KM Certification – one KM professional’s opinion
by Art Schlussel
I am one of few who have had the opportunity to take the KM certification courses offered by KMPro and KM Institute (KMI). I took the courses while I was creating the curriculum for a Masters level KM Elective Course at the Army War College, AY2009. I wanted to see how others were teaching KM.
- Note: This is the thread of a closed discussion on the KMedu Hub's LinkedIn group, slightly adjusted for privacy and readability issues. To view the discussion on LinkedIn you need to be a group member and logged in to LinkedIn.Some links in the discussion also lead to closed group discussions on LinkedIn.
In my opinion both the KMI and KMPro courses are similar. That's because they developed from the same basic course when KMI and KMPro were the same company. The difference is mainly stylistic and emphasis. KMI is more practical in approach with quite a few exercises. KMPro is more theory and discussion based in approach with lots of stories and anecdotes. Both courses are 5 days, but could be condensed down to three or four. Both provide the student a decent introduction to KM, theory, history, application, how to "sell" it, and some methodologies. I do think that KMI is better for someone with little to no background in KM because there are more exercises and practical examples discussed, however both courses would provide a novice a good overview of KM.
Now my thoughts on KM certification in general. I've had and continue to have ongoing converstations on this subject with Dr. Robert Neilson, the KM Advisor of the Army CIO/ G6, Joe Oebbecke, TRADOC CKO, and a host of others who are looking at ways to provide KM education and training to the DOD. There is a general consensus (I will provide what I think the consensus is and then provide my opinion) that the existing commercially available "certification" programs though useful to provide a basic level of KM training and education do not meet the rigorous standards to be considered true "certification" programs. Therefore the Army (and the other services) do not recognize the "certifications" beyond just realizing that the student has attended a KM training course. What is missing from these programs is the academic rigor (and associated competencies) that must be part of any certification development and sustainment process. Basically, KMI and KMPro are the "certification" boards, and that may be an issue with some organizations. The Army and DOD is looking at developing a true DOD KM CERTIFICATE Program that would run much like the CIO Certificate program at the at National Defense University. This program would have academic rigor and could lead to a masters degree. Notice I am calling it a "certificate program" not a "certification" as a true certification is much more difficult to create and sustain. This program, if it even happens, is still 2-3 years away. I went through a similar process when I was on the AIIM BOD and we were creating the AIIM training programs. It is much easier to create a real certificate program rather then a certification program as the latter requires a certification body, a body of knowledge, etc. that is then recognized and allowed to grant CEU's.
Overall, in my opinion save your money and don't get certified. Use available "free training" that is floating around Internet. Read books such as the Idiot's Guide to KM that we used as the base text book for the KM elective at the Army War College, join KM related groups and forums, take some college level KM courses, and ask experienced KMers for coaching and mentorship. If you are inclined to attending these "certification" classes (and they have "certified" hundreds of folks) just make sure you keep it all in context. Taking one of these courses and becoming certified does not make you a KM expert, does not replace KM experience, and is not the end of KM learning. Rather it is the beginning of your learning process.
Feel free to contact me with any question or comments.
Hello Art. It's interesting how some KM questions--including certification--keep cycling around year after year.
Statements such as "rigorous standards to be considered true 'certification' programs" frequently come up. We might make some progress by digging into these statements more.
We all know that KM work is highly contextual and wrapped up in the complexities of human and social systems. Yet we either cling to the hope of a 2+2=4 kind of approach in education, or we elevate ourselves to the bleeding edges of new sciences where we hope for some version of a scalable Theory of Everything. Neither works for a typical practitioner.
In 2000, when we were planning the graduate degree in KM at Royal Roads, the advisory board members wanted (rightfully in my view) to emphasize human and social elements of the field. There were technically focused elements, but they were positioned as flexible, responsive and driven by context. Fortunately at that time, the university had a list of institutional abilities, which ideally permeated all programs and courses to guide instructors and the evaluation process. These included themes such as critical thinking, the ability to work in diverse groups and communication skills. All courses bridged theory and practice; several assignments were learner-designed to fit with their professional contexts.
We did not hit the $/# goals (which were better suited to more mainstream programs such as leadership) and the program was dropped (one more person will probably graduate). However, there was some amazing learning, growth and exciting progress with projects in the real world.
