iSixSigma

In your original Six Sigma vision there were no career Black Belts, but now there are some. Is this bad?

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Personally speaking, I agree with all your points – and many others that are not specifically called out.  For example, it is my humble opinion that the recent trend of certifying Black Belts (not excluding Green Belts) has the potential to alienate the various roles of Six Sigma from the pressing needs of a corporation.

The attempt to certify Black Belts is like trying to certify heroes.  We bestow medals and commendations upon a hero, not a certificate of knowledge.  Today’s corporations want the stuff from which heroes are made, not the stuff that establishes tenure, seniority, or implicit rank.

Beyond mechanistic knowledge, corporations need vision and direction – at all levels.  Corporations need people who can provide leadership, vision, and direction.  So how do you certify leadership?  How do you certify vision?  How do you certify initiative?  Granted, you can certify factual knowledge (at least to some extent).  But is it possible to certify the ways and means by which such knowledge is interacted to form a “tsunami of reasoning?”  Especially the type of reasoning that brings huge sums of cash to the bottom line, or the type of reasoning that brings about a significantly heightened sense of customer satisfaction.

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When reasoning is archetypal, it is called “common sense.”  In contrast, some people have “extraordinary sense.”  It is often quite easy to recognize superior reasoning, but can it be certified?  In the final analysis, only the latter will consistently produce breakthrough.  Obviously, this is what business leaders want, not people who are good at “passing written exams” that are based on statistical knowledge, discipline specific terminology, and hypothetical examples.

On the surface, the idea of “certification by examination” is quite appealing – especially for those that are individual contributors with an organization.  It provides a means of differentiation, as well as distinction.  However, it also emblazons a person with the brand of static knowledge.  Of course, once a static body of knowledge has been “sanctified” by a professional society, the roles, responsibilities, and capabilities are preordained.  In this regard, certification is a good thing for such occupations as engineers, lawyers, and physicians – as the locus and focus of their roles is relatively static. 

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For Six Sigma practitioners, the long-term effect of professional certification may likely be their own demise.  This happens when business executives stereotype the nature of a discipline as being “limited,” owing to a static base of knowledge.  For example, the discipline of statistics is not known as a prime breeding ground for business leaders.  Of course, the same can be said for quality engineers, but to a lesser extent.  Could it be that the base of knowledge now imprisons their future? 

It can also be said that the certification of knowledge leads to a stagnate curriculum.  Of course, once the curriculum has been fixed, it is then possible (and very likely) that instructors will begin “teaching to the test.”  To this end, I often reflect on the distinction between “training” and “education.”  As many would say, sex education is always a good thing, but sex training is quite another.  Business executives need people who have been trained.  They need people who can deliver “certifiable results,” not an acceptable test score — people capable of configuring, shaping, and applying knowledge – not just reciting it.

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