Agile development · Observations

Do I believe in agile certification?

I published a tongue in cheek article yesterday, but it left me wondering whether I believe in the value of certification.

I guess the answer is yes, but …..

I believe that you can certify anything if you can define and measure it.

So you can certify an accountant if you can define and measure the things an accountant should be able to do. I would not go to a tax accountant unless they were part of a professional body because I respect the professional bodies and trust that their “certified members” abide by a set of skills, practices and ethics that embody what I think their profession is.

Along the same lines I think you can certify a person as a project manager (or business analyst, tester or developer) if you can define and measure what they do.

So I like the idea that someone is certified in DSDM/Atern (Prince2 branded agile) because it is a set of processes and practices. This means that certified in Atern means someone knows what the practices are if I want to use them to run my project. But it does not mean they are a good agile project manager.

But I don’t hire people because they know what Atern is. I hire lucky project managers and innovative developers. So it would be awesome if I could Google (for example) CLPM – certified lucky project manager and find one, but I am not confident that I could.

So my concern with certifying someone as agile is that I am not sure how to define and measure what we collectively mean by agile.

I would be happy to rate someone “certified by James King as being good at running agile projects” because then people can use my credibility (or lack of credibility) to make a decision about whether to hire the project manager.

But in the absence of a single recognised body of agile professionals who have defined the finite list of practices and ethics that their members abide by, then I am not sure what “certified in agile” really means.

So I am happy that someone is certified by Prince2, Scrum or PMBOK as knowing what they think agile means and meeting the entry criteria for their respective groups.

But I don’t yet see how that means they will be able to meet my definition of agile leaders (to adapt their approach to the context of the situation or encourage effective interaction and creativity in a team). So I am not yet convinced that there is such a thing as an effective certification for agile, for lucky or for innovative.


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