Certifications have existed from time immemorial and have provided a sense of ‘tested and found to be up to scratch’ feeling for mankind. When one is groping in the dark for making a choice amongst several options, the option that is ‘certified’ offers relief comparable to manna from heaven.
Businesses – corporations if you will – have relied on certifications (diplomas, degrees, membership and other credentials) to select employees to work for them. This has resulted – especially in the field of technology – in the mushrooming of ‘institutions’ and professional (!) bodies that hand out certificates like candies to kids. Elaborate and clever formulae have been devised to hand out these certificates even to people who do not have the basic skills – for example, a criteria that accepts hundred hours of working near a computer as a substitute for knowing how to use the computer!
But, where the certification process reaches its pinnacle is in certifying the company itself. This has been a master coup in the corporate world that has grown in strength in this century. There are independent bodies – and approved agencies, to boot – who will test and certify your compliance to standards (sound familiar?), all for a convenient fee of course. There are bewildering acronyms, with bizarre numbers attached at the end for telling effect, to make these stamps of approval look super impressive – ISO 9001, SOC 2 Type II, Six Sigma and anything else you can dream of.
Obtaining these credentials are symbols of prestige for some organizations but for many others it is a matter of survival. Not having these labels attached to your company name immediately puts you in the dog house and excludes you from doing business with 99% of the companies who anyway need your products but are not allowed to get these from your company because of – you guessed it – their own certifications! It is a vicious circle of I-cannot-win-but-will-not-let-you-win.
The beauty of many of the certification drama, I mean process, is that they don’t tell you what you should do but point out a million things that you are not doing in your company! They beat around the bush ad infinitum and tell you that your organization should have processes and controls in place to ensure checks and balances. The desire to jump out of the window on the 10th floor is not uncommon during (even, after) the certification exercise.
In summary, certification of compliance is another clever ploy invented by the masters of the corporate world to keep a category of people perpetually employed.