Friday, August 01, 2008

Sometimes, the subject makes no sense.

Did I ever tell you I love intelligent comments by non-anonymous people?

RE: Wendy's Rant

My guess is that the course authors did not understand the subject. So the only thing they could do was repeat the jargon. - Mark Frank

I think that's part of it. I have a sneaky suspicion that writers of the training and/or of the baseline certification material are not native English speakers. Or if they are, writing is not their strong suit.

The other part of it may be the subject matter itself.

The only reason why I think this is because my manager has been certified in this beast (that shall not be named) and ran into some of the same issues in the instructor-led training and the materials she was provided. By her account, the instructor was really really good (as in, able to explain stuff good, not just entertaining good). And that instructor admitted a lot of the material made no sense.

This is never a good sign.

The point behind the certification I've been slogging through is to standardize an IT service delivery process. They hope to get all certified practitioners of said process to use a common set of tools and vocabulary.

Of course this vocabulary consists of LOTS of Acronyms. And, if you follow the steps of the first phase exactly (if you can figure out what these steps actually ARE), you will wind up with 4 or 5 seemingly unrelated deliverables with which you might be able to make a decision.

The point here is that this training neglected some key things (in my mind):

- A consistent context for the material. The training provided lots of examples, but the only thread holding them together was that they were IT projects. It would have been nice to see how the tools/vocabulary would be used across one example from start to finish.

- A reason for the importance the tools. This would have been provided by the context above.

- Focus. I think this is the fault of the actual certification. The certification divides the steps of building a service-oriented business into 5 phases. The problem lies when your business analysis processes are ready for phase 2, but your financial processes are in early stage 1. And all of it happens in parallel. I probably don't have this right, but it struck me that they were trying to crunch a series of unrelated tasks into the same model and timeline.

Of course, some things are designed to exclude. This particular certification has an 80% failure rate. Those who succeed are "special." And the screwy vocabulary and vague processes help maintain that level of exclusivity.

Interesting marketing strategy for something that is ostensibly supposed to help IT organizations.....


Mark Frank said...


Did I ever tell you I love to be called intelligent by non-anonymous people?

This certification sounds a lot like ITIL - although the jargon doesn't seem to match up so I guess it is different. I don't teach ITIL myself but I ran some instructor training for ITIL instructors last year.

You are right. If the certification is like ITIL then it is the core of the problem. It is essentially a test of being able to repeat definitions by rote. It reminds of doing Latin poetry back in the 60s. The exam consisted of providing English translations of a few well known pieces of Catullus and such like. The teacher abandoned all attempt to get us to understand the Latin. He just gave us English translations of everything that was likely to come up and told us to learn them. Then it just became a matter of recognising which translation to use. We got very good marks.

I decided that to provide any kind of value when teaching this process stuff you have to make a prodigous effort to relate it to the students' own experience and situation. Really hard to do via e-learning. Which is not to excuse the authors.

Wendy said...

Remember Mark - it is the certification that shall not be named ;)

You have hit the nail right on the head. It is a lot of rote memorization for no good reason or purpose.

I'm glad that it wasn't just me....