By Mike Loughrin, CEO for Transformance Advisors
All Over The Place
Training courses and certification exams for six sigma are all over the place. There are no generally accepted standards for either training courses or certification exams.
For example, I have found Certified Six Sigma Green Belt classes starting at $14.99 and going up to $8,400.00. This is clearly a situation of caveat emptor or buyer beware.
It’s ironic how a program, focused on reducing variation, 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?
For this article, I’ll stick to standard six sigma. I won’t muddy the waters with lean six sigma, lean sigma, constraint sigma, or some other derivative.
Let The Sun Shine
One ray of sunshine does light our way through the chaos.
There is general agreement on levels of knowledge, known as “belts”, and the roles people with these belts will take on six sigma projects. The most widely recognized six sigma belts and the corresponding roles are:
- Yellow: subject matter experts and other project support roles
- Green: manage projects, collect data, analyze data, design improvements, implement improvements, and monitor new processes
- Black: lead major projects, ensure rigorous data analysis, coach teams in designing robust solutions, guide implementation of improvements, and monitor new processes until they are ingrained
- Master Black: provide expert advice on overall program management and train new Black Belts
One additional role, which is not a belt, is the Champion. This is the executive sponsor who ensures the right projects are funded and solutions provide benefits to the organization.
The challenge with training courses and certification exams is understandable. No one “owns” the six sigma belt classifications.
Add in the fact of an immense body of knowledge, and you have an additional challenge of segmenting which concepts, terms, and tools should be allocated to each of the three belts.
At risk of aggravating every six sigma training provider, the following sections identify the body of knowledge which should be included in the curriculum for each belt.
The curriculum for Yellow Belt training should be a general introduction to key concepts, terms, and tools.
A company specific training class should include the case for change and explore successful six sigma projects which have been completed.
Key concepts, terms, and tools include:
- Six Sigma Goal (Defects per Opportunity)
- Six Sigma Methodology (DMAIC)
The DMAIC methodology is only “introduced” during Yellow Belt training. Statistical analysis, while limited, is introduced to ensure participants understand how the power of statistics is foundational to six sigma.
The curriculum for Green Belt training should include a deeper dive on everything covered in Yellow Belt. In addition, there should be a well-defined six sigma project which walks through Define Measure Analyze Improve Control (DMAIC), includes data analysis, and addresses reducing defects per opportunity.
Learning can be enhanced and accelerated when the project is a scripted example which includes data and information designed for learning all of the required material.
Key concepts, terms, and tools for this role include:
- Define – Project Selection and Charter
- Measure – Data Collection and Data Report
- Analyze – Statistics, Root Cause, and Analysis Report
- Improve – Benchmarking, Recommendation Report, and Change Management
- Control – Process Control and Control Plan
- Closure – Continuous Improvement and Project Closure
- Advanced Topics – Introduction to Quality Function Deployment and Lean Transformation
Complex concepts, terms, and tools are only “introduced” during Green Belt training. Heavy statistical analysis tools are not appropriate.
The curriculum for Black Belt training should include a deeper dive on some material covered in Green Belt. In addition, there should be a sanctioned six sigma project which requires rigorous use of Define Measure Analyze Improve Control (DMAIC), includes complex data analysis, and addresses reducing defects per opportunity. The project must provide significant customer value and meet other stakeholder expectations.
Learning should be supported through coaching from a Six Sigma Champion.
Key concepts, terms, and tools include:
- Program Management – Organizational Assessments and Risk Management
- Measure – Big Data, Sampling, and Data Distribution
- Analyze – Correlation Analysis, Data Visualization, and Design of Experiments
- Improve – Process Assessment, Consensus Building, and Force Field Analysis
- Control – Statistical Process Control and Failure Mode Effects Analysis
- Advanced Topics – Product Development and Trends in Six Sigma
Master Black Belt
Great news for the Master Black Belt. There are only a few additional requirements. Most require skills such as leadership, coaching, and teaching.
The additional requirements include:
- Manage the six sigma program for an organization, business unit, local site, or whatever
- Ensure six sigma projects are selected, scoped, and executed appropriately
- Conduct training for Black Belts and coach them through their projects
- Be the reservoir of knowledge for complex, but seldom used, problem solving tools
A Master Black Belt will often lead the annual assessment of the organization’s use of six sigma as the go-to improvement methodology.
I don’t expect to clear up the confusion, in the worldwide market, for six sigma 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 have a baseline for comparing six sigma courses and certification exams.
We are members of the Credential Registry, an organization dedicated to providing up-to-date information about all credentials, a common description language to enable credential comparability, and a platform to search and retrieve information about credentials.
Learn more at Credential Registry.