Blended Training versus Self-Study versus Live Training

Many ask why SSMI-US prefers Blended Training over other methods when many organizations insist on live training. Here is a quote from Mikel, “My personal objective, where I used to be the Rolls-Royce of Six Sigma, high cost, etc., now my goal is to become the Toyota of Six Sigma, with a Walmart delivery, at the speed of FedEx. That's the goal now for generation three.”Blended Training accomplishes Mikel’s objective.

The typical model for Live Lean Six Sigma Black Belt Training is to have live classes one week per month over four months. This provides 160 hours of training. Mikel created this training schedule and used live training almost exclusively in his large deployments. However, things were different then. Mikel required the companies he was working with to commit Black Belts to a full-time position first. Then the candidate would go through four months of Body of Knowledge (BOK) training and Application Training. BOK and tools training was one week per month. Black Belts were required to complete a project selected by Mikel and the Deployment Team during the remaining three weeks per month. This project was closely monitored. In summary, Mikel’s original model for Live Black Belt had four conditions:

  1. Black Belt Candidates are committed to a full-timeposition beforetraining.

  2. Black Belt Candidates are committed by the organization to a full-time four-month training cycle.

  3. Black Belt Candidates receive 160 hours of BOK and tools training during the four-month training period.

  4. Black Belts are assigned to a project selected by the Deployment Team at the commencement of training. This project is closely monitored and completed before the training is complete using the non-live training time during the four-month training period.

If an organization is willing to satisfy these four requirements, then live training is appropriate, otherwise it is not.

We know today, few companies are willing to satisfy Mikel’s Live Training Requirement. Often the scenario is more like this:

A Black Belt candidate is selected or self-selects themselves for Black Belt training in order to build their “skill-set.” Once the candidate completes a “certified body of knowledge” program, the Black Belt Candidate selects a project of their own choosing. The Black Belt Candidate may or may not have an experienced Lean Six Sigma mentor to guide them through the project and are often left to complete the project on their own, which means they usually default to completing the project in their own way, instead of the Six Sigma way. The project reports use the DMAIC format, so it looks like it was done in a Six Sigma way, but this is just a compliance issue and most often DMAIC was not actually the methodology used.

We know that many Black Belt Candidates who do Live Training go to one week of Live Training, return to their jobs to try to catch up on the work that didn’t get done, while they were being trained and repeat that cycle for three more weeks. There is no time for application and a project is not completed during the training.

Those that are using the One-Week Per Month Live Training Model and not satisfying Mikel’s four criteria for the model, do not understand the philosophy behind the model and are selectively picking elements of Mikel’s Live Training Model as bullet points.

The second issue with live training is that the course content gets more difficult as the course progresses. In the first one-week session, candidates might be able to absorb 40 hours of content over the 8 hours per day for 5 days straight model. But as the training progresses, so does the rigor of the content. In the last week of the training most candidates will reach brain overload after the first two-hours of the first day and retention will go to near zero. As Mikel used to say, “This is like drinking from a firehose.”

Lastly, Live Training even under the same BOK has a high degree of variation in the delivery and the flexibility of the instructor to modify the BOK on the fly. Six Sigma is based upon variation reduction and should be applied to the method of training delivery. While live training seems to be popular by training administrators, it is simply not effective unless the four criteria of Mikel’s original model for Live Training are met.

Self-Study training resolves the variation in delivery problem and allows for candidates to review material and work independently of an instructor. Smart, self-motivated, self-learners can get through Self-Study Training. However, they miss the interaction with the instructor and classmates. SSMI offers Self-Study at the same price as Blended Learning for those that desire the independence this model provides.

Blended Training provided within a small cohort class, provides self-paced study throughout the learning sessions, but has intermittent scheduled dates for exams and webinars keeping candidates on pace. By using standardized training media that is identical to the self-study program, candidates get the same body of knowledge, resolving the variation issue that exists with Live Training. It also allows candidates the opportunity to submit individual questions to the instructor and have those questions answered during the live webinars. The live webinars provide the opportunity for interaction and include deeper explanation on topics that candidates often misunderstand, and the opportunity for exam review. Blended Training is far superior to other forms of training for most candidates and enhances retention.


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