Discussing certifications a little deeper and without bias

Here below follow some common criticisms about certifications that are a little superficial and inaccurate.

I'll try to show what I think are the mistakes in those sentences using arguments, facts and evidences. Don't misunderstand me, with this I'm not implying that the opposite sentences are true neither.

The goal is to move the conversation a little deeper. Whatever is your opinion, belief, intuition and feeling about Agile Certifications, good arguments, facts and evidences can help everyone to discuss effectively and have a better understanding of the topic.

All the certifications are broken
Fact: Would you get on a bus where the bus driver does not have the driver license? Would you have dinner in a restaurant that failed the health inspection?
No and so the majority of us, as you see there exists useful certifications that we trust, that somehow are working well enough, at least until someone find something better. So is not true that all the certifications are broken.

Fact: I know of friends and ex coworkers that  learned a lot and got good value out of the training for their Agile Certification. The Agile Certification, after few years of practice, contributed to move their understanding and their practice of Agile to the next level. This means that also in the field of agile software development there exists cases that contradict the thesis "all the certs. are broken".

Argument: A quick look at wikipedia ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Professional_certification ) shows that certification is a complicated topic with many aspects that cannot simply be defined by a bold sentence, there is more to be considered then that.

The certification does not prove candidate's competences
Argument: Hiring is extremely difficult. It is hard to predict upfront that a work relationship will be profitable and useful for both sides. This interesting post gives good suggestions on how to hire an Agile expert.
One of the aspects is to assess the qualification of a person to do a job, but behind basic skills what is considered professionality in software development can significantly differ from company to company, from project to project, from team to team. So no school or university degree, post-graduate master's degree or certification can *prove* someone competences, while they all are good indicators that contribute to the overall picture.

Fact: Many ignore the scope of an Agile Certification, in general it is safe to consider that a certification is an acknowledgement of an educational achievement. For example CSM and CSPO certifications acknowledge the understanding of the basics of Scrum and Scrum fundamentals for the respective roles, while CSP acknowledge  demonstrated experience and knowledge of Scrum practice (read more here and here). This is what an Agile Certification prove, it is not true that it does prove nothing.

Fact: Many claim that you just need to take the class to get an Agile Certification. That's is not correct, actually for all the Scrum certifications attenders need to pass exams and for the CSP had to complete a lengthy application for review and then pass a follow-up interview.  Even with the simplified/demonstrative version of the basic Scrum certification exam there are people that fails it, here the statistics on-line.

Certifying organizations are not trustworthy so certifications are worthless
Here there are two authoritative informed opinions that criticise Scrum Alliance
Argument: There exists schools and universities that made mistakes, there exists bad teachers and also there exists bad students still we send our sons at schools and universities. Same reasoning can be applied to certifying organizations.
Indeed it is possible that a certifying organization is not authoritative, competent or trustworthy. Like a Judo belt  that worth only as much as the master and dojo that assigned it and the person that wear it, a university degree and a certification worth as much as the person that got it and the trainer and the organization that assigned it.
Single cases and valid complains are not enough to tell that all the certifications are worthless. Instead we need to know what and why something is not working and if it's possible to fix it, or provide an alternative.

Argument: It is important to note also that the authoritativeness of the certifying organization is one of the many aspects.
There are other aspects: the education, the teaching and training, delivered by the certification course (differences between teaching and training in a complex domain, as can be Software Development, are well described in the article The origins of Cynefin part 1 by Dave Snowden). And probably the most important aspect, the trainer!

Fact: Nowadays there are more people that have a good knowledge of Scrum terms and foundations compared for example to XP, Lean or Kanban. So we must recognize the value of the work done by the Scrum certifying organizations. Scrum certifying organizations have also contributed to define a curriculum, a skill set expected for a Scrum expert. It is easy to criticise Scrum certifying organization but only few have tried to provide an alternative as for example the Agile Skills project : in Agile culture problems are surfaced and at the same time suggestions for improvements should be provided, the blaming games are not part of the Agile culture.

The certification training model does not work
Fact: Certification training is based on the same education model of schools and universities: define a learning path with many steps (i.e. Certified Scrum Master, Certified Scrum Professional, Certified Scrum Coach, Certified Scrum Trainer, look here). And each exam is the gate that give access to the next level of education.
For sure we know that we can do better than the traditional training and teaching in schools and in certifications training, for example Montessori Method and other recent advancement and experimentation of education as and emerging property of a self-organizing system.
Still schools and universities education model is working good enough and is generally accepted.

Fact: Looking at a unique single certification as CSM and base the arguments against Agile Certifications on that, is missing the whole picture, is confusing the beginning of a journey with the final destination. Agile Certifications are indeed a sequence of trainings interleaved by work experiences on the field, reflections, readings and interactions with peers.

Where is the real problem then?
The problem is where people behind certifying organization use certification to enforce orthodoxy and so to establish a dogma and encourage cargo cult software development for their own interest and use orthodoxy  as a weapon to oppose disagreement and dissent in support of someone supposed authoritativeness.
The key point is not giving up the training and education path behind certifications that can be the good side, the key point is free yourself from orthodoxy and dogma and cargo cult software development:  recognize the unknowns in professional software production

Print | posted @ mercoledì 18 aprile 2012 00:35

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