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Will Unqualified BBs Devaluate Six Sigma?

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  • #34625

    Ren
    Participant

    Hello all:SSNewby brought up a valid concern in a related thread. To paraphrase his question, which I also have, what are your thoughts:Will poorly prepared Six Sigma practitioners cause employers to devalue the contributions of Six Sigma, eventually sounding its death knell?If so, let’s talk about how to assure overall Six Sigma competency and contribution. It’s a two part question, so let’s hear your two part thoughts on the subject please.Ren

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    #95685

    Andy Sleeper
    Participant

    To paraphrase Deming, defects are the fault of the process, not the fault of the people.  Certainly there are defective deployments with defects like uncommitted management, poor training, insufficient support, etc. At these companies, either the deployment will be reworked or scrapped. 
    I came into Six Sigma with some previous statistical training, so at first I had a real attitude about the “dumbing down” of the tools and the sloppy way people were applying them.  But I’ve changed my viewpoint.
    The tools are less important than the results.  Within Six Sigma, there is a diverse and growing universe of people making decisions from data, and they weren’t doing that before!  That’s a good thing! So what if they use a screwdriver for a hammer.  In time they will learn more and do better.
    So I have no problem with “two-week Black Belts” or “poorly prepared practitioners.”  Their results will speak for themselves.  And for Six Sigma as a whole, its results speak for itself.  As long as Six Sigma keeps producing $$results, it will be strong and healthy.

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    #95691

    Arron
    Participant

    Andy,
    You wrote, “As long as Six Sigma keeps producing $$results, it will be strong and healthy.”
    So you make no connection between unqualified BBs and the potential for Six Sigma not producing $$results? I think what Ren is suggesting (please correct me if I’m wrong, Ren) is that unqualified pracitioners don’t understand the things that make six sigma successful, which leads to $$results. Best people > strategic business issues with top management support > proven methodology to solve issues. Anything else leads to a less desirable result and potentially less desirable $$result.
    I think this is a valid question and one that shouldn’t be shrugged off as “if they want to use a screwdriver, use a screwdriver.” What if Jack Welch had said that during their 1995 deployment?
    Arron

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    #95694

    rron
    Member

     
     
    YES!  People obtaining so called belts from unqualified training activities will eventually ruin the six sigma movement.
     
    Look at First Data Corp

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    #95695

    Arron
    Participant

    Rron,
    What is going on at First Data Corp? Can you give any specifics to back up your statement?
    Thanks,Arron

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    #95696

    Ken Feldman
    Participant

    Whew!!! At least we aren’t trashing BOA for a change.  I am aware that a large local division of First Data essentially packed it in with SS and fired the BB staff.  I don’t know the reason.  I too worry that “overnight” SS experts will hurt the long term viability of SS.  Locally, a not for profit Manufacturing Association has teamed with a college professor (bio didn’t mention SS certification or much SS implementation experience) to offer its members GB and BB certification.  One project needed to certify plus a couple of weeks and a test.  No coaching needed for the BB.  They are offering in the hopes of undercutting the market price and making a few bucks.  When I challenged them, the head guy responded that it is all smoke and mirrors anyway so why not make a few bucks like everyone else.  I was quite angry.  Maybe we should all send him an email expressing our outrage…cool thought.

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    #95697

    Arron
    Participant

    Darth,
    That is the exact mentality that I think is in the marketplace. So much demand, proven results…so let’s “piggy back on it and deliver less for less cost.” The trouble is that most people interested in Six Sigma don’t know the difference … all they know is that it’s less for them or their companies to pay to get trained/certified. And it’s leading to a result that will be felt down the road when they fail to deliver results.
    At my business in GE, we have only tightened the standards not loosened them. Why is the marketplace going the other way when corporate America is saying “give me qualified people”? Is it just ignorance?
    Does anyone else feel this way or am I all alone on this thought?
    Arron

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    #95698

    sweettalker
    Member

    Arron mentioned: Best people > strategic business issues with top management support > proven methodology to solve issues.
    I wonder what the pareto of coefficients would look like for the factors key to SS success. Although… it gets a little fuzzy, because some input factors may actually be dependent variables. Aren’t the people, training, and actual methodology dependent on management?

