In the confusing so-called-profession named ‘Agile Coaching’, there is an ongoing debate on the merit of mounting certifications that represent one’s knowledge and experience. As this space evolves, the race is on to add a growing list of letters to a LinkedIn name, but for what purpose? What is the purpose that guides you into a certification path? I offer a glimpse into my own journey, so you can discover the purpose that is right for you.
As we prepare to enter the depths of this topic, experience a personal anecdote as a starting point. I have been an avid runner and cyclist since childhood; however, I endured a nasty knee injury in early 2014 that simply won’t heal – so my running shoes and bike are now lonely and collecting dust. Age and time are not on my side, so I decided to consult with a knee doctor that has the designation of “MD”. These two letters at the end of the person’s name was a start, but I also wanted to know where this “MD” was earned. When you seek out a doctor, do you also review these designations when making your decision?
On top of those credentials, I was seeking something greater. I decided on an inspiring fellow who ran track (and was the captain) at the Division I level in college. Not only is this individual great at his profession, he also has a Professional Purpose to serve people like me who continue to derive benefit from something we both love — which is running. Like me, he is also an aging athlete who is past his glory days of competitive athletics. As a result of that reality, he shows empathy and compassion for my case. We have formed a bond. He is carefully guiding me on a path to healing, so I can someday lace up my running shoes and give it one more go.
Consider using my own personal situation as a tool to learn about the power of Professional Purpose.
How did this start?
This is a topic that hits at the very core of my professional DNA. It was prompted from an open-ended question in one of the many “Agile” LinkedIn groups where interesting discussions emerge around the clock.
The question was something to the effect of:
Other than certifications ABC and ZYX, what other certifications are available in the area of Agile…?
As you might imagine, the responses offered a wide range of input and views.
It is a great question, so let’s explore it from a different perspective and use a larger platform to learn about Professional Purpose.
As you choose to read on, note that the professional path I describe is mine and mine only – it’s not meant to be yours, nor am I advocating it for you. My hope is that my own path will offer learning moments that will guide your own.
If you are a reader who has never heard of Agile or Scrum, consider absorbing bits of this post, because it’s only a matter of time before this Agile thing reaches your team and your organization. Or you can read about the emerging world of Agile Recruiting to get an idea of the special traits that will slowly but surely infuse into professionals across many disciplines.
A Journey into Professional Purpose
I chose to align my path and invest into my own professional development via a powerful combination of learnings from two organizations in the Agile world: the Scrum Alliance and Scrum.org. I decided that these were the two most reputable ‘certification bodies’ for Scrum. Both organizations strive to retain the founding principles from the co-creators of The Scrum Framework. In fact, one of the co-creators helped form the Scrum Alliance and later founded Scrum.org. This was the reasoning behind my choice, but it doesn’t mean that it’s the right choice for you and others – it’s the purpose that matters.
So what was my purpose behind this pursuit?
As a former command & control, detail-oriented software development Manager, I needed to eliminate that native wiring and turn it into a story of my earlier professional career. I wanted the values and principles of Agile & Scrum to successfully integrate within the fabric of my personal and professional self. It wasn’t a chance to earn certifications – I was on a personal mission to ensure my own Agile transformation was complete and whole.
I was seeking to solidify grounding in the values and principles that I teach, mentor and coach every day in organizations – I owed it to the people, teams and leaders that I gratefully serve in the workplace. Making this investment was anything but free, but it was gratifying and fulfilling.
As we dive a bit deeper, pause and ask yourself these powerful reflective questions:
What is your purpose for entering the workplace each day?
What is your passion?
How can you demonstrate to others that you serve that purpose?
Let’s carry your answers into the world of Professional Purpose.
What I’ve learned over the years in this Agile profession is that there is a big difference between a certification and an assessment. Similar to organizations that are on an urgent pursuit of re-invention, an organization’s Agile journey isn’t about hitting financial targets – it’s about evolving into an entity that can survive and sustain a strong market position in its industry or cause-based mission. With that ‘positive intent’ organizational mindset, the results will come – but for the right reasons.
As you decide what’s right for you, try adopting this same mindset in your own profession. What knowledge do you seek? What are the values and principles that need to be grounded within you in order to make an impact in your role and your industry? With that mindset, career advancement will be the ‘lagging indicator’ of success for you.
My own path as a working example for yours
If embedding Agile values and principles into your professional core is important to you, then a fulfilling pursuit toward Scrum certifications could be a compelling path – regardless of your profession. Then again, it may not. If you’re a reader who is unfamiliar with acronyms like CSM, PSM, PMI-ACP, PSPO, CSPO, CSD, PSD, SPC ……….. it’s okay. My own profession is still struggling to understand what they mean.
It’s not about the badges. It’s about the Professional Purpose that guides people in our space to earn those cryptic designations.
To earn certifications the right way, you must be able to successfully ground yourself deeply in the principles and values that continue to challenge our profession. With that goal in mind, an ethical journey toward a deeper professional assessment was a profound eye-opener for me on many levels, and I had already been living Scrum and Agile for a number of years before I made the decision to pursue this path.
For me, it’s not about an acronym – it’s about what I gained in an effort to earn the designation through difficult assessments that tested my knowledge and years of experience in ways that, at times, felt quite uncomfortable. It forced me to reflect on my younger years as a non-Agile person – at moments, the reflection was painful. I was assessed by some special thought leaders who know Agile and Scrum from the inside-out. I am a continuous learner – I craved feedback and received it in a unique and personal way from arguably the two leading certification bodies for Scrum. I have found this feedback to be a powerful tool that I use to successfully serve others to this day.
Rounding out with a Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) directly from Jeff Sutherland (co-creator of Scrum), a Professional Scrum Master (PSM) directly from Ken Schwaber (co-creator of Scrum), and a Certified LeSS Practitioner designation directly from Craig Larman (co-creator of LeSS) wasn’t enough. Are one of these certifications considered better than the others? Who cares? The value was obtained by absorbing the mindset directly from these amazing thought-leaders, but even then, I needed something more.
I am unable to quantify what “certifications” mean to me personally and professionally, especially as I witness the growth of the people, teams, leaders and organizations that I get the chance to serve. That’s what fuels me into the workplace each day. It’s my passion. When I watch others continuously improve, I feel a strong desire to improve my own abilities today, so I can do it even better tomorrow.
That’s what it feels like to have a Professional Purpose.
It’s time to discover your Professional Purpose
Use this part of my own personal and professional journey to help guide yours. What is your Professional Purpose? What makes it important to you? What is the legacy you want to leave behind to help others in the future? Use the comments section below and let’s start a conversation. What does it mean to you? Professions of all shapes and sizes are invited.
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