Facilitating the Spread of Knowledge and Innovation in Professional Software Development

Write for InfoQ


Choose your language

InfoQ Homepage News Agilists Certifying Agilists, "We Vouch For..."

Agilists Certifying Agilists, "We Vouch For..."

This item in japanese

A relatively longstanding topic of debate within the agile community has been that of "agile certification", namely the question of how, if at all, it could be done reliably and effectively. The "We Vouch For..." initiative represents a unique approach to answering this question.

A sentiment often echoed through factions of the agile community is that certification of "agility" is a problem not reliably solved by standard forms of certification. Most notably is the idea that completing a course or passing a standardized test originated by some central authoritative group falls short of an effective means to qualify someone as a "certified agilist". This is believed so for many reasons, among them being the extreme broadness of agility as well as the subjective and dynamic nature of what agility is; effective agility is as much about applying principles effectively to context sensitive situations than applying practices in repetitive, prescribed manners.

As such, it is the feeling of many agilists that it takes another experienced agilist's observation-based opinion of your practical application of agile, on a real agile project, to effectively make judgement of your credibility. Said another way, to have someone credible vouch for your credibility. Additionally, the Agile Alliance has made it's position clear, stating that one "should have confidence only in certifications that are skill-based and difficult to achieve" and that "employers should not require certification of employees".

This is the fundamental premise behind the We Vouch For... initiative, established principally by Laurent Bossavit and Brian Marick. We Vouch For... is a website where members of the agile community can certify each others’ work, an alpha implementation of the evidence-based peer certification discussed above.

When asked about the core value-statement of the We Vouch For... initiative, Bossavit had this to say:
There is value (to prospective employers and co-workers, and others too) in knowing something about people's competencies. We might as well call that "certification". The Agile community, as a whole, has more knowledge about who's competent in the areas that define Agile, and what these areas are, than any sub-group of the community could have. Therefore, a scheme for "certification" which involves the entire community is more valuable, if it is feasible at all, than one which involves only a central certifying authority.

That it is feasible at all is a relatively new idea, which explains why it hasn't been done before - I became aware of that only after reading Clay Shirky's [book] Here Comes Everybody.
The basics of how it works, from the site:
People sign up to a Web site, after which they can certify people they know. They do this by entering a Statement of Certification.

A Statement of Certification is a strong, solemn, formal statement. Example: "I, Laurent Bossavit, a member of the agile community, certify Rachel Davies as having outstanding skills in Retrospective Facilitation, based on the following evidence: I attended a Retrospective which she facilitated at a conference and took away key learnings from the experience."

It's important that it should include all parts: someone who states that he/she is a member of the community, the name of someone he/she wants to certify, an area of competence, an assessment of the person's skill in that area : serviceable, highly valuable, outstanding; and mention of the substantial evidence on which this judgement is based.
We Vouch For... is a "For the People, By The People" effort; it has a chance of working only if you get involved, and no real chance if you don't. Visit the site and decide for yourself what you think. And, as always, please take a moment to let others here know what you decide.

Rate this Article