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    #95702

    PB
    Participant

    As with any program, SS has looked to qualified individuals (they could come from any discipline) for SS prponence. However, sometime the good old boy network can play a part and wrong people get certified who can not take the program any further.
    I am of the opinion that the success of the program is (and the valuation of SS) dependant on the individual, training given, approach to problem solving (individual having a lot of common sense to go with their education and experience) and understanding of what SS is all about.
    PB

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    #95704

    Diaconu
    Participant

    Whether or not someone is ‘qualified’ is an academic measurement of their abilities. Just because someone isn’t ‘qualified’ does not necessarily mean that they are unable or any less able to perform the same task. Experience counts for a great deal. Ideally though we all become qualified in order to have a formal recognition of our abilities.
    I ask myself why is a not-for profit organization offering cheap SS training. Probably because they have spotted a market need and listened to the VOC however misguided the customer may be. (I have worked in retail and know that the customer does not always know exactly what it is they want). Presumably the customer wants to implement SS at the lowest possible cost.
    Putting the these two previous paragraphs together…why not select suitable candidates from your existing staff and offer them the training that they need to bridge the gap between their existing knowledge and what is expected of a SS practitioner at whatever belt level. You could probably teach SS to appropriate people in a week or less…other’s you could try and teach for ever and they may still not get it.
    What will sound the death knell for SS I wonder…personally I think it’s a good thing and will be around for a long time. Just like the natural order of things though something new will come along and SS won’t be the prima donna any more but just a chorus girl again. if it’s going to suffer it will because it tries to become something that it isn’t….pick a few tragic..over-reaching entrepeneurs or movie stars for examples.
    Mia
     
     
     

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    #95712

    Statman
    Member

    As long as we are quoting Dr. Deming, how about this one from Out of the Crisis:
     
    “…American management have resorted to mass assemblies for crash courses in statistical methods, employing hacks for teachers, being unable to discriminate between competence and ignorance.  The result is that hundreds of people are learning what is wrong.  No one should teach the theory and use of control charts without knowledge of statistical theory through at least the master’s level, supplemented by experience under a master.  I make this statement on the basis of experience, seeing every day the devastating effects of incompetent teaching and faulty application.”
     
    As relevant today as it was in 1982 when he wrote it!
     
    Statman

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    #95728

    Ken Feldman
    Participant

    I essentially paraphrased that quote when asking this thread’s exact question to a discussion panel at a recent SS Conference in Miami.  I also included the “Consulting Hacks” some of whom have asked such memorable questions as (paraphrased) “I am with a consulting company who wants to start doing SS with our clients.  Does anyone have any suggestions where I can learn about SS?”  The response of the Panel was to let the buyer beware.  The hacks will become apparent soon and the market will make the necessary adjustments.  As an analogy, you can buy almost any degree from a diploma mill and many do.  But, the market will take care of things when it devalues those degrees by not hiring anyone remotely associated with it.  This hasn’t detracted from the field of education but may have forced out a few of the bad apples.  Possibly the same will happen to the overnight SS wonders.

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    #95730

    Charlie Mann
    Participant

    Hi Darth,
    I heard about that question from a friend who was at the conference. Glad to know it was you! :)
    I disagree though. I think that the education level of hiring managers is much lower than that afforded by your analogy at colleges and universities. Most people will agree that when hiring a programmer from MIT, they’ll probably be more educated than a programmer from Idaho State University (nothing against Idaho). Of course you can argue this point, and there may be exceptions to every rule.
    I think the “Consulting Hacks” will continue to peddle their wares and only the most educated people will know the difference. Should the buyer beware…of course — it’s their money that they are potentially wasting.
    It would be great if Consumer Reports started reviewing educational programs, wouldn’t it?
    Charlie

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    #95733

    Ken Feldman
    Participant

    Yep, that was me asking that question.  You should have seen the face of the George Group rep on the Panel.  He was the first to take the question.  I agree that buyer beware might be pie in the sky.  You don’t know what you don’t know.  That is why I am so upset about the local group trying to hawk their wares to the unsophisticated and unaware local companies.  They won’t know any better and have misplaced their trust in an organization whose mission is to help them.
    Interesting concept of Consumer Reports for educational institutions.  The general news magazines do periodic evaluations and reports on colleges, grad schools and med schools.  The market takes care of the rest by being selective in who they send campus recruiters to, who and how many they hire, how much they pay to start and other pretty strong indicators of which educational programs they think are good.

