Confusion Reigns

Educational courses and certification programs for lean are all over the place. There are no generally accepted standards for either education courses or certification programs.

It’s ironic that a program focused on reducing waste has evolved into such uncontrolled confusion:

  • Why does everyone have to waste time seeking to determine which concepts and tools should be taught to employees at an organization seeking to make a lean transformation?
  • Why are these charlatans running around treating lean education as just an immersion into speaking Japanese?
  • Who do these crazy people claim that changing your organization’s culture is easy – just listen to the magic they are hawking from the back of their wagon?

For this article, I’ll stick to a standard lean transformation program. I will focus on the needs to those seeking to make the cultural transformation – the difficult path to creating a sustainable organization.

I won’t muddy the waters with lean six sigma, lean sigma, Toyota stuff, or some other derivative. In addition, I will not be supporting anyone seeking to cause chaos with some fast cost cutting shenanigans. I will not be giving away a short list of magic bullets or a long list of a million foreign words.

Lean Training Confusing

A Solid Framework

Lean Training Standards

Given an immense body of knowledge, you cannot, and do not need to, provide complete educational coverage to every person helping with a lean transformation. But, you do need to provide education to everyone and need to ensure you have a means of segmenting which concepts, terms, and problem solving tools should be taught to people, based upon their role in your lean transformation.

There are no “official” levels of knowledge for people working on a lean transformation. However, there is a common sense approach used by many organizations.

This approach defines standards for education and the roles people will perform on lean projects and other events. This widely used approach segments lean education standards and the corresponding roles into the following:

  • Apprentice: provide subject matter expertise and support projects, kaizen blitz events, and continuous improvement activities
  • Practitioner: manage projects, lead value stream mapping sessions, and facilitate kaizen blitz events
  • Expert: lead major projects, address complex problems, and advise project teams
  • Master: establish standards, provide expert advice on overall program management, and coach problem solvers
  • Champion: sponsor projects, ensure resources, communicate the progress toward creating a sustainable organization

Of course, there is room at the margins. An organization might ask more or less from any role. This would simply mean more or less education would be required for succeeding at the assignment.

Knowledge Needs

Given the 5 lean roles, let’s turn our attention to the education required for each role.

Warning: we are now at the point with very high risk of aggravating every lean education provider! Those without a desire to learn and practice the art of continuous improvement should stop reading now.

Brace yourself and get ready to learn the body of knowledge, which our research and experience demonstrate, should be included in the curriculum for each level.

Lean Knowledge Needs

Apprentice

The curriculum for the Apprentice role should be a general introduction to key concepts and topics.

An organization specific class should include the case for change and explore successful lean projects that have been completed.

The list of concepts, terms, and tools includes:

  • Principles of Lean
    1. Specify Value
    2. Identify Value Streams
    3. Create Flow
    4. Leverage Pull
    5. Seek Perfection
  • Types of Value
    • Business Value Add
    • Non-Value Add
    • Value Add
    • Value Added Percentage
    • Value Added Ratio
  • Types of Waste
    • Defects
    • Environmental
    • Inventory
    • Motion
    • Movement
    • Over Production
    • Poor Processing
    • Underutilized Capabilities
    • Waiting
  • Miscellaneous
    • Continuous Improvement
    • External Customers
    • Internal Customers
    • Kaizen
    • Kaizen Blitz
    • Lean Definition
    • Root cause analysis
    • Standard Work

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Lean Apprentice

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Lean Apprentice

Practitioner

The curriculum for Practitioner education should include a deeper dive into everything covered for the Apprentice role. In addition, there should be a well-defined lean project that walks through the specific steps for one of the common lean projects such as value stream mapping, changeover reduction, or the 5S system. Value stream mapping is one of the better projects, as this tool is very systematic and associated with projects have a high probability of success.

Learning can be enhanced and accelerated when the project is a scripted example that includes data and information designed for learning all of the required concepts, terms, and tools. For example, an online simulation tool can provide quick access to a fictional organization with a current state full of waste. Students can apply what they learn to design a future state and see the impact of their decisions through simulation.

