|The PPM PostScript (Table of Contents)|
|002||Certifications and the Scarlet Letter: The Unintended Consequences of Putting Junk in Your Trunk||August 19, 2011|
Is it just me, or does it seem that the practice of including various laudatory initials after one’s name gotten completely out of hand? Maybe more importantly, is this indicative that are we placing way too much faith and importance on industry credentials and certifications in general?
I would probably let this whole subject slide were it not for the triple convergence of recent incidents -- a sign simply too dangerous to ignore.
One was an unnamed executive with a training firm who was quoted in an article saying that without obtaining a certain certification they supported, any credibility to address the subject matter would be seriously hampered. In similar case, another person declared that certification to a particular assessment approach was deemed a prerequisite to discuss the topic.
What put me over the top was when I found myself personally rustled; roped, hog-tied and branded before I ever knew what happened. Invited to present at an event hosted by a well-known professional association, I discovered that the hindquarters of my name on both the agenda and my badge had been appended with the post-nominal of their favorite certification. Skeptical that I was about to receive an honorary lifetime achievement award, I decided there was no need to hastily prepare an acceptance speech.
I guess they just assumed...
I’m sorry; I’m “Just Terry.” It is a personal decision; I consider myself to be a conscientious objector when it comes to supporting near-stagnant methodologies or certification schemes created primarily to generate training revenue, consolidate influence or promote group-think.
However, I also suspect that few people ever take the time to consider the unintended consequences of overtly advertising their credentials. And, I respectfully but vigorously disagree when any person or professional group insists one must possess their particular certifications to be deemed ‘credible’ (doctors, lawyers, and other legal certification requirements notwithstanding). The presumption that one must first publicly advocate the established party-line before their ideas can be given legitimate consideration seems self-defeating if the true aim of an association is to move the discipline forward.
I have some sets of letters I could toss in my trunk, but I don’t. Some other credentials I have chosen to avoid. Did I take the prep course? Yep. Do I know the associated body of knowledge? You bet. Prerequisite experience? Oh, please. I have simply elected to not swear allegiance or partake in the secret handshake. It’s not because I think the approaches or associations are necessarily bad - it’s because I find certifications to be both professionally constraining and prone to stereotyping. There is no denying that unavoidable baggage accompanies the posting of credentials. What images come to your mind with CPA, RN, PhD, JD, DDS or ESQ?
We all subconsciously form opinions and label people based on whatever information we can take in. Whether it is religious jewelry or the emblem of a secret society, a uniform, a political bumper sticker, flashing a gang sign, or any other observable quality, we can’t avoid attaching certain assumptions and prejudices. And, depending on the vantage point or the circumstances, they may not always be benevolent.
For example, by definition, affixing a professional certification to one’s moniker strongly suggests a deep affiliation with -- and affection for -- a particular association, methodology, standard or approach. Could those letters cause someone to presume that the bearer has adopted a rather rigid perspective over all others when it comes to ways of thinking about or doing things, even if such an impression is unfounded? And, you just never know how their last exchange may have gone with one of your cohorts. Was the outcome of your last job interview impacted by the fact that the hiring manager held a certification (and bias) from an association different than yours?
So, I prefer to suggest I am keeping my options open; a free-range pundit so to speak. Don’t fence me in. Maybe it’s a Texas thing.
Reluctance to tattoo my identity with any single approach stems in part from the fact that I’ve yet to find the Mother of All Practices. I’m not alone. Surveys confirm that full organizational adoption of even popular methodologies is still pretty low, with most falling in the single digit percentage range.
To quote George Box, “All models are wrong, some are useful.” What makes the information codified by associations, standards and various bodies of knowledge useful is that they represent a concentrated source of expertise, concepts and generally accepted practices to draw upon. What often makes them wrong is when an organization or person zealously adopts any one approach as a complete, singular, or out-of-the-box solution. Each organization has to arrive at something that works for them and their unique circumstances, which is what ultimately drives the vast majority to adapt, mix, modify, or partially employ several different approaches.
Integrated portfolio management is the business equivalent of mixed martial arts – rely too much on any one discipline and you get your butt kicked. That is why I think it is important to balance a wide array of organizational viewpoints, topic areas and approaches. Favoring any single perspective or credo over another risks losing a certain ‘at large’ perspective, which is something that has served me very well thus far.
That is why I’m “Just Terry.” I support the approaches of many associations, belong to some, and am married to none. Whether you label me as independent, certification-phobic or simply uneducated as a result is your prerogative. But, please don’t ever dismiss out-of-hand the ideas of someone because of their lack of affiliation; after all, chances are good that any given accreditation test is likely validating knowledge of approaches and techniques that were originally pioneered by someone who dared to challenge the status quo of their era.
~ Terry 8/19/11
Article 002: Associations, Certifications and the Scarlet Letter: The Unintended Consequences of Putting Junk in Your Trunk
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