Initially, the approval body that oversaw university degrees gave permission for an "MKM" professional degree, but we asked this be changed to an MA in KM because several learners wanted to move into related doctoral work.
This may sound like the kind of thing you are working towards or encouraging. But at the same time, I saw it as very different than certification. We spent much more time on "why" and a range of "how"s than on checklists of processes with reasonable predictable results. When I hear the word "rigor" I always wonder if the speaker or author is thinking of rigor in a quantitative, positivist kind of way (objectivity, scientific method, transferability to other contexts...), or whether qualitative measures of rigor (such as trustworthiness, reflexivity and prolonged work with clients/participants) are being considered instead or as well.
Perhaps we avoid these conversations because they can create a sort of hierarchy of practitioners (reflexive better than efficient; technical better than social; organic better than mechanical...or vice versa)?
There are standards for the accreditation of Masters programmes in the UK which address the issues of rigour discussed by previous contributors. Rigour is demonstrated through Masters level course plans - which are subject to external scrutiny of academics running similar programmes elsewhere, through the external scrutiny of the course in action, and through the moderation of the student outputs which are to a common standard.
In my experience Masters level work leads to an understanding of international and national trends as well as deep conceptual understanding of the area of knowledge. Short courses tend to support skill acquisition.
Hi Art - you have framed in a much more tactful way some of the arguments I have made over several years, and you have done it from the stronger position of having tasted the commercial offerings. This, and the topic you launched over at the CKO group are important steps in an important area - continue to keep the questions and contributions flowing!
"Taking one of these courses and becoming certified does not make you a KM expert, does not replace KM experience, and is not the end of KM learning. Rather it is the beginning of your learning process."
- Art, I could not agree more. Having been both a KM Manager and a KM consultant, I think the real learning happens when you are deeply immersed in a KM project in an organization, having to deal with the complexities around uncertain futures, human motivations and limited resources.
- Not that KM is equivalent to Six Sigma, but at least certification for the latter requires demonstrated experience and success in a real organizational environment. It takes a few years before you can be called an expert (Black Belt). I see some merit in their certification process.
T.J.T. on the linkedin CKO (Chief Knowledge Officers) Forum is asking for
- "The value of being a Certified Knowledge Manager"
- He is "currently considering enrolling in the Certified Knowledge Manager program at kminstitute.org and was wondering about the value of having this certification. To channel the discussion, [he is] interested in three primary perspectives, however, others are welcome as well.
- Career advancement in the KM career path or other leadership roles.
- The credibility it gives your current organization.
- User stories: How having the CKM certificate has impacted your career.
- Thanks in advance."
Raksha S. on the linkedin KM-Forum
- "would like to know about some professional certifications in Knowledge Management by authorized bodies (online or otherwise)."
In this thread certification and other educational opportunities in KM are suggested. Further the issue of accreditation of KM certification is discussed.
"... there is nothing wrong in receiving certificates for attending a course or for being certified or accredited ... What we need to avoid is the nonsensical practice of certifying KM and awarding pretentious titles ..." (David Gurteen's thoughts on KM certification: http://tinyurl.com/y9yp8st )
KM education and training is essential to the propagation of KM approaches, methodologies, and techniques. That training can be gain be self-study, mentorship, higher education course work, or by KM courses taught by KM professionals. There is however a big difference between a certificate and a certification, and that is where I take issue. Of course you can and should be awarded a certificate of completion of a course to show that you attended and achieved a milestone in continuing education. This is even more true if you spend money in taking the course; you want something to show for your efforts (beyond your new found knowledge) and somthing you can point to on your resume or job appraisal. But certification, that's another thing. Certified by whom and for what? Taking a 5 day course in KM does not make you a KM Professional. Where is the experience requirement or the demonstration of skill, or the ability to transfer your knowledge to others? The KM "certification" courses do serve a purpose, but I wish they would change the name to a KM "certificate" course. It really gets me going when I see additional "certifications" on top of the basic certification. Earning a CKM is debatable, but becoming a MCKM or PCKM is laughable. It's just made up in my opinion, and serves no purpose other than to confuse thoughs who are pursuing a KM education. I have not seen any evidence in the workplace that those certifications carry any weight in hiring or promotion. What does have weight is the tangible evidence you provide that you have had success doing KM related work. So Boris has it right (as usual), as does Gurteen, and Lambe, and others who share this viewpoint. By all means feel free to take one of the certification courses. They are worthwhile and do transfer good KM knowledge and do provide a decent foundation on which to build. Just know what you are "buying" and understand it is just a beginning not an end.
