Do you know what Lean and Six Sigma are? Any idea about the belts? What if I tell you it is time to get your Lean Six Sigma Belt?
Hey Crizpers, what do you know about Six Sigma, Lean or the belts? Maybe you are already considering an opportunity to get your first or second belt? I have recently found a chance of earning my first White belt in Lean Six Sigma and now I want to share my experience with you. I am calling you to get an insight from my record and create your strategy on obtaining a belt.
What Six Sigma is?
To begin with a good move would be to instantly clarify what Six Sigma is and what role does it play in Project Management.
First of all, Six Sigma is about quality. I have already touched base on this in the Quality in Projects article. This methodology was invented in 1986 by Bill Smith when he was working as an engineer in Motorola. His goal was to minimize the number of possible defects in manufacturing and to increase the value of products. Based on the idea that everything could be measured, analyzed, improved and controlled Bill created a strategy for the product quality constant improvement and sequent better quality level maintenance. This strategy is DMAIC, or Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control.
Nowadays we utilize these principles not only in manufacturing, but also in the business processes and products delivery improvements. And here we can see the approach is extremely aligned with Project Management. Specifically, in managing strategy and internal automation projects that are focused on decreasing the number of defects and on increasing value.
Here Lean comes in
A couple of words about Lean methodology and principles. Well, Lean is a methodology we utilize to create the maximum value for customers with a minimal cost, resources, efforts or waste. In this instance, waste is something we pay for and which does not bring any value. Looks common to defects, right? Usually, we need to pay for the defects improvement, but it does not bring direct value for us. Here we get this:
Lean Six Sigma is a method that relies on a collaborative team effort to improve performance by systematically removing waste and reducing variation.Wikipedia
Now we see that although Lean and Six Sigma are different approaches and methodologies, they have common goals. Both focus on reducing the production cost; improving the product quality; reducing waste for staying competitive and on increasing the product value.
Levels of Expertise
Considering the Lean Six Sigma concept in general, for taking part in the Six Sigma projects all of the participants need to have the awareness of the methodology and principles; and should be able to efficiently operate using the DMAIC tool. Therefore, to determine the levels of expertise and to assign roles on the projects appropriately Six Sigma provides the differentiation by introducing several Certification levels. I am sure you’ve heard about the Six Sigma / Lean Six Sigma color belts.
Frankly speaking, this is the most plain and simple level of awareness. This kind of certification suspects that a person has a general understanding of the methodology; its principles; roles and goals. This awareness of fundamentals is appropriate to all the line employees in the organization. And this was the first step that I have recently taken in earning the LSS belts.
At the yellow stage the knowledge of Lean Six Sigma methodology and principles is more precise. It should be deeper than the general understanding of the methodology. This level of expertise assumes the holder should be able to apply this knowledge in practice; to act as a subject matter expert or as an executor on the LSS projects.
Stepping one stare higher, Greens are the experts in the products, services and processes development and improvement. These guys are an essential part of the Lean Six Sigma project team and can efficiently apply the DMAIC method. This means the Green Belts should be able to define the potential waste; to create metrics for measuring the impact; to analyze it and define the suitable improvement solution. Green Belt certification would be the very basic one for Project Managers.
Here things become more exciting. Black Belts are the direct project leaders and Lean Six Sigma team leaders. Usually the LSS team consists of the Yellows and Greens, while the Black Belt is acting as a captain of this value-delivery ship. Besides the general hands-on knowledge of DMAIC, the Black Belts holders monitor results and manage team dynamics; run quality improvements and participate in the company-wide productivity modification.
This is a senior guy who, besides the Black Belt’s area of expertise, takes ownership in identification of improvement strategy through business, and coordinates across the teams and departments. The Master Black Belt should perform strong leadership and problem-solving skills. Usually, this is someone who already has a comprehensive experience leading projects as a Black Belt practitioner.
Champion is an executive and an upper-level leader who runs the general strategy. He or she determines the strategy; defines the improvement directions; takes ownership of the resources; approves the projects and makes the go / no go decisions. In other words, this is a sponsor of the LSS project.
My First Belt
Here we come to my personal experience. Initially, I was a bit sceptic about Six Sigma and its Belts. My idea was that Six Sigma is specifically about quality and less about Project Management. However, I have decided to dive into the LSS and to estimate its value more precisely.
The challenge was defined. Next, I needed to decide which certification provider to choose. Actually, there is a huge variety of them. By the way, an awesome benefit in this certification is that it could be taken online. In my opinion it is a really cool asset, especially in the today’s circumstances when everybody is locked down at home.
Some time ago one of my colleagues shared his experience in obtaining the Six Sigma White Belt certification. Long story short, I found the provider he was referring to. And a decision to taste the first fundamental level with MSI (Management and Strategy Institute) was made.
Call to Action
My overall experience with these guys (MSI) was extremely positive! To give you an idea, first of all, the Lean Six Sigma White Belt certification that they offer is completely free (at least now). Next, to familiarize with the rules and to enroll for the certification took me literally minutes, which from my point of view is a very positive user experience.
Moving on, the certification process is described in a very explicit and intuitive way. MSI is providing distinct information, resources and materials. All is pretty much straight forward. And the crucial thing in all this journey was that the time consumed for the familiarization, enrollment, study and the test itself was about two hours only! Can you imagine this?
I do believe that sharing valuable information adds more points to your karma. Therefore, if I have an insight I am always aiming to pull it out for you.
To sum up, I do encourage you to go and get this fist Six Sigma and to add it to your record. And even if you decide not to move further than a White Belt cert, it would always be an additional advantage for you.
Do you have any of the Six Sigma Belts? Which ones? If no, would you like to start earning them?