Tuesday, December 15, 2015

An open letter to ATD and the ATD CI


In your letter to CPLPs on 12/1 you asked for questions and feedback. I had hoped that these might be conducted in an open forum where our Community of Practice might engage in a wide ranging conversation. As you have clearly made the decision not to engage in that conversation I have to send this directly to you.

However please be aware that I will be posting this and your response in the thread that has over 150 comments from over 2 dozen people.

I’ll start with my feedback.

I was attracted to the CPLP because of the 2 part structure of the certification process. The way I have shared this with employers, fellow ATD members and potential candidates is that the first part proved that I knew what best practice in my profession looked like and to some extend how and when to apply it. The nature of the KE questions being mostly situations requiring responses rather than simply recall of facts lent strength to the applicability of it. But it was the Work Product submission that added in the proof that I have applied those best practices in real life.

Part 1 proves I COULD use best practice
Part 2 proves I HAVE used it.

And in a nutshell that is where I see the problem. Although you say that an online case study can “effectively measures real-world application of skills” it can only prove that you COULD and not that you HAVE.

I fundamentally believe that this is  downgrade of the credential.

I understand the difficulties that existed with the existing setup. Anyone involved with the CPLP community can’t help to be aware of how learning professionals feel about the level of feedback provided to them when they submit and either pass or fail. However our community is full of some really bright folks who have shown their commitment to the professional and would be happy to work with the CI to improve this. When this first ‘leaked’ in early October I spent 30 minutes with half a dozen chapter leader CPLP colleagues and we came up with several ways worth exploring to improve the process. And that was just a few of us over some drinks. Our community is a great resource and one that it appears you have chosen to ignore.

This brings me to my second point, the change management process. When dealing with a group as  passionate and who have made such a large investment of time, effort and money it was surely no surprise when we reacted the way we did. If it was then I respectfully suggest that the leadership of the CI needs to get to know it’s community a bit better. Every Change Management process I’ve ever encountered talks about the vital importance of communication with key stakeholders and time and time again on this and other things that impact us, ASTD , then ATD and the CI have failed to do so, despite multiple opportunities.

In only 4 years , since I deepened in my commitment to my profession and involvement with my professional association there have been 3 occasions where changes that have significant impact have been presented as fait accompli.

  • In 2013 when the competency model was revamped ASTD chose to lose the ‘Workplace Learning & Performance’ format from not only the model name but from the entire ASTD ecosystem. This was not announced to key stakeholders such as Chapter Leaders and the CPLP community, but instead this was done without letting anyone know. We discovered it when we first saw the new name for the model and then saw that it was being scrubbed from all ASTD web pages. - You know that angered a whole bunch of people.
  • The irony here is that there was absolutely no need to do so because you already had the big name change in the works. Something that again was communicated to key stakeholders in the communities as the done deal it was. Chapter leaders in that case who were being asked to take on massive amounts of change in the chapters they run.
  • And then this year with the fundamental shift in the direction and value of the certification being snuck in behind the backs of the very people who have shown the biggest commitment to the profession and the certification. I realize the emotional level in that choice of wording, but when the Director of Certification for a chapter where this is being piloted only finds out through rumor and back channel, there can be no surprise that we feel that we are being deliberately excluded from conversations about our certification

So that is my feedback now a few questions.
  1. What other options to improve the certification process were discussed and who within the CPLP community did you involve in those discussion? (I don’t see them included in “In consultation with the ATD Certification Institute Board of Directors, psychometricians, and testing experts, an online case study approach was selected”.)
  1. As this is such a deep and fundamental change to the certification, how will those who certified against the original, more stringent, criteria be recognized?
  1. Why were these proposed changes hidden from Chapter leaders when Tony presented slides on changes to the CPLP?
  1. Why were these proposed changes again hidden from Chapter Leaders in the chapter leader update email sent this very week?
  1. Why, despite repeated invitations, have you refused to engage with the CPLP community in the LinkedIn forum? 
  1. Why, as a chapter leader, should I try and encourage people to go through the CPLP certification process that I consider significantly devalued.
  1. Why as a chapter leader should I continue giving my time, energy and effort to a chapter of a national association that appears to treat it’s members as simply sources of income?
  1. Why should I even retain my membership of the Association?

I look forward to hearing your reply.


  1. Very well stated, Alan. I look forward to the response (if you get one). All of this is very disheartening. It's bad enough that our voices simply weren't considered due to a critical lapse in judgment. What's worse is the creeping feeling that we are being actively ignored and deliberately excluded from the process. I tend to assume matters like this are simply honest (if still significant) mistakes, though if that's the case they must address our concerns transparently and take serious steps to change.

  2. Great letter, Alan. I would NOT hold my breath for a response from them. I'm afraid that the ASTD of old is gone. Gone are the days that those of us whose focus is learning and performance improvement have a channel where they can improve their skills and knowledge. ATD has chosen to abandon us and go after a larger market with more available $$. I'm truly saddened by the fact that we have lost a valuable resource for our chosen career and SHRM has gained a competitor. In my humble opinion they have forsaken the Learning and Performance field and chosen to go after SHRM directly. To try to weasel in to more $$ and members rather than concentrate on their niche and support the members and chapters who have made them who they were in the past.

    They will lose. SHRM has a larger, more affluent, member base as recruiting and retention tends to have larger budgets than training and performance. SHRM has the resources and support already in place that ATD has not even thought about making available to their membership. ATD does not have the people, or the experience they need to succeed in the HR world that they think they are ready to take on. Since the name and focus change, ATD has clearly abandoned supporting their chapters as well as stopped listening to them. My personal projection is that unless they start making major changes to refocus their business on the people who have supported them, ATD will cease to exist or be squished by SHRM within a 3 year window. I know that my 2016 membership dues are going to SHRM rather than ATD.

    I've been fighting the change in focus for two years...I'm done fighting for an organization that no longer cares about me or my goals and only cares about their membership fees and selling me stuff (oh for the days when ASTD emails actually contained valuable information I could use, rather than the current constant barrage of ads for ATD courses and materials).

  3. Yes Alan, while I really want to hear a reply from Jennifer, I won't hold my breath. That seems to be the new ATD order. However, rather than SHRM, another alternative organization (that is actually an ATD partner) is the former Canadian Society for Training and Development, and newly branded Institute for Performance and Learning. Yes, it's a Canadian organization, and yes, they recently rebranded without direct member input, but notice that the word "Learning" is still in their name. I have only been a member for a couple of months, but feel The Institute is what the ATD might have been in an alternate universe where they included member concerns, or at least common sense, or just plain cared. Just a thought.