Sometimes, there is a semantic gap between what is being asked for and what is truly desired which requires taking a closer look at things. This is our story of such an experience and how we were able to find a win-win solution for all involved.
The market for certifications related to software development methods and productivity techniques is very robust. In reality, rather than serving as a true certification of skills or ability, the majority of such certifications are interesting courses taught by expert teachers who provide training or advice on how to improve the usage and application of the methods and techniques.
Despite the ambiguous use of the term certification, such courses are attractive to many people.
Over the past year, the Pomodoro Team has received several emails by users requesting different types of certification on the Pomodoro Technique.
Considering the ambiguity of the term certification, we wondered why there was so much interest in a possible Pomodoro Technique Certification Program. Not because the Pomodoro Technique does not have skills that can be certified - the ability to reduce estimation errors, knowing how to build an effective daily work environment without multi-tasking through a daily schedule that can adapt over time, knowing how to organize tasks effectively, both individually and in a team - but because the Pomodoro Technique book was written in a way that was intended to enable practitioners to easily do a self-assessment and self-certification.
In fact, the technique is based on five incremental objectives that one needs to attain in order to reach the sixth; that of achieving personal defined objectives and improvements. The intended path is: You work on a single objective, then assess whether you have successfully achieved it or not based on the criteria presented in the book. If you have, then you move on to the next objective. If not, you continue working on the current one until you do. You do not skip ahead to the next objective until you have successfully completed the previous one. Thus, in this way, you are able to assess and certify yourself.
The ability for one to do a self-assessment and self-certification was my test of the technique when writing the Pomodoro Technique book. In fact, it took several months of writing in order to reach this goal.
In short, from a methodological point of view, it was not clear why people were asking for certification. Wanting training or help in applying the technique was understandable. However, since I had written the technique in a way that enabled people to certify themselves, the reason why people were asking for certification was not so clear.
Thus, the fact that we were receiving such frequent requests for certification seemed both unusual and interesting at the same time.
First problem: Were the requests for certification a declaration of a failed test? :-)
In order to make sure that we truly addressed people's needs, we wanted to understand the value of a Pomodoro Certification for those who were asking for it.
My team began to gently and direct ask the people who had requested certification what they wanted.
Second problem: The results showed evasive and unclear answers.
In methodological terms, the situation was clearly intriguing.
On the one hand, we wanted to satisfy those who were asking us for certification and understand what their needs were.
On the other hand, we wanted to help people save money and get what they were truly asking for. Especially if the way I had written the technique was able to provide them with this on their own.
Even though people were asking for certification, perhaps this did not truly represent their needs... If this wasn’t their need, then there was an opportunity to improve our service offering, perhaps even the Pomodoro Technique itself.
Pom3, the third version of our websites and service offering, was just coming to life anyway.
It was evident that we had to find a different language in order to establish a dialogue with the people requesting certification.
We wanted to figure out a win-win solution that would allow us to understand the real needs of the requests that we were receiving and how to maximize their value.
In addition to being useful, the solution should, at the same time, allow us to do something fun.
Since people were looking for a Pomodoro Certification, we would give them a full-fledged Pomodoro Certification Program to take a look at. Then, we could try talking to them about it again.
The idea of a Certified Pomodoro Master was irresistible for us :-) and we came up with several other intriguing ideas.
We knew that the intention was good. Plus, the Pomodoro Team likes to learn by playing.
I asked the team to create a series of Certifications in a professional manner, following the standards, names, descriptions, programs, regulations, prices currently in the market (and the best are the software ones :-)).
I wanted everything to seem as professional as possible and to mirror the best certification programs available on the market.
The team took care of every detail with great attention: from the analysis to the interviews conducted with real reviewers.
Everything except for the calendars, of course. :-)
We were certain of one thing. We would never give these Certifications with such content, descriptions, programs and regulations :-).
So, where would we end up? We didn’t know yet...
We launched a new version of our site, along with the "fake" Certification Catalogue.
Within a couple of days, everything changed: those who were interested began talking to us and answering our questions.
The Pomodoro Team was now asking for information and the people being interviewed were speaking directly with us.
In offering a Certification, we were on the same wavelength, based on the specific needs that people were now telling us that they would like to be addressed through Certification.
So, why were these people asking for information on Certification?
Now it was clear:
- Many were asking for Certification only because they trusted me or because they had already attended other courses of mine. To all of you: Thank you for your trust! I hope you understand why our responses about the dates and details were a bit evasive.
- Many sought the possibility to share their positive experience with us, plus how they were able to achieve the same results within their families, at work, or with other people. Wonderful!
- Many were looking for training because they were not sure if they were applying the technique well in their specific case (as a mother, team member, etc.) or because they want to learn the technique more directly from me, or so they could be able to teach the technique properly in delicate contexts such as with children who have attention deficit disorder or other similar conditions.
- Many people also wanted to do business with the Pomodoro Technique.
- Others wanted an official recognition.
- Many wanted to learn from my many years of experience on how to improve teams and how to introduce the Pomodoro Technique and other tools in a team environment.
- Several others were interested in the idea of achieving personal improvement objectives (the sixth objective of the technique) and wanted a direct relationship with me so that they had a chance to discuss it and receive advice.
In other words, there was no real need for an official Pomodoro Certification.
Perhaps now that the true needs were finally expressed and a dialogue had been established, they would be achievable in a simple and less costly way for everyone.
The Pomodoro Team and I realized that we would need to change much of our site and our organization if we wanted to meet the needs that had been clearly exposed. But these would be fun and valuable pomodoros.
We began to think about and work on a series of changes that would allow us to realize the needs expressed by Pomodoro Practitioners.
Pom3 was now in its production phase. New ways to communicate and share experiences through Pomodoro World, new courses, free training events and meet-ups, and a series of notes to help those who wanted to improve their use of the technique. Since the name was cute, we decided to keep the Pomodoro Master Certification, but make it clear that it is a free, self-certification.
The most important lesson was that we needed to find a fun, imaginative way to communicate effectively with Pomodoro Technique users and fans to find, together, a win-win solution for everyone.
Many will think, and have even said :-), that we could create a good business with the certifications since they have been requested. However, thanks to our mutual interaction, we are now convinced that we can offer something that is truly useful for all. If it's not, tell us! :-)
The most gratifying result for a methodologist is to see one's technique applied successfully by the widest number of people possible, with minimal strain and cost for all. Otherwise, what kind of technique for improving productivity is it?