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Lean Six Sigma Certification

Do I need to be certified? Which company or organization should certify me? Is there a single certification standard? Does experience outweigh a need for certification?Lean Six Sigma Certified?

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Walt McIntyre

I am in favor of certification when it is based upon successful completion of the training, tests on the training material and at least one, preferably two, successful projects. The problem with certification organizations that relay on some type of form test is that you cannot test leadership skills and change management skills that way. I have never seen a project fail due to bad math, but I have seen them fail due to poor people skills and poor leadership. People skills are not measurable on a test paper. The wrong type of certification process will actually dumb down the quality of Black Belt product you get.

Dr. Shree Nanguneri

The words “certification” or “certified” can be replaced with colleges awarding degrees. What would the answers be?

Let us take a look:

a – Is there difference between degree holders and non-degree holders other than the degree?

– No, as facts have shown that non-degree holders do equally well and sometimes even better (teenagers inventing things, techniques, measurement systems etc). Does it mean that non-degree holders need to rule over. Not necessarily.

b – Deployment focus – Certification versus Project Benefits.

– Do colleges emphasize on degree completion – yes, society does, parents do and so do professors as well let alone the institution that is tracking students. Colleges owe students a degree as that was the agreement unlike LSS certification from the employer. The employer doesn’t owe employees certificates nor does the employee owe anything to the employer in terms of long term or permanent loyalty and stay at the employer without leaving. The employers do owe their customers on solving the 3Ds (Defects, Delays, and Deviations). Due to an aged-old practice, it has become addictive that anytime someone attends a training session, they deserve a certificate on how they have learned to to do their job better for the same situation.

– Does this mean the employer doesn’t have to award a certificate – No, the employer in general cares about ROI and so make sure they get the mileage out of the belt on terms of customer problems being solved and all the invested funds, time, and effort paid off by the time the belt chooses to exit. This means some kind of average period and including the variance factor for the belt to deliver projects successfully till they are likely to quit and then award the certificate. No guarantees though.

c – Mad Belt Disease – Over emphasis on certification – Are college degrees over emphasized – yes they are and come with a huge payment and cost. Yes, created a Frankenstein on this aspect and damaged the image of the value of LSS toward customer benefit. The certification should be awarded by the customer on how the product, process and journey with the provider is certified and not on the belts alone.

d – Are there standards for certification? Well, are there standards for degree certification. Yes, and then why do students pick different colleges if the standards exist. The test for degree certification is not based on standards at the institution, but at the perceived reputation and value in the market place. Likewise is certification, who did it, when, and who was the MBB coach on some occasions? What is their lineage to Motorola with the founding fathers of LSS? However, at some point away from the degree or LSS certification, the old glory doesn’t buy value and the current track record of what they did matters more than anything else.

e – What type of internal standards have the certifying bodies adopted?

– What type of standards have colleges adopted in their degree programs? There is variation within the institution, across institutions and no fixed USL and LSL. So are the certification and certifying bodies. One famous employer allowed their transactional type belt leaders to not have to qualify in tools such as DOE as they claimed the lack of value for the same. When the MBB entered the market place, they got slammed by the customer when they saw an MBB struggle with sample size calculations that were apparently not emphasized in their training program they came form. The degree should be based on how you apply it now, but on a visualization on where careers could take you and integrating them proactively. Likewise the certification is not based on project or functionality or department of industry. They should be more universal and general in nature especially based on levels YB, GB, BB, and MBB. The higher the levels we go, the lesser is the variance between and within institutions on the eligibility for certification.

– In colleges – When we look for BS, MS and PhD we cannot find the variance reduction aspect and so a PhD from one institution is not the same as the PhD from another even in the same field.

f – What is LSS certification? –

– What is college degree certification? completion of a bunch of courses, a project or term paper or a thesis or dissertation. On certification, complete training, projects, tests, project audit (in some cases no project required). Too much variation on the criteria and so is the variance on the belt who practices or claims it on their CV. It is the duty of the employer or associate or decision maker on what constitutes value for them when they consider hiring them. Just because someone is from an Ivy League school, does it mean they bring value? Not true. Similarly, just because someone is certified it doesn’t mean a thing and their track record needs to be held to the highest standards by the employer and customer and none else.

Hope this makes sense.


Dr. Shree

Gilbert Hatfield

I had the pleasure of developing the Lean, Six Sigma program for the Naval Air force (COMNAVAIRFOR) portion of the Naval Aviation Enterprise (NAE). We weighted our certification towards an individual being able to successfully use the knowledge taught in a formal class. Combining both Lean and Six Sigma methodologies as this combination provided us with the type of individuals we needed.

Personally I have found that most processes can be significantly improve with simple Kaizen event or a series of them without the rigors of a Six Sigma project. My motto is clear out the waste then check on the process variation it may not be worth the cost to eliminated it.

In the six years that I managed this program, numerous individuals submitted their portfolio of completed events and projects requesting NAE Black Belt certification. Of those portfolios received 50% did not meet our standards. Biggest issue being the events and projects did not demonstrate a competency of what was taught in the classroom.

We required the individual lead or mentor a minimum of 6 Lean Kaizen events and two Six Sigma projects plus the completion of the formal courses in Lean techniques (40 hours) and Six Sigma processes (200 hours).

Because of this experience, I do not trust certification not supported by a portfolio of events. This is especially the case with Black Belt ASQ certifications. I was surprised to find that Black Belt ASQ certification were given to individuals that I refused to certify as a qualified Black Belt. I questions ASQ on this and their answer was they did not have the time to verify the projects that were submitted. More than once I had individual proudly flash their Black Belt ASQ certification in front of me smugly letting me know that they also had a Black Belt certification and got it without having to complete what the Naval Aviation Enterprise (NAE) required. They found it easier to just take a test. Personally I never paid or tested for ASQ certification but do hold a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certificate from Lockheed Martin LM21.

While LM21 certification program was similar to the one I developed for the Navy it also included a personal interview to test ones knowledge. I found that we could not do that in the NAE and adding a couple more Lean events to the requirement along with a second Six Sigma project.

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