Chris and I just finished the first draft of our book, The Elements of Scrum, and will be publishing a “beta” paperback by February, just in time for Agile Open Northwest, of which we are a proud sponsor.
One of the biggest remaining debates we’re having is over capitalization. After great deliberation, we’ve chosen not to use agile as a noun in the book (e.g., “In Agile we do it this way…” or “Agile is about…”). In my humble writer’s opinion, when we “thingify” agile by hardening it into a proper noun, the term loses a little bit of it of its transformational power. We want help the word to remain an adjective, a powerful, dynamic descriptor, so we’ve chosen not to nounify it. We’ve also decided not to capitalize it.
But what about scrum? Or Scrum? Scrum is already a noun, but is it a proper noun requiring capitalization? And how about “ScrumMaster” vs “scrum master”? Is it ever kosher to un-couple the camel?
Chris has argued in favor of capitalizing Scrum, saying that “Scrum” is to “agile” as “Chevrolet” is to “car.” I’m not so sure. Chevrolet is a proper noun because it is the name of a brand, and thus a proper noun. I think “scrum” is to “agile” as “existentialism” is to “philosophy.” So I vote for not capitalizing it. The jury is still out, and I’m willing to be persuaded.
And then, what to do with ScrumMaster? I am inclined to leave “ScrumMaster” to the Scrum Alliance, which owns the trademark for Certified ScrumMaster. Ken Schwaber used to hold a trademark for the word “Scrum,” but that application is now listed as “dead” according to the USPTO, and I have to credit Schwaber for thinking twice about that one—it seems the generic term ought not to be owned outright by him or anyone else. Besides, think about how much laugher there was when Donald Trump trademarking the phrase “You’re fired!”
Personally, I’d prefer to promote the use of the more modest “scrum master” when talking about someone who performs that role for a scrum team, certified or not. I’m not by any means anti-certification, by the way—in fact I’m one of those dorks who has their ScrumMaster certificate on their office wall because I think it’s kinda cool.
But–and this is key–while I am a Certified ScrumMaster, I am not a scrum master, because I have never served in that capacity on a scrum team, nor would I feel qualified to do so.
I think it very possible that there are lots of people out there who, conversely, consider themselves scrum masters, and not ScrumMasters. We had a student in our last Certified ScrumMaster class who was actually a member of the first scrum team—he found that he needed to be certified for his consulting business, even though no one could possibly dispute his standing as not only a scrum master, but a master of scrum. (He wasn’t at all bitter about it, by the way, but viewed the irony as merely a side effect of scrum’s evolution.)
Wikipedia’s style guide appears to agree with my approach, as does Grammar Girl, who expresses some disdain for what she calls “pride capitals.” I’ll be curious to see what the new edition of the Chicago Manual of Style says once I get my hands on a copy!
What do you think? Is there room in the young discipline of scrum (or Scrum) for the designation scrum master?