Six Sigma Training Projects

Project Requirements for Certification

By Alan M. Leduc

Below is an article written by Dr. Mikel J. Harry in 2013. Mikel points out the issues with selecting “real world” training projects that have “educational worthiness” and the difficulties in assessing such projects for the purposes of validating a Belt Candidate’s ability to apply their knowledge. Mikel suggests that a better alternative might be a project simulation which is designed for the purposes of assessing the candidate’s ability to make sound decisions and judgements based upon data.

Mikel wrote this article, because he had already come to conclusion that project simulation was superior to “real world” projects in assessing a candidate’s ability to make such decisions and judgements and leveling the playing field for all candidates. In fact, Mikel had included such a simulation in his MindPro Lean Six Sigma Training Program offered through SSMI (Dr. Mikel J. Harry Six Sigma Management Institute). Mikel had collected data from an anonymous company and manipulated it to create problems that need to be uncovered. Mikel asked me to write a case study around the data to complete the project simulation. This project is included as a requirement for MindPro’s Black and Green Belt Candidates.

Let’s take a step back in history and look at the original training and development model. For this example, we will look at the Black Belt level. Black Belts were required to undergo four months of training. The four-month training period consisted of 160 hours (4 weeks; 1 week per month) of classroom training, with the balance of the time dedicated to completion of a training project. Completion of the project did not ensure certification, but it just said the person had gone through the Body of Knowledge and Application Training. Certification criteria was established differently by each company. Some required a certain number of projects meeting specific savings objectives; some required use of a tally of tools displayed within projects, etc. Each company established different criteria as to what they believed would identify a candidate’s ability to show their ability to take their body of knowledge and apply it to achieve results and then the Company provided the certification.

Today, many third-party training providers and registries “require” projects as part of their certification procedure and claim that they “validate” or use some other term to insinuate some sort of project assessment. For a project to be considered to be a Lean Six Sigma project, it must “yield a business result that is tangible and significant.” This typically means, the project is going to have a direct connection to the income statement and/or balance sheet (the business financials). If the project is connected with the business financials the project is likely proprietary and permission would not be granted to submit the project to a “third party.” Permission might be granted to submit redacted or modified data but in this case the data is essentially self-reported and cannot be validated. Some say that they have a superior of higher-level Belt to sign an affidavit regarding the project. I think, we all know how requesting references works on job applications. Quite simply, third parties are not in a position to validate projects. And even if they think they are, what criteria do they use to assess the educational and application worthiness of the candidate? Requiring projects as part of certification makes for great marketing but it is not implementable with any degree of integrity.

The simulation project included in SSMI’s MindPro Lean Six Sigma Training is 195 pages long and has components for the Recognize Phase, Risk Analysis, Define Phase, Measure Phase, Analyze Phase, Improve Phase, Control Phase, and Survey Phase. Each module in the simulation project could be considered a project of and unto itself. The candidate is provided a case study with blanked out areas that require statistical analysis. The complete project requires eighty-six (86) analysis components whose output must be analyzed under exam conditions.

A simulation project is much more effective at assessing a candidate’s understanding and ability to apply the Body of Knowledge provided to them and provides a level playing field for all candidates. Real world project assessment and certification experiential based certification should be left to each individual company.

Six Sigma Training Projects

By Dr. Mikel J. Harry

First, training projects are just that — a part of the overall training scheme. Generally speaking, Six Sigma projects are selected based on their potential to yield a business result that is tangible and significant. Seldom are projects selected on their educational worthiness. Even rarer is the instance where a project is selected on its potential to drive business benefits and educational worthiness.

For example, suppose you have two Black-Belt trainees that have successfully completed the classroom portion of their journey toward certification. Now, imagine that both trainees are given a training project that has a high-value expectation. Let’s further suppose that trainee A’s project is successfully completed using only a hand-full of standard quality tools, like a Pareto chart, fishbone diagram and a control chart.

On the other hand, trainee B’s project only realized 50% of the expectation, but he/she had to use a great many of the curriculum’s tools to get that level of benefit. In our example, we shall say that trainee A was certified, but trainee B was not (owing to not realizing 100% of the expected result).

However, what if a high-quality project simulation was made to be a part of the curriculum and; in order to successfully complete that project, the trainee must utilize a large number of the tools, methods, principles and procedures that were taught in the classroom? What if the project exam was based on the progressive analysis of simulated data?

We might also ask what would happen if the project exam was constructed in such a way as to interrogate a trainee’s capability and capacity to make sound decisions and judgment’s (based on data)? Of course, the answer to these questions would be that a simulated project would put trainee A and B on a level playing field (in terms of qualifying for certification).

For a moment, just imagine stepping on a commercial airliner and discovering that it’s the pilot’s first flight. Further, imagine the pilot was not checked out in a flight simulator for the type of aircraft you’re in. No doubt, you might have some deep thoughts and concerns on the subject, to say the least. In this day and age, flight simulators are an essential part of the pilot’s preparation for “real world experience”. The same logic holds when it comes to the preparation and certification of a Six Sigma Black Belt.


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