Sensei Certification?

A lot of my conversations recently have centered around certification for lean. Coming from colleagues who started in Six Sigma as a Green Belt or Black Belt, it seems “natural” that when you add lean facilitation to your skills, you could get certified in lean, too.

But, as I understand it, the traditional path for lean practitioners has been based more on experience and expertise than certification. The concept of taking a test and getting certified as a lean leader seems not to fit the philosophy as I have learned it (so far!)

Is there a move to create a lean certification, either for facilitators or senseis, similar to the Green Belt / Black Belt / Master Black Belt model? If so, does it require a project as part of the certification? And, what is the title that you end up with?

I know there are “lean facilitator” certificates offered by a variety of universities and vendors. I’ve even seen an ad for “Lean Six Sigma Sensei” certification. How about “Lean Greenbelt, Lean Blackbelt, and Lean Masterblackbelt?” “Lean Expert?”

I’m also starting to see classified ads for positions that read “Master Black Belt / Lean Sensei certification required.”

So is there a new push for “Sensei certification?” Or is that just wishful thinking on the part of people who like to collect letters after their names?

Inquiring minds want to know!

Comments 6

  1. Pete Abilla

    I’d shy away from any Lean Certifications. I understand that a whole industry has sprung-up touting these things, but few of whom are credible or trustworthy.

    I advise working at a company that has a strong Lean program, preferably with roots to Toyota and learn, practice, and learn more.

    A "Lean Certificate" really doesn’t mean anything. I’ve interviewed candidates with all sorts of "certifications" but when pressed during the interview, all the paper credentials didn’t matter at all.

  2. TracyD

    The Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME) the AME and the Shingo Prize partnered to set up certification for Lean Practitioners that is consistent with lean – they don’t tell you how to learn it, but there is a knowledge test at three levels (Bronze, Silver, Gold) – and for each level you submit a portfolio of 5 projects that demonstrate what you have done with your lean knowledge – and there is a requirement for reflecting on the portfolio.

    There are other certifications by consulting companies but this one is growing in acceptance as the standard and is internationally recognized. I did mine in Canada.

  3. IHD-BB

    The Department of Navy has worked with ASQ to develop a combination Lean/Six Sigma BB certification process. The BB certification requires knowledge (passing a 150 question exam that covers a fairly extensive body of knowledge) and application of knowleddge (affadavits for successfully completing projects and Kaizen/RIE events) .

  4. Sue Kozlowski

    Thanks to all for your responses. I agree with Pete that some people claiming to be certified have not met any rigorous standard of competency. I’ve seen this in the Black Belt world many times, so when hiring I ask careful questions about the source of certification, as well as projects the person has been responsible for. The answers are often illuminating.

    Thanks, TracyD, for info about the SME/AME/Shingo collaboration, and to IHD BB for the comment about the Navy program. I see that more certification programs are being called "Lean Six Sigma" rather than just "Six Sigma." I’m even comfortable with "Lean Facilitator" or "Lean Practitioner" types of programs.

    Still not sure about "Sensei certification," however – shouldn’t this title of respect come from those you work with, rather than a certifying body? Just wondering!

  5. Greg

    Stay away from programs that say lean six sigma or/and so call ” Lean Mills” like lean sensei and TBM, but most of all the company’ own lean programs
    I would really look at who the instructors are and where they came from.
    There are so many lean frauds that make my job harder to gain the trust of future clients
    To be an true sensei.. You need years and years of practical experience

  6. Sue Kozlowski

    Greg makes a good point, and I am also suspicious of “certificate mills.” However, I do try to look beyond the paper at how an individual is representing themselves (because actions speak louder than words).

    My personal approach is not to call myself a sensei, even though I do have “years and years” of experience – I think of it as a title bestowed by others, based on knowledge plus ability to teach. I’m still on my journey on both counts!

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