Art, I am not against certification but against the current state of certification (organization, content, provider practices, transperency), especially the accreditation issue is a major problem. KM certification must be accredited by the professional communities, employers and national institutions by an independent body. This is why I want to establish IKMEAA, the Indepenent KM Education Accreditation Authority (https://kmeduhub.org/) ...
If accredited I also have no problem with the different certification titles. On the contrary, as gaining degrees through training is often the only chance for people who do not meet university entry requirements. And "Certified ..." sounds more professionally accredited than "Certificate in ..." on a CV.
When we talk about titles we also need to talk about the titles gained from universities in general. Here the situation of accreditation is similar, not that bad but similar. There are huge differences between the same level degrees. Sure the universities and sometimes their programs are accredited by national bodies but it makes a difference from which university you gain a degree. I guess this situation also applies to university degrees in the field of KM. Do you laugh on these degrees when you even can buy a BSc, Master, or PhD degree in KM (see http://www.wilsonstateuniversity.com/)
To improve the organization of KM certification I opened a new thread here in the group with my thoughts. You're invited to join the discussion
How to organize KM certification offered by training providers? http://tinyurl.com/yc4ozoz
Art, to be honest I think most accreditation programs are more about power-struggles than quality. It is a way to form a closed guild to keep the plebs out – whoever is considered to be the plebs by those that have the upper hand at the moment.
I would far rather have us figure out how to form a CoP of KM professionals than trying to erect obstacles to outsiders – in fact, I might even stick my neck out here and suggest that we actively tear down such hurdles and ban accreditation as a “club membership” test.
Yes Matthew, IKMEAA (https://kmeduhub.org/) will become the CoP you're talking about.
As it is with the universities and thier programs accreditation of the training providers and their programs and training is a necessity.
Regards from Germany, Boris
"Do anybody else here have experience or knowledge about KM certification programmes? A google search refers to KMPro and their certifications and training programmes. Is this state of the art? Should one simply adapt their material and certification tests (if possible)? Or are there other, more influential organisations that we should partner up with? "
(from Peter, KM4Dev discussion group, 18.02.2010)
An other current discussion on KM certification with statements from Dave Snowden, a forward-looking thinker and experienced proffessional in the field of KM (not to title him as a guru) and valuable insights of sutudents who did KM institute's certification (To be fair, I have to say that they did the certification some time ago, things could have been changed).
Link: http://tinyurl.com/m53scx (search the 'KM certification' discussion tread, date: Feb 2010)
Just discovered, that when you do a KMPro certification you actually get a certification from Hudson Knowledge Associates because
"The designations "Certified Knowledge Management Professional (CKMP)"(tm) and CKMP® and "Master Certified Knowledge Management Professional (MKMP)"(tm) and MKMP® are trademarks owned by Hudson Assoicates Consulting, Inc. and licensed to the Knowledge Management Professional Society, Inc. (KMPro), ... The designations "Certified Knowledge Manager (CKM)"(tm) and "Certified Knowledge Manager"(tm) and "CKM®" and "CKM Instructor (CKMI) ®" and "CKMI ®" and Certified Knowledge Leader (CKL)"® and "CKL"® are registered trademarks [also owned by Hudson Assoicates Consulting, Inc. and] licensed to KMPro. " (source: footer of the KMPro website http://www.kmpro.org/)
I thought it is the other way round. Oh my Gosh, that's not funny anymore.
Boris, isn't it amazing that one of the core principles of KM is openess and encouraging knowledge sharing rather than knowledge hoarding - and here we have somebody hoarding the very designations themselves!
I sure hope "Director, Enterprise Knowledge Management" doesn't belong to them, or I may be in trouble or owe them royalties ;)
I know it's not funny but I gotta laugh. It is all Dr. Dan Kirsch.
