Alternatives to Change Management Certifications

In 1998 I became an HP Certified Printer Repair person because I demonstrated the ability to replace PIU;s (Paper Input Units) at an alarming speed. It’s also been about 15 years since I received my first MCP (Microsoft Certified Professional) designation for using Microsoft Front Page. Funny thing is, I’m still certified in it!

Ron Leeman wrote a great post summarizing the existing change management certifications, and here were his main points:

  • most are between 3 – 5 days
  • there are 9 ‘popular’ organizations that offer proprietary certifications (there are plenty more, these are the most popular)
  • there are 2 main professional associations that ‘represent’ the greater change community
  • they all cost a fortune

There are plenty of articles about the pros and cons of change and agile certifications. I received my CSM (Certified Scrum Master) credential about 8 years ago, when there wasn’t even a 25 question multiple choice test like there is now, and I was proud of it at the time, but I’m at the stage of my career where it doesn’t matter anymore.

People are generally attracted to certifications for a bunch of reasons:

  • they collect certifications for the sake of status
  • they use certification as a catalyst to start their education
  • they need a certification to break into the job market
  • they want to learn a topic and it just so happens that it comes with a certification

There’s is no comparison to the quality of education received in a 3 – 5 day certification class compared to a multi-year degree from a reputable university like Royal Roads, Schulich School of Business, and Pepperdine’s multi-year, multi-region Masters in OD. Those are but a few, the point is a 3 – 5 day certification course simply can’t stack up to the rigor that these programs offer.

There have been over 600 attendees to Lean Change Agent workshops worldwide since 2014. The number is likely over 1000 by now, but my stats are based on reported evaluations in the system I use to manage facilitators, attendees, and workshops.

Today I’m starting a new experiment that is an alternative to certifications. In order to become a Lean Change Management facilitator, people attend a workshop and then have an interaction with me to see if they’re a fit. Facilitator ratings are public knowledge so you can see:

  • their rating
  • number of years facilitating
  • number of events run


On top of that, facilitator badges are being launched:

  1. Facilitator Badge (Bronze): Given to all licensed facilitators
  2. Facilitator Badge (Silver): Given to licensed facilitators who have a rating of 8 or higher
  3. Facilitator Badge (Gold): Given to licensed facilitators who have run 10+ workshops and have a rating of 8 or higher
  4. Facilitator Badge (Platinum): Given to licensed facilitators who have run 10+ workshops and have an average rating of 8 or higher, and actively support the change agent network (through facilitating hangouts, running local events, advancing the material or network etc)


I’ve created the rules, the network will refine it over time. As soon as ratings are brought into the picture, yes, unintentional gaming becomes part of the process:

  • facilitators can ask for high ratings to get badges
  • should there be a minimum number of evaluations, the same way the NHL uses a minimum number of minutes played to qualify for the annual goaltender trophies?
  • what happens after Platinum status?
  • Could badges alienate facilitators who have a 7.999999999 rating?

The purpose of this experiment is to recognize the facilitators who are spreading the word because they align with the purpose of the brand.

On top of that, I’ve created a badge scheme for attendees as well:

  • Seekers: Given to those who have joined the Global Lean Change Agent network.
  • Explorers: Given to people who have attended a workshop
  • Storytellers: Given to members of the network who have spoken about, or written stories about creative ways they are facilitating change, ideally with ideas from the book or this site! Content will be syndicated on this blog.
  • Creators: Given to members of the network who combine ideas to create new models that help people get unstuck in their change (culture hacking ideas, how to do interventions, creative activities for conducting experiments)
  • Connectors: Facilitators who are actively supporting the Global Lean Change Agent Network by hosting lean coffees, local events, or doing virtual events that support people.
Assumes the person joined the network, and publicly wrote blogs, authored videos or otherwise went public about how they’re using more modern ideas in the change management world.

I hypothesize that there will be benefits to the network and individuals:


  • increase of membership
  • increase of deeper, and more meaningful connections between members
  • mixing of skills from people with change, OD, and agile backgrounds versus reinforcing solitary beliefs that most professional associations do


  • recognition as a practicing practitioner
  • validation of learning and skills development
  • sense of belonging, and access to a private network of members that support each other
  • ability to post badges on social profiles, websites, blogs etc

Overall, I think this alternative to certifications is more relevant in today’s world. Knowledge isn’t the problem when it comes to managing change. Google has the answers to everything you’ll ever need to know. People who differentiate themselves do so by giving back to the community, and by creating large networks for support.

I’ve intentionally put minimal constraints on these badges. By constraints, I mean things like what the PMI does which is giving credits in order to keep your status in good standing. I’ve seen how that becomes gamed. People register for free events, get their credits, but don’t attend the events or give anything back to the community. The key is that I’m not the one who’s deciding, and there isn’t a board deciding either.

The Seeker and Explorer badges are given based on the person joining the network and attending the event. Creator, Storyteller, and Connector are based on having your application for those badges voted on by the community. The rules for said voting will work themselves out, but this network is built on the theory behind communities, which I believe is where the change management world is headed. Other professional assocations are focused on standards, rules, and governing bodies of experts. There’s a place for that as well, I’m simply choosing an experiement that is an alternative to certification that I think is more effective.

If you’ve attended a workshop, and filled out the online evaluation in Workshop Butler, you’ll automatically get the Explorer badge and you’ll be notified over the coming weeks as I rolll the program out.

What do you think? Is this a good alternative to certifications?

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