While scanning news for lean and six sigma related articles this morning, I came across this gem: “Six Sigma Certification Booms as Employment Busts” – it was actually a press release posing as news over on msnbc.com. That’s fine – I recall from my days in media relations that many news outlets craved pre-written content, especially now with the thinning of news gathering organizations.

Over the last few years, the business of Lean Six Sigma certification has bloomed trememdously – a phenomenon that has been discussed at length over on the forums. The consensus there seems to be that such cert programs in and of themselves are fine – I myself have gone through one such program, and had a fine experience with it. For some, online learning works as well, if not better, than classroom training. Different people learn differently. I’ve also had the opportunity to go through classroom training given at one of the most famous companies ever to use Six Sigma. Again, a fine experience.

So what’s the harm in presenting Lean Six Sigma certification programs as a way for currently unemployed workers to get a leg up in a tough job market? Or any job market for that matter?

As most (if not all) experienced practitioners of Lean and Six Sigma have learned, there is a huge difference between learning the tools and concepts of Lean and Six Sigma and actually applying them in areal business setting, with real people, real (usually messy) data, solving real business problems. In my own experience, running acorrect MSA, ANOVA or DOE is far less challenging than working through the politics and organizational challenges tocreate sustained improvements. And this is not something that one can really learn in the classroom or through an online course. It has to be experienced first hand. In this way, our field is no different than any other. The theory is important to know, but in the end, it’s the practical outcome that matters most.

Worse yet, the change management approachesused in one company culture may not work in another, or even different cultures within a company. It’s a process of continuous learning, re-learning, and adjustment to bring about the desired business impacts.

The certificationquestion is not an issue unique to our field. Professional certification programs are widely available – the real question is, does the certificate provide the leg up during job searches? I would be very interested in seeing data on that question.

The bottom line: Is getting certified in Lean, Six Sigma, or anything else one of those critical X’s for the millions of unemployed right now? Please post your thoughts in the comments section.

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