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Disciplined Agile And CSM – What’s the difference? What to Choose now?



Any idea why Agile is gaining popularity? Various reasons can be pointed out as per the Version One Survey results.

But, one thing that stands according to me is “Being Agile” is a function of the environment we are working in. The environment today has become more volatile and complex and therefore, the value delivered in the soonest time has taken a precedence.

My take is that Agile firms will dominate in the future. Every business, be it software or non-software (Btw, every business today is software) will have to be Agile. And by being Agile, it is not doing Scrum or XP or DASM or any practice , but have the mindset of Agile.

Let’s explore Agile in our own little way, before exploring the difference between CSM and DASM.  

Agile is a huge canvas and it has given a multitude of practices and methodologies.   If you see the landscape prepared by the popular Deloitte Consulting firm, you can see almost 100 practices of Agile and for a beginner in Agile, it is too overwhelming.

It is a humungous landscape.

Agile throws different situations and different possibilities. Right from a small firm, a small team to a large global organization wants Agility. Does one solution work for all? Or are we talking of multiple solutions and practices for multiple teams. One Agile solution may not work for all teams and for all situations, as you may have witnessed already. And that’s one of the reason why Agile has transformed into such a huge landscape with multiple practices and methods.

Welcome to the world of Agile. Does one solution fit you – why there are more things to Agile?


The Agile Landscape

It will be difficult to determine if one approach will suit you. And it is just doing Agile – it is about a cultural transformation and a mental paradigm shift I am referring to.

If you talk of the Agile Manifesto, it does not prescribe any specific methodology; it provides a set of values and principles on which agile methodologies are based.

We often talk about methodologies, practices, tool-kits, techniques – use many terms. But I guess many aren’t sure what exactly they mean by that?
So, what exactly is methodology?

  • A Methodology is a set of ideas or processes or procedures followed over and over to provide or deliver a known result, such as completing a specific project.
    Methodology is a repetitive thing which has given you the results. A methodology is particularly unique to you or your team, and have proven successful to the team in question, in that particular context or situation. Isn’t it?
  • Practices – These are specific rules and guidelines to follow during the course of undertaking and managing projects.
    So, practices are followed by others and these guidelines work universally well and proven to help you succeed with your projects.
  • A Tool-Kit enables to take decisions using the Agile practices for Better and Effective Outcomes
    So, a tool-kit is an enabler and leverages the various practices to deliver effective outcomes. Most of your software products / automations are tool-kits which enable to deliver better outcomes.

Knowing the all above, I would make the following statement:

Practice + your adoption (set of rules) = Methodology

Yes, Practice along with your tailoring the practices, guidelines or processes, as you gain mastery over a period of time, becomes your methodology. This enables for better outcomes in your context. The Tool-kit if used properly will enable you for much better outcome in much quicker time.

And today’s environment values time, isn’t it?. The quicker you deliver the right thing (Value) the better you are, on your road to Agility. The sooner you deliver value in a cost effective way makes you or your organization Business Agile.

Having understood the context of practices, methodologies and tool-kits, along with Agility and Agile landscape, let’s try to navigate to our main topic which is dealing with 2 Scrum Master certifications (DASM and CSM).

The most popular practice in the Agile world is Scrum and the most popular certification is Certified Scrum Master by Scrum Alliance. And now, PMI which is the most popular and the most networked project management institute has come with another Scrum Master which is Disciplined Agile Scrum Master (DASM). PMI has retained the name “Scrum Master” as the name “Scrum Master” has wide employability factor and many organizations look for this role. However, both PMI and Scrum Alliance has way too different approaches on their Scrum Master. The topic is to analyse both of them and give a perspective and difference about both of these Scrum Masters.

  • Certified Scrum Master (CSM)

Like I mentioned earlier, CSM is the most popular certification and is there, right from the origins of Agile Manifesto and Scrum. It is the oldest and the popular certification – It has been around for almost 20 years.

