I have often noticed a disparity between the objectives of CXOs (C-level and top executives) and those of aspiring Six Sigma professionals. Look at your company’s goals for 2005. CXOs almost always express them in terms of financial targets for revenue growth, expense reduction or net income enhancement.

In contrast, ask any ambitious Six Sigma professional what their annual individual goals are, and you could hear an entirely different story: improve their business acumen, complete a personal development course or attain Black Belt certification.

With the best intentions, a Black Belt might see his or her goals as being aligned with the company’s. After all, being more effective in your role certainly contributes to the well-being of the organization. But just what is being more effective? Is it working longer hours? Or is it working smarter, instead of harder? Working smarter might require learning the use of new tools and methodologies. Perhaps that training course offered by an outside organization would be a good idea.

A diligent Black Belt soon discovers that some learning institutions have implemented Six Sigma “certifications” to help measure the competencies of individuals they are training. Would it be better for the company if our Black Belt had an official validation of Six Sigma expertise – certification?

It is easy to see how the aspiration of being more effective at work can be usurped by the easily quantified goal of obtaining certification. All too often on the iSixSigma discussion forums, I see individuals far too focused on certification. While I believe certification has its place in the careers of Six Sigma professionals, what really matters for practitioners and the company are the business results.

As you set individual goals for yourself for 2005, I challenge you to list specific measurable goals that tie directly to your company’s big Ys – the overriding metrics that your CXOs talk about at every employee meeting.

Apply the familiar Y=f(x) transfer function (Y=f(x) definition) to your annual personal goal-setting. If your company’s and CXOs’ goals are to grow revenues by $Ya or reduce expenses by $Yb, then you should be listing the specific financial goals $Xa and $Xb of your Black Belt projects that – when delivered this year – will directly help your organization meet its goals.

If certification is on the agenda this year, use it to determine how its requirements can benefit your business objectives, and how you can apply that training to impact your company’s bottom line. Certification must be the means to an end, not the end itself.

The achievement of Six Sigma certification can add to your professional status. But over the long-term, employers understand when judging the value of quality professionals, more is required than a stamp of approval. In the end, it is your record of achieving business results that will advance your career and fulfill your personal and professional goals.

Happy New Opportunities, everyone! I wish you a rewarding 2005.

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