The list of concepts, terms, and tools includes:

  • Creating Flow
    • Call Systems
    • Changeover Reduction
    • Ergonomics
    • Milk Runs
    • Mistake Proofing
    • Point of Use
    • Poke Yoke
    • Single Minute Exchange of Dies (SMED)
    • Single Piece Flow
    • Supermarket
    • U-Shaped Work Cell
    • Visual Controls
  • Education and Training
    • Cross Training
    • Job Rotation
    • Lean Education Standards
    • Learning Curve
    • Work Teams
  • Fulfillment Techniques
    • Assemble to Order
    • Digital
    • Engineer to Order
    • Fulfillment Measurements
    • Make to Order
    • Make to Stock
    • Postponement
    • Push vs. Pull
  • Leveraging Pull
    • Kanban
    • Pull Signals
    • Vendor Managed Inventory
  • Maintenance
    • Corrective
    • Periodic
    • Predictive
    • Preventive
    • Total Productive Maintenance
  • Problem Solving Tools
    • 5 Whys
    • ABC Analysis
    • Brainstorming
    • Cause and Effect Diagram
    • Check Sheet
    • Control Chart
    • Fishbone Diagram
    • Histogram
    • Ishikawa Diagram
    • Pareto Analysis
    • Run chart
    • Scatter Diagram
  • Project Management
    • Change Management Curve
    • Dysfunctional Teams
    • Force Field Analysis
    • Gantt Chart
    • Gap Analysis
    • On time, on budget, on scope
    • Project Charter
    • Project Closure
    • Project Errors
    • Project Failures
    • Project Team Roles
    • Quick Wins
    • Ruthless Prioritization
    • Scope Creep
    • Team Development
    • Team Players
  • Project Selection
    • Aligning With Strategy
    • Lean Champion
    • Risk Analysis
    • Selection Matrix
    • Types of Projects
  • Quality
    • Cost of Quality
    • Quality at the Source
    • Quality Definitions
    • Types of Inspection
  • Seeking Perfection
    • Continuous Improvement
    • Gemba Walk
    • Kaizen Blitz Events
    • Kaizen Blitz Rules
    • Plan Do Check Act (PDCA)
    • Statistical Process Control
  • Specify Value
    • Critical to Quality
    • Focus Groups
    • Proactive Sources
    • Reactive Sources
    • Voice of the Customer
  • Value Stream Mapping
    • Benchmarking
    • Best Practices
    • Current State Mapping
    • Downstream Flows
    • Future State Mapping
    • Mapping Symbols
    • Spaghetti Diagram
    • Suppliers Inputs Process Outputs Customers (SIPOC)
    • Upstream Flows
    • Value Stream Maps
  • Miscellaneous
    • Inventory Turns
    • Lean Six Sigma Explanation
    • Policies
    • Return on Investment
    • Six Sigma
    • Standard Operating Procedures (SOP)
    • Takt Time
    • The 5S System
    • Work Instructions

Note: a number of complex concepts, terms, and tools are only “introduced” during Practitioner training. Complicated cultural issues and statistical analysis tools are not appropriate.

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Lean Practitioner

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Lean Practitioner

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Lean Practitioner

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Lean Practitioner

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Lean Practitioner

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Lean Practitioner

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Lean Practitioner

Expert

The curriculum for Expert training should include a deeper dive into many items covered for the Practitioner role. In addition, there should be a sanctioned lean project that requires rigorous use of problem solving techniques. The project should tackle a complex problem where a solution has been elusive. Learning should be supported through coaching from an instructor that is a Lean Master and an executive sponsor that is a Lean Champion.

The list of concepts, terms, and tools includes:

  • Cultural Change
  • Measurements
  • Problem Solving
  • Product and Service Development
  • Sustainable Organizations

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Lean Expert

Master

Great news for those aspiring to the Master role – there are just a few additional requirements. However, these require skills such as leadership, coaching, and teaching.

The additional requirements include:

  • Manage the lean program for an organization, business unit, local site, or whatever
  • Ensure lean projects are selected, scoped, and executed appropriately
  • Coach others through problem solving projects
  • Be the reservoir of knowledge for complex tools which are seldom used, but are very effective in the right situation

The list of concepts, terms, and tools includes:

  • Assessments
  • Leading Change
  • Program Management
Lean Master

Champion

A Lean Champion needs to provide sound advice on organizational needs and be skilled at developing others. The best leaders develop the next generation of leaders.

Requirements for this role include:

  • Making, refining, and communicating the case for change
  • Motivating and challenging people to improve themselves and the organization
  • Understand the strong ROI for and lean transformation and greater benefits from creating a great place to work
  • Keep the focus on changing the culture to create a sustainable organization
Lean Champion

Summary

Lean Training

I don’t expect to eliminate all of the confusion in the worldwide market for lean education courses and certification exams. Most likely, I have made a number of experts turn red with anger. They are free to hold onto their own opinions.

My goal for readers is to provide a way to sort through the chaos and find a baseline for comparing lean education courses and certification exams.

If you have a concept, term, or tool that is missing from the lists above, send me a message.

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