In fact, the origins date back as long as 1986. Two management scholars, Hirotaka Takeuchi and Ikujiro Nonaka, first presented the term “Scrum” in an article published in 1986 in the Harvard Business Review to describe a framework that makes scalable business agility possible across an organisation.
Also in the late 1980s, Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber (both were part of 17 Developers who made the historic Agile Manifesto in 2001) began working separately with Scrum’s hallmark small teams and developed the methodology together in the first half of the 1990s, presenting a paper on it.

Scrum History


So, Certified Scrum Master (CSM) was the 1st certification which advocated Agility. CSM prophesized how Agile can be done by a team.

Essentially, CSM was developed, designed and targeted for the beginners who want to get introduced to the new way of doing Agile. It was the 1st step of getting into the new world and therefore, had a number of steps (read Ceremonies) to implement Agile.

CSM gained popularity in the subsequent years typically in the last decade from 2010 to 2020, where many got introduced to Agile and CSM became their entry point or threshold barrier to enter into the Agile world.

If we have to deep dive into CSM certification, the CSM certification course delves on the following concepts:

  • Agile & Scrum – Elucidate Agile and Scrum concepts. The Agile concepts will talk about Agile Manifesto and 12 Agile Principles. The Scrum concepts will talk about different Scrum Ceremonies and how Scrum is done with Sprints.
  • Scrum Master Competencies – The CSM focuses on the CSM role on what he is supposed to do in a Sprint. What are his / her competencies in an Agile project?
  • Service to Organization / Development Team / Product Team – This section further elaborates the role of the Scrum Master and how he/she should go beyond the project and serve the organization as well in inculcating the Agile values.


I would primarily divide the CSM certification into 2 main parts:

  1. How does the Agile flow work in a Scrum project?



      2. Focus on the Scrum Master role

       Primarily, the Scrum Master is involved in the following key activities in the Scrum project:

  •  Facilitates Scrum events
  •  Ensures that everyone on the team has a solid understanding of the goals, scope, and product domain
  • Removes obstacles to the team’s progress
  • Helps navigate the Scrum team through environments where Scrum is neither fully implemented nor completely understood
  • Coaches and leads the organization through the process of adopting Scrum
  • Plans Scrum implementation in the organization
  • Introduces changes that improve team productivity
  • Works with other Scrum Masters in the organization to improve overall Scrum effectiveness
  • Service to Product Owner
  • Service to the Organization

Primarily, the CSM certification helps to acquaint with the Scrum Master role and also, acquaints with the various ceremonies of Scrum lifecycle.

However, it does not necessarily equip you to perform the role of Scrum Master for your projects. Further, the CSM exam is not really an exam, but an assessment , as the institute likes to refer it– the idea of the CSM course was to primarily to introduce to the world of Agile and Scrum Master. Earlier the exam was also not there, but with lot of criticism from the employers as the employers wanted Scrum Masters to perform, they introduced it.

  • Disciplined Agile

Disciplined Agile is a new concept introduced in the market in 2012 but recently acquired by PMI in 2019 and launched it again in 2020.

Disciplined Agile, unlike other Agile offerings, is not a practice, but a tool-kit which leverages other practices to provide the right guidance, in the context you are operating.

Further, Disciplined Agile does not restrict to a team but designed to bring Business Agility for the entire organization. Essentially, unlike other Agile certifications and even PMI-ACP, it is designed for the team and the entire enterprise.

Disciplined Agile brings a new wave of thinking. Agile since introduced as a concept (i.e., 2001) has witnessed a lot of changes and a lot many practices and methodologies have evolved. Thus, this landscape has become very huge as pointed out earlier. Further, the idea of doing agile is not only, done by the team but also the business or organization has to become agile and that’s what is truly agile. Agility as a concept has to make the enterprise agile rather than a handful of people in the organization.

One practice say Scrum may not be sufficient for a single team as they evolve their way and try to become more efficient. They need to improve and continuously new ways to their road of WoW (Way of Working). And that’s essentially why there are so many practices in place.

