Do you remember when the best thing you could do for your technical career was get a Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer (MCSE) certification from Microsoft?  Or how, as technical managers, we scoured job boards for this coveted resume ornament?  A very coveted modern technical certification is the CCIE certification from Cisco; this specific certification sets one apart and indicates a mastery of specific Cisco products. Nearly every industry has some focus on certification. All of these organizations and certifications have value for their respective industries and I believe their  intended  purpose is to promote growth and development both personally and organizationally.  What is missing from all of these?  What focus needs to be added that will really make the difference? While all of these certifications would increase the knowledge of the individual obtaining them, do they motivate the recipient, or those around them to do the right thing?  What if we had a GPTDTRT certification: Get People To Do The Right Thing!  Or maybe ECB, Effective Culture Builder certification.  Marketing  is not my strength, so we can agree the name needs some work, but you get the point.

I am currently studying for a healthcare IT leadership certification.  The process of obtaining this certification, I believe, will increase my overall knowledge of healthcare IT and provide me with additional industry credibility.  But will it help me promote my mission and vision to a point where my team is willing to go into battle with and for me as their leader, every day?  How do you build a culture of excellence that every member buys into?  How do you measure that culture?

There are several books to help answer the first question above of how to build an excellent culture.  Good to Great  by  James Collins, is a very good example of this type of book.  Regardless of which book or process an organization tries to model itself after, the idea is to pick one and go after it with all your organizational might!  Anything less than “all in” will fail, mediocrity will not work in this case.  How do you measure it though?  I recently participated in a “Best Places to Work in Healthcare IT” survey.  The questions in this survey start to come close in terms of trying to measure culture.  As a leader wouldn’t you be very proud of being on a best places to work list? I imagine the pride that accompanies this would outweigh the pride of any individual certification achieved.  Imagine that you build or participate in such a culture that your team says, “THIS PLACE ROCKS!”  To confess, we did not make the list.  I look at this as motivation, not motivation to make a list, but motivation to create a great culture.

I once had a college professor who taught me a significant lesson.  Every semester we would ask him how to get an “A” in this class.  Finally ,after a few years of pestering, he threw up his hands in frustration and made a profound statement, “Don’t worry about the grade,  worry about learning the material.  If you study and learn the material very well, the grade will come.”  This principle can apply to many circumstances, but it is very relative to this topic.  How important is a certificate if it just hangs on the wall.  Certifications should be designed as a means, not an end. A means to get someone to make a difference with this newfound knowledge.  If you obtain an industry certification, congratulations, great job.  I would encourage you to take it one step further.  Use that certification in context of the following three questions:

1. On a scale of 1 to 10, how likely are you to recommend t o  a friend  or family member that they come work at our company?


2. If you gave a score of 8 or less, what would need to change in order for your answer to be a 9 or 10?


3. How willing are you to bring your responses to question #2  to  the leaders in your company and then work along side them to impact change?

A certified culture for the sake of certification is comprised of individuals with a lot of knowledge, and with that knowledge that organization can accomplish much.  A culture that can leverage a certification to foster creativity and innovation can, do I dare say, change the world.  I recently heard someone say that those who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are usually the ones who do.  And you thought you were just getting a certification.  Think bigger!  Dream bigger!


  1. Lisa Leibig | Reply

    I would say that your questions 1, 2, and 3 are relevant in greater contexts. I love that third question – that’s the catch, isn’t it… how willing are you to be the change agent?

  2. Bone Slade | Reply

    This is a very good and challenging article, Bill. It asks several insightful questions for the reader to consider, as the agent of change. I’m proud to know you, brother!

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