK® Guide will have to elaborate further on Hybrid (Iterative/Incremental) and Agile (Adaptive) Methodologies as the profession as a whole moves in the direction of using increasingly hybrid methodologies in the actual projects done in the real world.

The next post will cover the origins of Agile Methodology, in particular the development of the Agile Alliance that grew out of a seminal meeting of seventeen luminaries in the field of software development who met in the Snowbird resort in Utah in February 2001.   Out of that Agile Alliance came the Agile Manifesto, the Agile Principles, and the Ethos of Agile Project Management.

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