Disciplined Agile recognizes this fact and what it has done is the heavy lifting of studying all the appropriate practices and choosing what is relevant, given the situation or the context. This helps the team to focus on the work to be done rather than the administrative tasks of figuring out which are the processes and practices to follow.

Disciplined Agile is therefore, a tool-kit. To give an analogy, Disciplined Agile is like a very experienced Agile coach who provides the right guidance, given your unique situation and helps to succeed early in your projects. Isn’t this Agility?

To achieve this, Disciplined Agile talks about 8 principles and how they interrelate with each other. Further, they explore the 8 principles in the given context and understand how useful it is for the Agile teams.

Disciplined Agile talks about variety of things  – Different Lifecycles right from the prescriptive Scrum to Lean to Program to Exploratory to Continuous Scrum and Continuous Lean. It talks about Organization Capabilities (Process Blades) – To become truly agile, it is not only your team but different capabilities in the organization such as IT, Operations, Sales, Marketing, etc which also need to inculcate Agile practices and strategies. Also, it talks about Process Capabilities which helps guides to make decisions with proper considerations in the context of the given situation. It talks about many new ways of implementing Agile and makes your team Agile and in turn, eventually, your enterprise Agile.

Disciplined Agile is designed to evolve the WoW (Way of Working) – to make your teams better and effective in their outcomes over a period of time. The focus is to get there sooner than later and the tool-kit will help you to better the outcome successfully.

Disciplined Agile brings a new wave of thinking and looks very practical for an Agile practitioner to implement. Disciplined is a completely new world and is vast in itself, and you need to traverse a journey from beginner to an expert to achieve mastery in Disciplined Agile.

With a high-level understanding of DASM and CSM, let’s look at both these certifications in a nutshell.


Although both have the same names, they differ a lot in their perspectives. CSM talks primarily about the Scrum practice and the Scrum Master role and is targeted for the beginners who want to get acquainted with Agile.

Disciplined Agile talks about both Team Agility (Tactical Agility) and Enterprise Agility, and also has Scrum as part of its foundation.  Disciplined Agile is more wholesome and is meant to drive Agility for your team and your organization.

The below is the journey of Disciplined Agile. It covers from a beginners level to experienced (Master) level. The beginner level has Scrum and Scrum Master covered as well and Disciplined Agile also recommends this as a starting point for Agile. Further, at the beginner level, it has Lean principles and foundations along with Disciplined Agile Foundations.

In short, the beginner level (DASM) – Disciplined Agile Scrum Master is a lethal combination of Scrum, Lean and Disciplined Agile.

This is in nutshell the journey to Business Agility.

To know more about the details of each, please https://prothoughtssolutions.com/course/disciplined-agile-certification/ for more details

My Take:

The choice between CSM and DASM boils down to, what as a participant you are looking for?

If you wish to acquaint with the world of Scrum and get the basic knowledge, CSM can be a good start. CSM is meant for beginners and it takes into the world of Agile; however, it does necessarily gives you the prowess to implement Agile or become a Scrum Master doing the Agile projects post your course.

However, if you wish to travel into the world of Agility and learn the aspects of Agility, which includes Scrum and Scrum Master as well, DASM will be a good choice.

DASM will not only acquaint you into the world of Agile including the Scrum but also will give the arsenal (and the Choose your WoW guide) to implement Agility for your team and your organization.

And you do not limit your focus just to Scrum or one role. You open your mind to various possibilities in the world of Agile and start your Agile in a very confident way, and has clear laid down path to achieve mastery in Agile becoming the Coach.
From an employability perspective, both Scrum Masters will be valued; however, from a long term perspective, both from employability and your Agile knowledge, the Disciplined Agile journey will give you the expertise as well as the job opportunities to shine.

To hear the same from our expert, please tune in the Webinar below.  Let’s hear it out what the industry experts say about DASM vs CSM.

I am betting big on Disciplined Agile as it gives a new perspective to Agility and gives various options to improve your WoW (Way of Working).

Your comments and thoughts are most welcome.


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