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    #95738

    Statman
    Member

    You know Darth,
     
    I wish I was as optimistic as you about the discriminating powers of the market.  I can’t help but think about the scene in the movie “Raiders of Silicone Valley”  where Bill Gates tells Steve Jobs that it is not about who has the best equipment or who has the best software, it is about who can sell it (or something like that). 
     
    I actually have less concern about the quality and competency of the Six Sigma training providers.  At the end of the day, arguing about which one is better is like arguing about whether Bud light, Coors light, or Miller Lite are better or worse than each other.  They all are about the same:  bland, unsatisfying, and indistinguishable.
     
    The concern, in my opinion, is what passes for “master” and expert internally in an organization; or what external consultation they are receiving on an on going basis.  These people will have the most influence on the performance of a Black Belt, The training, whether it is 2, 4 or 6 weeks, will only provide an awareness level of Six Sigma not expertise.  
     
    I have always been under the opinion that the title of “Master” was a title of respect that one earned through years of demonstrated accomplishment and expertise in ones field.  Now, you can go to a one or two week course to become a “master”.  Worse, in most companies, it is an appointed position.  Imagine if your organization got its legal advice from someone from engineering that was appointed chief counsel and sent to a 2 week training class in business law.
     
    Statman

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    #95746

    DaveG
    Participant

    How about
    Sam Smith’s Nut Brown
    Xingu
    Pilsner Urquell
    Old Vienna?

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    #95747

    Statman
    Member

    Now your talkin’ my language!
    Throw in a few Belgium beers and we can have an interesting debate
    Cheers,
    Statman

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    #95750

    Ken Feldman
    Participant

    Wow, what insight!!!  We mistakenly hired one of those appointed MBBs who was really a BB who was really a GB.  Took about 1 hour to figure out we had hired a pig in a poke and 6 months to ease him out.  So, even the most discriminating and astute can slip up once in a while.  We did tip back a few while wringing our hands and the necks of the ones who hired him.  The process was changed after that adventure so now we tip a few before hiring :-) and they look much better.

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    #95759

    Gordon Staples
    Participant

    What work is not devalued when the practitioners lack competence? I presume it’s a serious question and is not a trick one.
    Of course Six Sigma will lose credibility if the people leading it lack the skills and knowledge to apply it correctly. We have seen statements like ‘TQM failed. So what makes Six Sigma any different?’  the answer is that TQM did not fail and has not yet failed. What has failed are the practitioners of it who went for short term gains and did not put the required effort into institutionalising quality improvement.  The only thing that makes Six Sigma different from TQM is that Six Sigma demands full time employees as the project leaders. Even that does not ensure that Six Sigma will work because it still needs the active participation and support of those managers who control peoples’ time in the organization. Six Sigma has to be a habit, it has to become a way of working; you can’t have it working this week and not next.  If Six Sigma project time is not protected, then Six Sigma will go the same way as all the other flavours of the month.  We’ve already begun to see BBs employed in organizations and not actually doing any worthy projects because they are expected to do it alone and without the appropriate infrastructure and support mechanisms. Six Sigma is on its death bed in these places and we’ll hear the same from them in time to come about why Six Sigma failed.  These same companies probably got nothing out of ISO 9001 for the same reasons.
    Being qualified is essential for any task.  Being certified is neither essential nor necessary and is certainly not mandatory unless the ruling authority,eg customers, legal bodies etc say it is. Certification adds value to the certifier only and is only a record; it is not the absolute evidence of true competence. Only the people who experience the practitioners’ competence or otherwise can attest to it, along with the appropriate results of course.
    Regards
    Gordon Staples

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    #95761

    BB in training
    Participant

    I agree that training alone is not enough to ensure optimum success in SS.  I am fortunate that my organization is taking it’s SS deployment seriously, and is committed to both training and consulting resources.  Training is important, don’t get me wrong, because that’s where the SS tools are provided.  I can go to Home Depot and drop some coin on a bunch of tools, but it doesn’t mean I have a freakin’ clue how to build a house.  Without coaching on practical application for the tools, they’ll either collect dust, or will not be used efficiently or effectively. 

