Lately I have been bombarded with well-meaning, intelligent, conscientious, motivated people asking me how they can get Black Belt certified.

They’re not in a Six-Sigma environment; they just want to be able to learn how to improve their processes more effectively.

So do they need to be a Black Belt?

Here’s what I usually tell them:

  • First, ask yourself why you want to be a Black Belt. Is it the piece of paper that will make you more marketable? You think having the title will make you more important? Is it that you want to be able to use the improvement tools? Will it improve your value at work? I’m not being facetious when I ask these questions – often the person has not completely thought through their motivation.
  • Then, ask whether Six Sigma, Lean, PMP, or other certification better fits your needs. Taking into consideration your work environment (present or potential), what would make you more of a contributor in that environment? For example, if you will never have the opportunity to do a Six Sigma project at work, is a Black Belt certification really going tobe worthwhile? And did you know that there’sa Green Belt level of certification?
  • Third, what is your time schedule like? How much time do you have to do this, and how long are you willing to put in the effort?
  • Fourth, what’s your financial situation? How much can you afford, or are you willing to pay, for the coursework and/or certification exam? And what about maintaining certification once you get it?
  • Fifth, what course and/or exam will provide the best value to you? There are thousands of companies and organizations offering certification, as it seems to be a money-maker in this era of high unemployment and economic uncertainty. You can practically buy a certificate (i.e. piece of paper) for a couple of hundred dollars. For some, that may be exactly what they want, because they already are familiar with the tools, and they want to be able totruthfully claim they are certified on their resume. For others, they may have no experience with process improvement, and may want to take a course as well as an exam.
  • Last, you may have to complete a project in order to obtain the certification. Does your work or home environment offer this opportunity? You may want to do some checking on that, before you select a certification provider.

Without trying to disparage anyone who wants to improve their skills in this area – we need all the process-improvers we can get, in my opinion – it makes sense for people to dosome analysis of their actual needs (customer CTQs, anyone???) and opportunities to use the skills, before paying money for something that will not help them to achieve their goals.

And, of course, the people who ask me about it are doing the smartest thing of all – talking to someone who’s already certified, in an effort to gather information!!!

Have any of you had this question posed, and how to you respond?

(And I already know you will all start with “it depends” so just respond as if that was a known part of your answer, thanks!)

About the Author