Six Sigma certification questions continue to roll into my inbox. While I can’t find time to answer each email with a tremendous amount of detail, I can and do save them for answering in an article such as this. This article revisits a previously published article What is Six Sigma Certification? published last year.

Can My Company Certify Six Sigma Yellow/Green/Black/Master Black Belts?

Six Sigma certification is a funny concept. Everyone wants to be certified, but nobody really understands what it means in the industry and how it might enhance your resume outside your current company.

There isn’t a single certification body for Six Sigma. Because of this, you’ll find certification options from consulting companies (like the one that probably trained and certified the first wave in your business) and ASQ, as well as from businesses like Motorola, Allied Signal, GE, and many others. Each of these businesses has different certification criteria. And so to answer this question, the answer is Yes. Yes, you can certify anyone you want to any standards you think are appropriate. Provide instruction, test for knowledge and hand out certificates.

But the question should not be “Can I certify Green or Black Belts in my company?”, the real question should be “What is the true value of all these certifications?”

  • What is the value of the content being instructed?
  • How well is the content being instructed?
  • Does the content cover all pertinent aspects of Quality and management that every change agent should know?
  • Has the content not only been learned, but been put into practice and successfully utilized?
  • Has the knowledge of individuals been tested to acceptable levels?
  • Have processes been defined, measured, analyzed, improved and controlled for the better of the organization?

Ok, now that I have that idealist thinking of my system, let’s get to what I feel is the true question that people should be asking, “What is the street value of the certification?” Why do I say street value? Because that’s where the rubber hits the road and you show what you know and what you don’t.

For example, no business is going to hire a graduate of Wharton (arguably the most prestigious business school in the U.S.) without asking her to explain business concepts or to apply a model to a hypothetical business situation. Sure she comes with a pedigree from a top 5 institution, but these types of questions help the hiring manager evaluate the candidate’s level of understanding. Similarly, a Quality manager interviewing a Black Belt or Master Black Belt candidate is going to ask how she facilitated a difficult team meeting, to explain what a Z value is, and to differentiate and explain the p values associated with a recent project. That is the true test of a person’s Six Sigma value to the organization.

Finally, wouldn’t it be nice if everyone was valued for the contributions they have made or will make to the business? The fact is that pedigrees are important to people — which is exactly why this certification question came up in the first place. Since there aren’t any independent firms determining the “value” of certification from the many available sources as is the case with MBA schools, the question becomes more difficult to answer. In my opinion, the closer you are to professional instruction coupled with rigorous application the more value it has.

There are a handful of original consultants teaching Six Sigma from the early Motorola days. Would you rather have one of these consultants help you certify your organization, or someone who read 4 books on the subject and is knowledgeable of the topics? Ok, you caught me. I oversimplified the subject and there are always exceptions to the rule, but I think you understand my point with respect to the professional instruction. Now let’s look at rigorous application: Would you feel more comfortable with a candidate that improved and controlled a process at GE or one that did the same at a $5 million dollar company? Probably the GE one, because you know that large companies have more rigor around their application and certification processes, and failures at a GE are not as easy to sweep under the carpet. Alright, before someone can jump over to the forum to post hate mail to me, there are exceptions to the rule and I can cite 5 instances that will fail my test also, but in my opinion the general rule holds. After all is said and done, Motorola and GE certifications are pedigrees and company XYZ is not as valuable. Don’t blame me, blame the perceptions of the Quality community. I’m just the bearer of the news.

So, to sum up this question and answer…Can you certify people within your own business? Yes, of course you can. Is it worth much in your company? Probably, if your management team values it and rewards those who attain certification. Is it worth much outside your company? Maybe so, maybe not. It all depends how knowledgeable the person is and how the pedigree is perceived by the interviewing company.

What Are The Legal Implications Of Six Sigma Certification?

Many people like to ask me legal questions about Six Sigma. Here’s what I know:

  • Motorola has registered and trademarked the phrase “Six Sigma”
  • Each consulting company owns the copyrights to their own intellectual property and training materials
  • Certification is in the eyes of the beholder

Given the limited information I know :), here are my pearls of wisdom:

  • Don’t use the trademarked terms of other companies without their permission
  • Don’t steal, reprint, or use other people’s copyrighted materials without their written permission
  • Set and use Six Sigma certification standards that are appropriate for your company

Aside from that, I don’t know of any other issues that would prevent your company from certifying Six Sigma Green Belts, Black Belts or Master Black Belts. If someone knows of any other reasons, post them to the forum.

Can Non-Certified Master Black Belts Mentor Black Belts?

The answer is yes, but let me ask you a question. Would you want a non-certified dentist with years of experience doing your root canal? Or would you want a non-certified mechanic working on your car when you know that most mechanics are certified with biggest certification company in the U.S.? The fact is that both the dentist and the mechanic can probably do the job correctly without certification if they are properly educated, trained and practiced.

But would you want them working in your mouth or on your car? Not me. The fact that some company (outside or inside) has set forth criteria, and that this person has taken and passed a test reassures me (to some degree). We know that not all certifications are equal, but I personally would prefer to be mentored by someone who has learned and used the Six Sigma DMAIC methodology before. Call me old fashioned.

Are There Other Certification Companies Besides Those Listed On iSixSigma?

Every time I visit the Consultants > Six Sigma category of links, I find a new consulting company that has been added to the list. Although the list is very comprehensive and includes all of the big Six Sigma consulting firms, it probably isn’t exhaustive. New consulting companies are formed daily and I’m sure a few of them deal with Six Sigma, and even certify.

So the answer to this question is also Yes. There are other companies that are not listed on iSixSigma that would certify your company and employees. But you should refer back to my previous answer to determine the differences between certifications.

What Are The Requirements For A Consulting Company To Provide Six Sigma Certification?

The answer is none. Any person or persons can form their own consulting company, develop their own materials, and begin training and certifying others. There is no certification body that each consultant must visit to be granted rights to certify. It’s not like ISO 9000 where a registrar might be involved to provide certification of meeting requirements. Caveat emptor – let the buyer beware.

It’s one of the problems of Six Sigma, and also one of the greatest aspects of Six Sigma. You use Six Sigma as your company determines is most appropriate. What…you need to do work to successfully implement Six Sigma in your company (note the sarcasm)? Yes. While the Six Sigma methodology is for the most part standard, Six Sigma deployment catches many people off guard; they’re not used to the lack of structure or rules around deployment within their company. Each company is different: structure, culture, reward systems and size. But if you ask me, it’s the lack of structure that allows each company to maximize their benefit from a customized deployment.

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