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    #95765

    RonaldPegram
    Member

    We have ourselves to blame. Most of this furor did not exist before ASQ decided to open the doors to the world of Six Sigma by offering an exam for under $200. The truth is most of the techniques championed by the average Six Sigma Black Belt are the same techniques with which any ‘Quality Engineer’ was familiar. We repackaged a classic set of proven techniques, gave it a sexy name and then allowed some of the original adopters of these methods to sell training for $30-$40,000. ASQ came along and made it more democratic and now the sky is falling. It isn’t. It’s just that the cult of personality has been revealed. Does anyone here doubt that the average SSBB as certified by ASQ is any less knowledgeable about techniques than those ‘Black Belts’ certified by some other body? The difference now is that most companies refuse to ‘pony up’ these outlandish charges for training and the HR people, sold on the name, only want a SSBB and not someone who can demonstrate competency. Blame yourselves for this mess. Why should someone who wants to practice in this field take out a 2nd mortgage for some $30,000 ‘program’. What is the ROI in that? You could probably go to law school for less. Any discipline that purports that it can only reveal its methods after a payment of $30,000 to $40,000 has been made IS SMOKE AND MIRRORS. Any business statistics textbook has almost 90% of the Six Sigma techniques outlined already. Six Sigma can die. The techniques will live on. If you’re good at quantitative analysis, do you really think that companies are going to turn their collective backs on you if the Six Sigma fad dies out?

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    #95769

    Jim Beam
    Participant

    Ronald,
    Your data is incorrect. You are obviously a TQMer; if you wen’t through true Black Belt training, you would probably learned that MSA is very important. Perhaps they didn’t teach you that in your Quality Engineer training that you used to get your certification from ASQ.
    Your Incorrect Statement #1: Black Belt training costs $30-40,000. This is simply not true. Even the highest respected training organizations are charging a maximum of $20,000. Get your facts straight.
    Your Incorrect Statement #2: Six Sigma is a repackaging of a classic set of proven techniques with a sexy name. You are obviously ignorant. Please try to spend some time learning about leadership, culture and change acceleration, the proven roadmap and organizational structure, and the ties to a company’s bottom/top line. There are significant differences and your propagation of ignorance horrifies me and I’m sure many others.
    Your Incorrect Statement #3: What is the ROI in paying a lot of money for training and certification? Ask GE, or Allied, or Honeywell, or Motorola, or any of the other thousands of companies in the world that are saving hundreds of millions of dollars per year. There is a clear ROI from doing Six Sigma the correct way. Do some research (it’s not hard, you can try search this site to begin with) and you’ll clear up this misconception of yours.
    Your Correct Statement #1:  “Any business statistics textbook has almost 90% of the Six Sigma techniques outlined already.” This is true, but again highlights your ignorance of Six Sigma. Six Sigma is not a collection of techniques (read tools), as many Quality Engineers think. Yes, tools are necessary in the real world but so is political prowess, modifying culture, leadership, facilitation, organizational development, influence skills, teamwork, and the host of other qualities that make a successful Six Sigma deployment.
    I could not find anything else you said that was correct, sorry. I do agree with you that Six Sigma will be classified as a fad, but only if people like you continue to spread ignorance about the subject. Ignorance is not bad — don’t get me wrong. The spreading of ignorance and the desire not to learn or be educated is bad.
    Good luck and I hope your career works out for you,Jim

