Certification and Accreditation

Certification and Accreditation

Another topic on the same general theme is certification, of either individuals or teams. With a certification process, the certifying agency is staking its reputation on the suitability of certified individuals and accepting some responsibility for the person certified. If board-certified physicians turn out to be incompetent, the board's credibility vanishes.

No certification in computing dares go this far. Who wants to be legally liable for someone else's development choices? If a certifying authority isn't willing to stand behind its certification, it is just printing certificates and collecting money.

There is still a need to know whether a person is legitimately skilled in XP without having to rely solely on his own word. An informal referral network is already in place, but you have to know whom to ask.

The model provided by La Leche League in accrediting the leaders who hold informational meetings for nursing mothers is appealing. In this model both parties retain full responsibility for their behavior. Accreditation acknowledges to the public that we both agree that you are what you say you are. It says that the individual leader's values are aligned with the organization's for the purpose of supporting other mothers.

LLL leader applicants begin by being invited by an existing leader. The inviting leader and a volunteer accrediter join to mentor the applicant and evaluate her knowledge and skill. The process includes:

  • Evaluating the applicant's knowledge of the technical, social, and organizational skills needed to lead meetings.

  • Leading meetings with the applicant and critiquing her performance.

  • Reviewing a paper written by the applicant reflecting on her experience of nursing and mothering.

  • Social interaction with other leaders.

  • Being publicly introduced to the group at a regional conference.

  • Encouragement and support.

This model is a much more fruitful direction for certification than the models currently practiced in computing. The meaning of certification is necessarily subjective, whatever its trappings of formality and rigor. In the end, you're an XPer when you hold XP's values and incorporate XP principles in your daily practice. XPers will recognize each other in the community. Formalizing this process would give XP a clearer presence, help align employer/employee expectations, and give us a way to mentor and support each other as leaders as we go about our business of changing the way the world thinks of software development.

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