Agile fables · Leading change

Become a Certified Strum Muckster (or CSA)

With certification in agile becoming all the rage, I have decided to create a new international certification for trainers.

To become a Certified Strum Muckster you need to meet the strict sounding entry criteria for the International Strum Alliance and then abide by a number of rules that have been deemed by the International Strum Alliance  (currently me) to be the one true and correct way to create and deliver training courses.

Strum Alliance Membership

  • James King

His mother also said that she would join if nobody else did so he wouldn’t feel bad … Though she hasn’t actually turned up yet.

Conditions that must be met to become a CSA

Potential Strum Mucksters  need to follow the correct pathway toward Strum Muckstery. No exceptions are allowed and unfortunately no credit can be given for existing qualifications or experience. This is to ensure the maintenance of the highest standards demanded of Strum practitioners.

  1. The potential Strum Muckster must deem themself to be certified. Unfortunately the current volume of applicants and the inherent laziness of the existing membership of the International Strum Alliance means that nobody else has time to certify you. So certification will be strictly performed on a do-it-yourself basis.
  2. If the newly qualified CSA wants a certificate he or she will need to work out how to print one.
  3. The Certified Strum Muckster must use the title Certified Strum Muckster or CSA (Certified Strum Acronym) in at least one conversation, email or a comment on this blog.
  4. The CSA must agree to absolutely not pay a membership fee of $22.50 per quarter to James King for the privilege of ongoing membership. Those who do decide to pay the membership fee will need to cease using the CSA qualification and instead adopt the title of RSBC (really should be certified). They will also need to look in a dictionary to find an alternative meaning for “certified”.

The rules of Strum

As with all true and correct approaches to building training, there are a number of rules that must be adhered to, unless you decide to break them.

The approach to learning the Strum method is similar to the approach used in learning many project methodologies and indeed the secret martial art techniques of the Yue Bet monastery:

  1. Learn the rules
  2. Follow the rules
  3. Break the rules

In the Yue Bet approach to martial arts, students are expected to learn a technique, practice the technique until they master it and only then adapt the way they apply the technique to create their own style.

The same approach applies to learning many methodologies.

Practitioners must first learn the rules of the methodology, then they must follow the rules and learn what happens when they do so in the real world, after which they usually break the rules because the rules turned out to be quite silly and unrealistic when attempted without modification in a real project.

The same applies to learning Strum with one modification:

The 3 steps listed above must be closely adhered to. However, the CSA is free to apply the steps in any order.

Rule 1

The best way to train and learn is through face to face conversation, preferably through interaction in solving case studies as a group.

Having said that though, books are pretty interesting too and some of the new technologies like youtube and e-learning are pretty amazing. So use those things instead if you want to.

Rule 2

The correct class size is 5-9 students and 1-2 facilitators (CSAs).

But you can’t always find 5 people and sometimes you want to have more in the class so do that if it makes more sense.

Rule 3

The difference between the wise man and the fool is that the wise man can learn something  from anyone, even a fool.  But the fool will not learn from anyone, not even a wise man.

So if you have mastered your material to the point where you won’t find yourself learning from your students, nor being corrected by them in front of everyone else … then you can be sure that even the wisest of your students will still have something to learn from you.

Rule 4

Strum Mucksters do not seek to provide students with the correct answer but with the correct question.

That way the student has to do all the thinking and the strum muckster can drink cappuccinos.

Rule 5

Learning is optional but catering is compulsory.

In the end each student will only learn what he or she wants to learn but the CSA must cater to each student’s individual learning style AND provide muffins.

Rule 6

The Certified Strum Muckster must possess emotional intelligence and develop the appropriate level of soft skills.

If nobody got upset or uncomfortable during the course then you were probably too soft.

And if there was blood left on the carpet at the end of the course (particularly your own) then you probably should have been more tactful, or you might have pushed the learning too hard instead of remembering rule 5.

Rule 7

PowerPoint slides don’t bore people, trainers bore people with PowerPoint slides.

So feel free to show as many slides as you want and include as many bullet points on each slide as you feel you should add … even if someone said you should only have one idea per slide, no more than 3 short lines on each slide and no more than 10 slides for a one hour presentation.

Similarly you can feel free to replace all the boring PowerPoint slides with cool photos that you like and streaming videos all over the place.

After all a picture is worth 1,000 words so a presentation with 50 unrelated pictures is like a presentation with 50,000 unrelated words.

Rule 8

When the student is ready then the teacher will appear.

But when the teacher is ready then the student will probably be stuck in the middle of a major project and he or she won’t be able to come to the course.

That sucks a bit but its a rule so what can you do?

(Note: “That sucks” is a technical term meaning “that is quite unfortunate”).

Alleged Rule 9

Your aphorisms are clever but probably not useful to the student.

You will always add just one more concept to the course because it is worth knowing  … but when you run the course you will realise that you should probably have stopped and let the other material sink in.

So there are only 8 rules and you should not be reading this alleged rule at all.  Go back to rule 1 or get out there and break the other rules.


The International Strum Alliance is now officially recognised among its membership as the single credible source for international trainer certification against the rigorous sounding standards of the alliance’s primary certification.

Please consider joining us if you feel you have the ability to rise to the challenge and the time to dedicate to the certification process.


4 thoughts on “Become a Certified Strum Muckster (or CSA)

  1. Hi James, I am very keen to become a CSA – when will the advanced course/syllabus be available? I will also need a defined career path and an indication of what this certification will mean to my future prospects. Thanks S


    1. Thankyou for the enquiry Sharon.

      As you summised we are happy to let junior people roam around thinking for themselves but for senior people (which your insightful questions indicate you are) it would be quite unreasonable to expect them to think for themselves

      So we do have the one true career path in development. It is currently in the consolidation phase, which means we have promised it to many people but done not work on it.

      Once the career path comes out you should be able to purchase career points that will automatically advance you in our pyramid consulting organisation. Until then I hope you will continue to work toward the core certification.


  2. This is very thought provoking. Can you tell me if I would need to be re-certified annually or once I’ve been certified I’m certified for life?


  3. Certified for life. But we are investigating the option or requiring attendance at an annual overseas conference to maintain the certification as an excuse to get employers to pay for more junkets. More on this if it comes together


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