What’s a Certification?
In general terms, certification refers to the demonstration or mastery of a specific body of knowledge. So, to be “certified” in something means that you’ve done the following:
- You’ve demonstrated that you understand the topic well enough
- You’ve proven “understanding” through the passing of some test or exam
- You’ve met other requirements that are required by the governing body.
That’s the gist of certification. Now, let’s transition to the problems of certification in Six Sigma.
Black Belt Certification
A simple Google search for “six sigma black belt certification” will render hundreds of hundreds of search results. This is a problem, kind of. Because there is no single objective governing body that identifies and defines the body of knowledge and has created a test to assess understanding of the material, it’s resulted in crops of consultancies and online learning companies that claim to certify. The unfortunate thing is that many people are fooled into actually signing up with these companies, giving away precious time and money.
Certification in the Eye of the Beholder
In the past when I interviewed Black Belts for a position at the company for whom I worked, I never – not once – asked if they were certified. Instead, I only interviewed candidates that came from companies with known and reputable Lean and Six Sigma training programs. Never – not once – did I interview someone who received some type of certification from a governing body like ASQ or the hundreds of others.
You see, from my perspective, the only training that truly counts is the one provided by a company through their internal program. For me, I was trained in Lean at Toyota, then in Six Sigma at Amazon.com. Both companies are known for their rigor and fidelity to the methodology. At Toyota, there’s no such thing as being certified in the Toyota Production System. But, having the Toyota name on your resume says something about you. Same with Amazon.
So, while I’m not a fan of certification in Six Sigma in general, I do understand that it’s one way to measure or assess the mastery of the subject. It doesn’t say anything about experience – just the mastery of the topic.
What does this Mean for YOU?
It’s up to you. You have many options in the marketplace to receive your certification. If that is your goal, I can help you get in touch with the known non-for-profit governing bodies that are more reputable than the many consultancies and online learning programs.
Given my perspective on certification, let’s go through the history of the Six Sigma Certification and Belt System to gain a better understanding of what it all means for us.
Black Belt Certification: The History
Not surprisingly, the term Black Belt has its roots in the exotic realm of martial arts. Like a person skilled in the Oriental sport of karate, the Six Sigma Black Belt is self-assured and knowledgeable, the result of intensive training and real-world experience.
Motorola, the company that holds the Six Sigma trademark, says the data-driven defect-reduction process has saved the company more than $16 billion over the past 15 years. Six Sigma has generated similarly stunning results at companies here and abroad in the manufacturing, transactional, and service sectors. All businesses — regardless of sector, size, or project – link their success to one factor. In Six Sigma parlance, it’s the Black Belt.
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