I was talking with a group of people about leading lean, and someone asked me, “Are you a Sensei?”

So of course I said “No!” I don’t call myself a Sensei, because I consider myself to be at the grasshopper-level of lean expertise.

However, the question did make me think. I call myself a Black Belt without blinking an eye – on the checklist of how to be a Black Belt, I have filled in all the boxes: [ ] Go through formal classroom training with hands-on practice and exercises. [ ] Be mentored in leading a project team through a Six Sigma DMAIC project, with all the bells & whistles (graphical, statistical, and lean analysis). [ ] Get seal of approval in the form of a signed certificate from the MBB teaching the class. [ ] Fulfill additional years of leading Six Sigma teams with demonstrated tangible & intangible benefits. And, because I’m an overachiever, [ ] Obtain certification from a national professional organization so my credentials would be a little more portable/marketable (being honest about it!).

So why don’t I call myself a Sensei? What’s the checklist for that? One of my teachers told me it would take leading hundreds of lean projects. There’s a lot of debate about whether Lean practitioners should get into the certification race. I’m starting to see jobs posted that require “certification in lean.”

Are you a Sensei? Do you know anyone who is? And what does that mean? Inquiring minds want to know!

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