The debate about certifications will always exist. There are those that feel becoming certified in any knowledge related field after sitting in a class for 2-days is ridiculous, and on the opposite side of the table, there are those that support certifications as an entry point into a field of knowledge. It’s largely a matter of opinion.

Back in the late 90’s I obtained numerous certifications in hardware and software from Windows NT (gasp!), Microsoft Exchange Server, HP Printer Repair, and more. Back then, Youtube didn’t exist, the IT industry was booming, and these certifications were made mandatory by the organization in order to comply with IEEE, ISO, or some other standard for audit and compliance reasons. The knowledge wasn’t the point.

Fast-foward to a decade ago, and I obtained my first agile certification: Certified Scrum Master. I was proud of it, wrote about my expectations and what I learned each day. I remember it cost ~$2400 and was 3 days. Today, a quick google search shows it’s around $1100 and only 2 days now. From there, I obtained my Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) and Certified Scrum Practitioner (CSP). There was no test for any of these at the time, and the Practitioner certification was subject to a 2-page essay I had to write to prove I had the right experience.

Many in the agile community have raged against certifications as being worthless and there have been debates on the pros and cons now that agile training has become a commodity and numerous certifications have emerged. By my count, there are at least 50 different Scrum related certifications alone from Scrum Alliance, Scrum.org, Scrum Study, ICAgile and more.

The change management community has had the same debates for ages as well. Whether it’s ACMP’s Standard, Prosci’s multiple levels of certifications, or CMI’s accreditation levels.

Knowledge is No Longer Power

5 years ago this article by Douglass Merrill, contributor to Forbes, stated knowledge was power when knowledge wasn’t as easily accessible before Youtube, and the internet in general. Today, in any knowledge-based profession, sharing knowledge is power. Today there are so many more ways to learn and be mentored in your profession.

Looking at Scrum for example (no, I’m not picking on Scrum, it’s just one of many examples of this same pattern), you can get the base knowledge of Scrum in a 10-minute Youtube video and then post a question on Linked In forums, or Quora, or attend a local meetup/conference. A decade ago when I obtained my CSM, there were no meetup groups, no (or very few) conferences, no Quora, no Youtube, and no other way to get your questions answered so you had to experiment and learn on your own.

Back then, there was one annual Agile conference, one meetup in Toronto (XP Toronto) and that was it. Today, there are easily 50 meetups, conferences, open space, coach camps, and splintering of agile camps in Toronto alone.

The Emergence of Digital Credentials

Now that virtual learning is making knowledge accessible worldwide, IBM, Adobe, and many universities are implementing mission-based digital credentials, or badges. The differentiator that badges bring is bias for action. Sitting in a classroom for 2-days is important to gain base knowledge, but it’s a dying industry. Micro-education, and digital credentials enable non-linear paths of learning call Pathways.

That is, progressing from level 1 to level 2 to level 3 implies that a sole learning track is sufficient for today’s knowledge workers (or creative workers, depending on which age you believe we’re in!). Here’s an example. The University of Illinois has an “Exceptional Evidence” badge:



There are badges for completing missions, and fuzzier badges like this one that depend on context and evidence. It’s important to have both. People should feel a sense of accomplishment for attending a workshop, but those that take extra steps and act on what they learned should be separated from that group.

4 Years of Data

The Lean Change Agent workshop has been running for 4 years. There are skilled change practitioners that simply read the book and tried an idea from it. These people are unlikely to attend a workshop, but they should be rewarded for taking action. There are others who attend the workshop to become a Certified Lean Change Agent only…and that’s ok. The funny thing is, there is no certifications for our workshops, but you cannot control what people do or how they promote themselves.

There are facilitator ratings, evaluations, stories and more from people who are using these ideas, running meetups, and contributing to the community in ways that don’t fit into a certification model.

A Sneak Peek into LCM Digital Credentials

For those unfamiliar with learning objectives, Blooms Taxonomy describes different types of learning objectives. There are objectives aligned with knowledge (being able to state what you learned), application (proof you can apply what you learned, analysis (thinking in context), evaluation, create and more.

Today, workshop attendees get a certificate of completion to validate they’ve attended a course. As we launch digital credentials, these are some of the badges that will be available.

Explorers

People who attend workshops, virtual or otherwise will obtain this badge that they can share to social channels, and they’ve been validated by Lean Change Management Community.



Storytellers

People who’ve tried modern approaches to change, have told their story through leanchange.org/stories and have a few interviews or evidence of the story can obtain this badge. You don’t need to attend a workshop to obtain this badge because some people just need a little idea to get unstuck and they can learn these techniques by talking to other practitioners, checking out our YouTube channel, or by attending LCM meetups.



Facilitators

There are 40 facilitators running workshops all over the world and I frequently get asked “who’s good? who’s workshop should I attend?” Facilitator ratings are shown on their profiles including the number of years experience, workshops run, ratings, and number of total evaluations so someone who’s run 20 workshops, has a rating of 10/10 with only 1 evaluation will have a lower score than someone who has the same experience, rating, but has 100 evaluations. Think of hockey! In order for a goalie to be ranked for goals-against-average (GAA) or save percentage (SV%), they need to meet a minimum set of criteria. If you played one minute, made one save and have a save percentage of 1.000, you shouldn’t be favoured over someone who has played 50 games with a SV% of .939.

 

Our digital credentials will have multiple levels denoted by colour, ribbon type, icon and other visual details.

Advancing the Brand

I dislike the ‘brand’ word, but after 4 years LCM has taken on a life of it’s own and the community has started to coalescence into something bigger! This example is a community builder badge awarded to facilitators who actively participate in advancing the brand whether it be offering content modules, running meetups, speaking at conferences and more.

Why Digital Credentials over Certifications?

In the world of change, change happens when we take action. Change agents are finicky people and generally latch onto the method they believe is the best. Whether you believe ACMP’s standard is the best, or Prosci’s levels are the best, or LCM is the best, change will never happen unless you take action.

Our digital credentials are biased towards action, much like LCM in general, but you shouldn’t have to attend a workshop to be rewarded for your hard work.

Business Insider released an article about how micro-education is the future of learning. Just-in-time learning, community-based validation and non-linear progression is where education is headed and while it’ll take traditional training companies a decade or more to make the shift, we’re starting now because we believe the time of classroom based training and 20 question multiple choice exams have passed.

What do you think about digital credentials? Leave a comment below or send me a note!

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Jason Little
Author, Lean Change Management at Leanintuit
I began my career as a web developer when Cold Fusion roamed the earth. Over the following years, I moved into management, Agile Coaching and consulting. The bumps and bruises I collected along the way helped me realize that helping organizations adopt Agile practices was less about the practices, and all about change.
In 2008 I attended an experiential learning conference (AYE) about how people experience change and since then, I’ve been writing, and speaking, all over the world about helping organizations discover more effective practices for managing organizational change.