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New Expectations for Conferences

Seth Godin on new expectations for face-to-face conferences:

"Here's what a speaker owes an audience that travels to engage in person: more than they could get by just reading the transcript."

"And here's what a conference organizer owes the attendees: surprise, juxtaposition, drama, engagement, souvenirs and just possibly, excitement. "

Sign me up for the next conference that offers this!

Retiring a Certification

Not a lot is written about why or how to retire (disband, discontinue) a certification.  Few certifying organizations have policies addressing this potential situation and without a policy, programs tend to linger on, especially when there's politics involved (and when isn't there?).

Here are the minimum components that should be included in a policy and associated procedures:

Circumstances leading to retirement consideration / decision - such as declining trends in number of applicants, number of certificants recertifying, revenue earned, value by stakeholders

Decision - who are the decision-makers and by what margin does a retirement motion get approved

Communications - to whom, how and when will the retired certification decision be communicated

Timeline - in general terms, when will the last application cycle / test administration occur (the key point here is to give sufficient notice to stakeholders)

Future Plan  - what happens to individuals already certified (must they cease using the designation at a given point in time, will they be able to maintain the credential indefinitely through ongoing recertification requirements, etc.)

If you are evaluating your certifications on a regular basis (you are, right?!), then you should readily have the data to trigger that certification retirement discussion, when warranted.

Certifying Generalists vs Specialists

Seth Godin's recent blog post has interesting implications for certification.

Says Seth: "If the world is really bigger, if you can find the best in the world to do what you want, no matter what it is you want, does that change things?

If I need an animator, I can find the world's best animator. If I need a bond to insure my movie, I can find the best broker at selling completion bonds. If I need SEO help, get me the world's best SEO person. If I need braces, I can find the best orthodontist in my area. Not the second-best or someone who will try really hard or someone who is pretty good at that and also good at other things. Sure, there are occasional tasks where a diagnostician with wide-ranging experience is important (but I'd argue that that's a specialty in and of itself).

When choice is limited, I want a generalist. When selection is difficult, a jack of all trades is just fine.  But whenever possible, please bring me a brilliant specialist.

If you're shaking your head in agreement with this obvious point, then the question is: tell me again why you're a generalist?"

And, why is it that almost all certification programs certify and recertify generalists?  That is, if recertification is by examination, that exam is a generalist exam (usually the same exam given to initial applicants).  If recertification is by continuing education, diversity of content is acceptable...and sometimes mandated. 

I don't mean to oversimplify the issue, which is a complex one.  There's the expense factor, of course, of having multiple assessments.  Then, there's the issue that if you're issuing one credential, shouldn't it have the same requirements and mean the same for everyone (which it wouldn't if you have specialist examinations or other pathways).   But I think it's something to think about.

Look at the PE (professional engineer) - here's an example of a credential that is diverse from the beginning. PEs, regardless of their specialty in civil, electrical, etc., all take specialty exams, but they all use the same credential (for licensure, btw).  I think it's an intriguing model for certifying agencies to consider.

Certification Pricing

Read something today that suggested that as a general rule, the cost of certification should not exceed one percent of the target's gross annual salary.  Anyone using that rule of thumb?   For an average gross annual salary of $25,000, a fee of $250, for $50,000 a fee of $500, and $100,000 a fee of $1000.  At face value, it seems reasonable.  Sounds like a good place to start...but of course you need to consider your costs and make sure the fee covers those. 

I had a thought of how to turn this around for promoting.  Isn't certification worth investing just 1% of your annual salary?  Seems that''s hard to argue against that, assuming  your certification offers something to be valued.

Who is the Audience?

I've noticed recently that many certification articles/books written for certification NONexperts assume a fairly sophisticated understanding of certification/testing concepts which (duh) if the individuals already had, they wouldn't be reading the piece.

Here's my current favorite written to explain the test development and scoring process for individuals certified in a healthcare profession (org name witheld to protect the "innocent"):

"The scaled scores are not a "number correct" or "percent correct" scores.  Raw Scores are arithmetically transformed into scaled scores.  This conversion involves a simple linear transformation of raw scores (x) to scale scores (s) that takes the form of Total Raw Score times zslope plus zintercept."

Yep, simple. 

The worst part is that this is literally the last sentence of the written piece.  Not exactly the note I'd like to go out on.  Check your written materials for readability (for the audience targeted - not to you!)