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    #95771

    RonaldPegram
    Member

    Jim,Sure is fun to play this game of verbal tennis. Get ready for my volley:You said:
    Your data is incorrect. You are obviously a TQMer; if you wen’t through true Black Belt training, you would probably learned that MSA is very important. Perhaps they didn’t teach you that in your Quality Engineer training that you used to get your certification from ASQ.I say:
    Thanks for making assumptions based on zero data. Great example of your Six Sigma skills. Did I say I was a TQM’er? Is that some new dirty word?You say:
    Your Incorrect Statement #1: Black Belt training costs $30-40,000. This is simply not true. Even the highest respected training organizations are charging a maximum of $20,000. Get your facts straight.I say:
    You’re quoting what is being charged now. I am quoting what was being charged before ASQ. Get your facts straight!! Also, can you back your claim up that no one is charging more than $20,000 or is that your hunch? Finally, what do you think of that type of fee for four-week training courses?You say:
    Your Incorrect Statement #3: What is the ROI in paying a lot of money for training and certification? Ask GE, or Allied, or Honeywell, or Motorola, or any of the other thousands of companies in the world that are saving hundreds of millions of dollars per year. There is a clear ROI from doing Six Sigma the correct way. Do some research (it’s not hard, you can try search this site to begin with) and you’ll clear up this misconception of yours.I say:
    Again, your ignorance shows. Did the original practitioners of Six Sigma go through private consulting groups for their training OR did Honeywell, GE, Motorola and Allied set up their own training programs? Don’t link the internal success at companies like GE with the vulture-like consultants that came after the fact and often trumpeted their experience at places like GE (as employees, not consultants).You say:
    Six Sigma is not a collection of techniques (read tools), as many Quality Engineers think. Yes, tools are necessary in the real world but so is political prowess, modifying culture, leadership, facilitation, organizational development, influence skills, teamwork, and the host of other qualities that make a successful Six Sigma deployment.I say:
    You’re linking qualities like leadership to Six Sigma as if no one else could make claim to that quality. Tell me again what Six Sigma training has a module on leadership. What week in the four week course is spent learning how to be a leader? Do you think there are no quality engineers who are leaders? Leadership isn’t something you learn from a consultancy group but rather something you learn from doing and from the examples of others. This is exactly what I am talking about when I criticize the Six Sigma cult. You have basically said “Six Sigma people are leaders, quality engineers are not…” and I’m calling B.S. on that. No one has a monopoly on being a leader and knowing how to conduct a DOE doesn’t qualify you to be a leader any more than does knowing how to read a financial statement.
    As long as we in the Six Sigma community hide behind statements like ‘Six Sigma practitioners are leaders, quality engineers are not…”, we’ll be as guilty as anyone else we criticize for not making data-based decisions. What evidence exists to prove that Six Sigma folks exhibit more leadership qualities than any other group, including the TQM group you mocked? You can buy into packaged rhetoric or you can discuss reality but here is a hint, ask people at your workplace whom they accept as a leader and see if the Six Sigma people jump out as their choice.I’d be curious to see your results.

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    #95773

    Jim Beam
    Participant

    Re: TQM being a dirty word, go ask your CEO and get back to me.
    Re: The cost of Six Sigma being $30-40K. I often like to cite data from five years ago also, it makes my arguments irrefutable.
    Re: Who Allied, GE, Moto used for Six Sigma. Yes, they did use outside consultants. Allied used a few consultants who banded together. GE used the Six Sigma Academy. Motorola used a consortium of companies who banded together to come up with the generation I methodology.
    Re: Six Sigma and leadership. Yes, they are linked. Companies that truly “get” six sigma take their best employees, determine their biggest issues, train their best employees with a standardized/proven methodology (doesn’t need to be six sigma, but show me another one that has worked as well) and solve them. Leadership is inherent in the people you choose. This is a formula for success. Anything else may (and most likely will) have diminished returns.
    Your trite arguments bore me. I’m done going back and forth with you. I couldn’t stand by idly and allow you to spew ignorance into this forum. I hope my comments have caused others to see the holes in every one of your arguments.
    Good luck in life,Jim

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    #95785

    RonaldPegram
    Member

    Dear Jim,You do yourself a disservice and I am glad you are done going back and forth with me. Read the rest of this thread and tell me that my thoughts haven’t been echoed by a majority of posters. You can yell all you want about how THE BEST COMPANIES DO THINGS but that doesn’t make you any more right. The funny thing about you is you scream things out without any references and then demand others have facts. You wish me well in life. I wish you a better set of mannerisms. You come off like the ‘Six Sigma Cop’ from your workplace and I question how many projects you have led with that way you have. Please feel free to ignore me now…(as if I care)

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    #95787

    Sinnicks
    Participant

    Careful with the correlation there, Darth
    There are many more factors that are at least as important in the “success” of a college graduate or BB as what school or program they attended.  There are distributions around most of the important factors.
    I don’t mean to insult.  The black and white thinking is what we mutually disdain about the ignorant and unthinking masses that are being victimized by the ignorant or uncaring charlatans.
    We should hold ourselves to a higher standard.  Then, encourage others to raise their standards also.