Matthew, you're going into the right direction. However, I have no problem if a professional association sells their licences to someboady else. I would even respect the other way round if the professional association offering the certification isn't dominated by the licensor what in fact is the case with KMPro and Hudson Assoicates Consulting, Inc.. This consulting is misusing the good faith of people who think they'll get a certification from a popular professional association. Only if you read the small print and if you konow about who is who people would know that in fact they don't get a certificate from KMPro but Hudson Assoicates Consulting, Inc. which is making the profit.
All this without takling about the course content. I have no idea if it is good or bad but when I see this practice (and this is not the only one) I am in doubt. Is such a provider capable to communicate a topic where the main principles are all about trust, fairness, empathy and the like? I guess no.
Yes Art, since some time you get also KMPro (aka Hudson Assoicates Consulting, Inc.) when you buy eKnowledgeCenter.
I did the KM Institute certification training around 2 ½ years ago at the Malaysian Institute of Management in Kuala Lumpur. I wasn't really interested in a "KM certification" at all, I just had a respective training budget to spend and wanted to get a professional perspective on the field from outside my usual peers.
It was mostly conducted (and presumably developed) by one single trainer, therefore I’m a bit hesitant to give a normative (and inevitably subjective) review on the training. In general, one just needs to be prepared for what one gets: A set of knowledge and tools from one particular (but nonetheless valid) perspective of the KM world with an abundance of interesting experiences from that perspective. Several methodologies and tools which were presented I didn’t agree with or did not find useful, however, there are several knowledge pieces and principles which I found to be very valuable and true in my work, and until today I sometimes draw on them for strategic guidance.
As it often happens with training programmes where the trainers spend more time on training than on actually working day-to-day in the area they train about, there wasn’t any reference (or even awareness) to current developments of, lets say the last 2-3 years. So in 2007, there was no mentioning of Communities of Practice, networking, bottom-up/peer-to-peer learning, wikis or Web 2.0 technology.
But for that, you learn most by just participating in respective KM communities anyway where users discuss the latest trends and tools.
And of course, if one expects to be a "Knowledge Manager" after 5 days, just because he/her got a paper from some company with "certified" on it, then I would seriously question his/her overall judgement and therefore suitability for the field ;-)
Thanks, Johannes for your valuable insights.
To be fair one has to say that things may have changed since 2007 but who knows. Really, no word about Communities of Practices? As for the Web 2.0 tools I would like to mention that KM Institute currently is involved in KMers.org, conducting twitter chats
"#KMers began as an idea by Robert Swanwick to give the members of the Knowledge Management Institute's network another way to collaborate." (Source: http://www.kmers.org/book/past-and-future-kmersorg)
So maybe people will get to know such Web 2.0 tools during the certification workshop, too.
Boris and Johannes,
Johannes, in all fairness, maybe you somehow missed the CoP content, such as two of the 50 modules comprising the entire course, namely:
- Enrich Communities – Fundamentals
- Abstract: Communities defined including types (helping, best practice, knowledge stewarding, and innovation), organizational objectives, and crucial and organizational characteristics by type. Keys to success and knowledge transfer characteristics studied as well as community archetypes.
- Enrich Communities – Methodology
- Abstract: The methodology to create/enrich communities studied. Proven step-by-step process disclosed. (Based on Defense Acquisition University research and publications)
However, I do appreciate your comment, "there are several knowledge pieces and principles which I found to be very valuable and true in my work, and until today I sometimes draw on them for strategic guidance."
When all is said and done, such "K Nuggets" sometimes make the difference between success and failure.
As for not agreeing with or not finding some parts useful, that is the challenge that Alice has alluded to here and discussed elsewhere.
As for me spending all my time training and not practicing, my KM experience dates to when I developed the KBase Tool for a DoD think tank in 1994 and had the commercial title of Chief Knowledge Engineer at Northrop Grumman (now USD30B) in 1995 and have done much consulting since then. Maybe that's where I got the "abundance of interesting experiences," you mention.
But, yes, we do go lightly on every new KM technology (wikis, Twitter, etc.) assuming as you do that those are better experienced than lectured on, except unusual ones folks need to know about but can't easily experience such as text analytics and today's version of ecxpert systems called "Learning Agents" for the k flight issue.
Thank you for your comments.
Art Schlussel et al.: KM Certification – one KM professional’s opinion. LinkedIn group ‘Knowledge Management Education (KMedu) Hub’, 12/2009