The Great Professionalism Debate

The Question

The Question

So here is the Big Question: Do you, or Don’t you? Do you certify, or don’t you?

In today’s South Africa, where the pressure to deliver is greater than anywhere else in the world, once you have carved up your precious 24-hour day into pieces for work (too big), the wife and kids (too little), sleep (never enough), and the bank manager (oh so necessary), is there a small piece left for training and / or obtaining some credential? Out of which piece of the above pie are you going to steal the time to do this, and which one are you going to give preference?

My PM friend Bruce Rodrigues once said: “People will only do something if the pain of doing it is less than the pain of not doing it”. In other words, If I invest some time in this certification, will it get me job? Or if I have a job, will it get me a promotion? Will it help me do my job better? Or should I rather take time to study more?

I am very cynical on this question. I don’t believe for one minute that getting a certification is the same as learning something. If you feel you want to be a member of a Learned Society, get a Certificate to enter. And if you want to know more about project management – go read a book. Or Google it. Or something. The two activities are not necessarily related.

Learned Societies have been around for a long time, and if you want feel welcome in a circle of friends who share similar views, joining such a society (by obtaining Certification) is a good idea. Learned Societies exist to further the discipline of the society and supervise some standards, all of which are goodness. But do they advance knowledge? I wouldn’t say so. They might measure certain attributes (such as knowledge) as an entry requirement, they might even publish standards or measure compliance to those standards. Issueing a certificate marks that point where you were weighed and found adequate, for that particular society.

Does that make you a “professional”? If you were found “professional” 10 years ago, are you still a “professional”? How did you maintain that status, by simply paying a membership fee every year? Surely there needs to be a continuous evaluation of the standards (to make sure they still apply) and your compliance.

But does that really say anything about the amount of knowledge and skill you have? Your full quota, so to speak, and not only the little bit that applies to your certifying organisation. And how about your daily increase in experience and knowledge, the stuff you inherently pick up as part of you doing your job? Or even if you simply read the “Help”-screen and you have learned something new, doesn’t that increase your value? Attending workshops or organically growing your knowledge base, do they produce inherently different results?

My final say on this is: Development is not a moment, but an ongoing process. A Certificate marks the moment you joined as a member of a learned society, it ticks a box that says you met the requirements at some point in time. It should never be confused with Learning.


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