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    #95788

    Gary A. Gack
    Participant

    I think your observations are right on – ignorance buys price, experience buys quality – we see those with real experience and results upping the bar on required training (e.g., GE, Motorola), and those who don’t ‘get it’ driving for ‘white belts’ and other cheap nonsense that will never work (e.g.’s withheld to protect the guilty)
    Gary

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    #95793

    Ken Feldman
    Participant

    No argument there.  In fact, after the first job, I seldom care about where they got their education.  Their accomplishments are more indicative of their future value to the organization.  My reference was to the fact that the market does have the capability of at least narrowing the field of charlatans, both in education as well as SS.

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    #95801

    Diaconu
    Participant

    Fiery exchange guys
    May I be allowed to do a very un-sigma theing and both agree and disagree with you both at the same time.
    Ronald – In my view you are correct about many of the details of SS. At heart it is merely a structured application of common statistical, analytical and quality methods and good project management practice as employed for years by some people.
    Jim – In my view you are correct in your references to the cultural change brought about by SS.
    I make the following statements that one or other of you have probably already made but I can’t read several messages at once and correlate all the points properly (didn’t print them off or anything).
    1.Good leaders and bad leaders exist everywhere. Six Sigma (as it is generally implemented) takes ‘the best people’ and trains them to be better…to a greater or lesser degree depending upon their existing abilities.
    2.Six Sigma engages at all levels of a business.
    3.I am at the same time a sceptic of and thankful for Six Sigma.
    Sceptical because any ‘initiative’ that takes the best people and gives them the resource to do what they are naturally good at is bound to succeed. Presumably my world’s best soccer 11 would be very good too wouldn’t they. In this repect SS is to me dressed up common sense.
    Do the ends justify the means? If it takes SS to get the higher levels of management in a company to realise that empowering their best people is good for the company then all credit to it. Another thing SS does is focus on money and that’s a benefit because it makes non-financial people talk in some kind of dialect that financial people (and senior level managers) understand.
    For my prediction…. SS won’t die we’ll just all realise that it doesn’t need a name anymore. It will become a standard practice taught in education that no-one will be able to charge fees for providing training in. Go back 10 years or so and I bet you can find organizations charging money for basic PC skills training. Something that my kids are learning for free as they grow up.
    The end justifies the means….but the means will, at some time in the future be as common as PC skills are now.
    Mia
     
     

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    #95804

    DaveG
    Participant

    Mia, you’re bursting the bubble!  What will all these whiners do now?

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    #95805

    Diaconu
    Participant

    Dave
    I know there’s nothing more dull than being the voice of reason is there! I guess I should say something flipant like they should ‘just get on with it’.However, I think such frank exchanges are constructive as long as they are concluded. Kind of  Duck! Missed! Aaaghh!….Injury…Conclusion approach.
    On a somore serious note it took me a surprisingly long time, a lot of soul searching and many exchanges on this forum and in other places to come to my simple conclusions about SS.
    I think it does no-one any good to over embelish SS with credits it does not deserve and cannot claim. It also does no-one any good to whine about it because it has such a de facto acceptance by the powers that be. Now that I have reconciled what it actually does for a company I can feel a lot happier about living with it.
    Funny thing is I can’t help thinking it would help me do a better job if I could go back to using it as appropriate whilst doing my ‘actual’ job rather than being a full time BB. Maybe that’s another thread worth starting…’Do BB’s have to be full time?’…even Superman wasn’t that.
    Mia
     

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    #95884

    melvin
    Participant

    This may have been brought up before, but is there any group out there that is working on setting minimum certification standards for belts ? Similar to ISO etc.
    And I don’t know if ASQ is the right group to do this, what with their strong background in manufacturing application, rather than transactional Six Sigma.
    Thoughts?

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