‘Thank you for your CODP application and supporting materials. The review committee has evaluated the application and documentation combined, and found that you have provided all necessary means, as well as met all requirements for certification. Therefore, I am happy to inform you that the committee has granted you the certification – you can now refer to yourself as a Certified Organization Design Professional.’
That’s the email I got a few days ago. It came as the result of evidencing that I met the criteria for certification and sending in the application payment. (The 2018 payment is $150:00 but it is going up in 2019. So, if you are interested in applying – go for it now to get the current rate).
The criteria info states:
‘As an organization design professional, you can become certified if you meet a set of criteria divided into education and practice – both criteria are estimated based on your achievements through the past two years.
You might be asking why I decided to apply for Certification? I asked myself the same question – after all it’s a time and money commitment that is currently (as it’s a new certification) of uncertain value. And, in applying I’d be making myself vulnerable to peer review.
The rational part of me kept telling myself I’m already over-committed to stuff and l need to practice saying ‘no’ to taking on anything that will take time – I didn’t need the added pressure of applying for Certification. But as Mark Rowlands says, in his wonderful book, Running with the Pack ‘there was a small, sneaky, irrational part of me that always knew I was going to be standing at the starting line of this race’. Though in my case it wasn’t in the starting line of a race, but the starting section of the application form. (Helpfully this is ‘Your full name’ so I felt confident on that question).
The small, sneaky part of me that over-ruled the rational part of me did it by presenting four reasons why applying would be ‘a good thing’ to do. I’d be:
- Participating in a new venture that which is worth supporting
- Contributing to an effort to professionalize organisation design
- Reflecting on what I have learned and developed in the past two years
- Testing and learning from the application process and criteria for myself
I’ll discuss each of these in turn.
Participating in a new venture that is worth supporting. Organisation design is what academics call a fragmented field that (adapting from a paper on knowledge management) ‘lacks a common conceptual core; it is cross‐disciplinary, it addresses a wide variety of organisational phenomena, and it has difficulty distinguishing itself from many related areas of organisational/consulting practice’. In my view, any effort that in the words of the Organisation Design Community (ODC) helps ‘research, practice, and learning intersect to produce valuable design knowledge and applications’ is worth supporting. The Certification is a new part of the several activities orchestrated, individually and collectively, by the ODC, the Organization Design Forum, and the European Organization Design Forum designed to do that.
Contributing to an effort to professionalize organisation design. A definition of ‘a profession’ that I agree with says: A Profession is a disciplined group of individuals who adhere to ethical standards and who hold themselves out as, and are accepted by the public as possessing special knowledge and skills in a widely recognised body of learning derived from research, education and training at a high level, and who are prepared to apply this knowledge and exercise these skills in the interest of others.’ Over the years I’ve been involved in the field there has been no recognised endorsement of professionalism although there are numerous short and long programmes that teach organisation design (see my blog on this). However, now organisation design is the ‘hot topic’ it’s time that it became a recognised ‘profession’ with a code of ethics and a process for quality assuring the practitioners in a way that gives confidence to buyers of organisation design work. Note that this is early days on the ‘professionalizing’ road and the handbook of certification explicitly states ‘Certification does not warrant or guarantee the individual’s expertise in the field of organization design, nor does it signify that the individual is equipped to manage a given project within the field.’
Reflecting on what I have learned and developed in the past two years. I’ve been in the Organization Design field for over 20 years and I think I have expertise in it. With this, I’m conscious that, in the words of researcher Elizabeth Jones, ‘Expert professionals act at a level of automaticity with knowledge that enables efficient, effective and unselfconscious practice. They must also extend the theoretical and research knowledge that informs their practice and engage in critical enquiry into their own practice. Through these processes, professionals acquire new knowledge and skills as they develop a well-elaborated and improving theory of practice.’
My rational self pointed out that completing an application form hardly constitutes reflective practice. (For more on that read the classic, and excellent, Donald Schon book, The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think In Action). However, it did require me to look back over two years, see what I’d been writing about, working on and learning. In that look-back process I did get some insights on how my practice has changed.
Testing the application process for myself. Having got myself across the start line of form completion and completed the name, education, etc sections I tackled the 4 questions that form the meat of the process:
- Describe your general experience with organizational design
- Describe below how you meet the education requirement by providing information in the table with educational activity you have participated in
- Using the table below, please describe in detail how you have achieved 1040 hours practical organizational design experience within the past two years
- Describe how your background has supported your work as an organization design professional
This turned out to take quite a bit of time and effort (as my rational self had predicted). Sifting through files, memories, and documents for the right combination of practical, theoretical, educational and developmental information resulted in a couple of trash-bags of documents I don’t know why I kept so long, a re-ordering of my on-line files to make info retrieval easier, and finally some paragraphs I felt happy enough with to submit.
In getting to this point I also ended up with ten questions about the Certification:
- Do trainers facilitating the accredited courses need be certified practitioners? (I think not).
- Who supervises the reviewer panel?
- The requirements for course accreditation are very detailed. Are the reviewers looking for this type of information in the individual practitioner certification?
- How much value does individual certification process and the course accreditation process add to organisations wanting organisation design skills?
- Are there bursaries for people/organisations who can’t afford the certification/accreditation fees?
- Is three years too long before individual re-certification given the current pace of organisational change?
- Should the assessment process be more rigorous – for example the requirement to submit a portfolio of evidence?
- Should there be more emphasis placed on the ‘reflective practitioner’ in the assessment process?
- Should people being certified also agree to conform to a code of ethics? (Note: the ODC members agree to adhere to the Academy of Management Code of Ethics. The ODF and EODF do not have a response when the term ‘ethics’ is entered into their search box).
- Is there a plan to start quality assuring the practitioners?
As I’m an Advisory Board Member of the EODF and ODC I can pick these up with the ‘relevant authorities’.
Meanwhile I can happily report that the certification process focused my mind on what matters in my OD work, encouraged me to reflect on my OD practice, and provided a lovely review point of the highs and lows in my recent OD career.
Do you think a Professional Certification in Organisation Design Practice is an individual or organisational value-add? Let me know.