Why my workshops come without certificates

I value learning to apply practices over getting an agile certificate. Exploring how practices can work in your situation over learning a method or framework. This outcome-based approach has one by-effect: My workshops come without certification.

You won’t get an agile certificate from me if you attend one of my on-site or online workshops. Instead, you get the chance to try out many different practices and learn how to apply them to address the challenges that you need to deal with.

Explicit language

This is not a regular tips and ideas blog post in which I share my experiences for you to use in your daily work. It’s a personal cry out in which I share my thoughts on a delicate but important topic. If this is not what you like to read then there are hundreds of posts on my website so just pick one and enjoy.

In this post, I’m challenging the software industry’s view on certified training. I share my ideas which present a different way of working compared to what the industry adheres to, supports, and accepts as being the “best and only way to do it”.

If you are easily offended then you might want to skip this post. On the other hand, if you have a strong opinion on learning by doing and experimenting and want to learn about my ideas on developing skills and practicing exercises, go ahead and read it!

Why I don’t train people to earn certificates

From a business point of view, life would be much easier for me if I became a certified trainer who gives training that comes with certificates. There’s a growing market for certified training, it’s easier to sell training that comes with a certificate, and I could use existing training materials instead of having to develop my own exercises and games.

However, I prefer to do things that:

  • I’m good at or willing and able to try out
  • I love to do and give me energy
  • are helpful and solve people’s needs
  • are appreciated by people and have value for them
  • provide an income and have a future

Certified training doesn’t fit with this. When I have to give a training for a certificate I would feel myself limited in my teaching, not being allowed to give maximum value to my attendees. It would not give me the energy that I currently get from doing workshops. It limits my flexibility to adapt during a workshop class to better serve the attendees.

How my workshops look

In my workshops, people practice and learn in small teams. I connect with the attendees in teams, present concepts and approaches, next teams practice, reflect, and share their learnings. It looks like the 4Cs from Training from the Back of the Room (TBR), but I prefer to call it interactive practising and learning. I’m in the room or available online, supporting teams every way I can during the workshop.

I’m giving both on-site and online workshops. Many people know me from doing workshops at conferences like the Agile Greece Summit, Strech, DevOpsCon, Goto, Craft, eXperience Agile, and QCon. Online interactive workshops and coaching sessions are on the rise where I have been doing them for years. Here are some of the workshops and coaching sessions that I provide:

I tailor every workshop that I give to satisfy the specific needs of the attendees. You get more value in my workshops than what you get from attending a standard workshop that comes with a certificate (and those workshops are much higher priced than mine). I don’t do prerecorded courses, all of my online workshops are live and interactive to give maximum value to you.

I love developing exercises, games, and agile coaching tools. Over the years I’ve become pretty good at it. I sell my agile coaching tools for a nominal fee. Examples of the tools most downloaded are the Agile Retrospective Bingo and Retrospective Smells Cards, Agile Manifesto Retrospective Question Cards, and the Impediment Board Game.

What you get from my workshops is lots of practice. You learn how to apply stuff in your daily work. And when you’re back at work to do that, I’m still there for you with Free Lifetime Support.

But my company wants to see a certificate

As I’m not a certified trainer, I’m not in the position to do exams or to sign a certificate.

I am not a member of any official agile body or institute. I don’t have any agile certificates. If I look at all the stuff that’s covered in my workshops then I could probably join at least a dozen of them. That’s simply not feasible, nor do I desire to do it.

Of course, you can do an exam online after coming to one of my workshops or (remote) coaching if you need to show a certificate. Examples of such exams are the Certified Scrum Professional (CSP) from the Scrum Alliance and the Professional Scrum Master (PSM) / Professional Scrum Product Owner (PSPO) / Professional Scrum Developer-I (PSD-I) from scrum.org. I have to be honest that I don’t know the details of these online examinations so I can’t tell you what kind of questions you will get. But I can support you preparing for the examination (that’s again the free lifetime support that you get).

My take on certificates

Do I think that certificates or certified training is unimportant? No! They do matter. There’s actually a page on my website that compares popular agile certificates (if yours isn’t there, contact me and I’ll add it)

And I do value the work that organizations like the Agile Alliance, Scrum Alliance, Scrum.org, and IC agile, to name some, do. I collaborate with people who work with these organizations. I interview them and publish articles about new developments in agile culture and methods on InfoQ.

But I value the Agile Manifesto over Agile Certificates. The agile values and principles over the practices described in Scrum or any other agile framework.

I have met most of the signatories of the agile manifesto, one of them (Arie van Bennekom) actually wrote the foreword for my book Waardevolle Agile Retrospectives. I believe that they did great work in collaboratively formulating the manifesto. I mention the manifesto in my workshops. And I created Agile Retrospectives Questions Cards that are based on the manifesto.

Valuable workshops

I hope this article doesn’t disappoint you or make you decide to book a training or workshop elsewhere because you want to have a nice certificate to show to your boss or put above your bed.

I’m aware that not everyone that would like to attend one of my on-site workshops is able to do that. It could be that either they or I cannot able to travel and meet in each other face to face (which is certainly a problem today due to Covid-19). The time or costs involved may be too high, or the dates might be a problem.

Nowadays we can do a lot remotely. The alternatives that I’m offering, online training and coaching and downloadable agile coaching tools, make it possible to improve your skills online without any travelling. Using Skype, Hangout, or Zoom, we dive into topics relevant for you, where we can explore how to apply them in a way that suits your needs.

When you attend an online training or coaching session, you will get all materials before the session takes place. Anything that comes up during the session which isn’t in the materials will be sent to you afterwards. And of course, you get free lifetime support from me.

In the end, it’s all about the value you get from attending a tailor-made interactive workshop from someone who’s been there and doing it himself!

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Ben Linders

I help organizations with effective software development and management practices. Active member of several networks on Agile, Lean and Quality, and a frequent speaker and writer.

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