Qualifications or Achievement?

I am often asked whether I would ever consider linking the Progressive Managers’ training to an external qualification such as a management NVQ or similar.  There are several reasons why I resist this.

I work best with managers who are interested in developing their practice – not theory.  Managers who want to make things happen and achieve outstanding results.  Not managers who want to spend time sharing their thoughts on case studies and texts or preparing evidence of what they can do for an assessor.

Most learning does not happen in the workshops that I run. It happens when people go back to the workplace and start to follow the recipes and routines that they have been taught.  I know that what I teach is useful, practical and effective.  I also know that the best results are obtained when managers take what I teach, apply it and then develop it based on their own experience, context and culture.  It is only those that apply what I teach and learn from it that should be recognised.  Not anyone who happens to show up for training.

Why pay an awarding body or an assessor to make judgements about what you know and can do?  Let your results speak for themselves.  Focus on being recognised by your peers, reports and your boss as an outstanding manager who achieves outstanding results – both in terms of performance and people development.  As long as you keep your CV up to date with clear descriptions of what you have achieved you will be as attractive to a future employer as any MBA.

I know very few people that really trust management qualifications.  Management qualifications are increasingly becoming devalued.  The qualifications are poor proxies for what someone can actually do.  Do any serious recruiters really pay much attention to whether you have an NVQ level 4 in Operational Management or not?  Certainly not the ones that I talk with!

This devaluation is partly because assessment, although expensive in time and effort, is very weak.  Having a qualification is, in my experience, no guarantee that you can achieve results as a manager.

The complexity of most management qualification structures does not help either.  Nearly all have a ‘core and options’ structure that means Sherlock Holmes might struggle to understand from a qualification what you know and can do.  Indeed in the UK if you look up management qualification there are over 400 recognised on the National Database of accredited qualifications.

Now please don’t get me wrong.  There are some great managers who have worked hard to get qualifications.  The problem is that there are also many average and poor managers who have the same qualifications.  If you want to make a positive difference and develop a successful career then focus on developing your practice – not picking up qualifications.

And if you are one of those good managers with the qualifications then don’t rely on the qualification to make you stand out from the crowd.  Emphasise the responsibilities that you have held and what you have achieved in relation to those responsibilities.  If you are a good manager then this will get you recognised by your bosses, peers and recruiters.


  1. Good post Mike, I too have a similar resistance to accreditation etc, as it is often there to satisfy a funder’s requirement for accountability rather than a real desire to improve standards.

  2. lee jackson says:

    I totally agree. Qualifications do not mean that you can cut the mustard on the shop floor, as it were! Great stuff Mike

  3. As someone who trained and practiced as a teacher – and then spent several years developing NVQs for a number of lead bodies I get really angry when I see just what a horlicks the bureaucrats manage to make of a really promising educational approach. Hey ho! My New Years resolution is ‘No more ranting’!

    Thanks for the comments!

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