Six sigma training

Are Lean and Six Sigma Training Worth Your Time?

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Six Sigma training, lean training, and training in other process improvement methods have become quite popular in recent years.

Yet some argue that they are inflexible and inadequate for today’s fast-paced business world.


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A recent guide from IDC, for instance, argues that lean and Six Sigma place “emphasis on a relatively linear view of internal operations processes.” 

IDC suggests that as we move into the post-pandemic next normal, organizations will need customer-centric business models and methods. 

Since we are moving into an era where disruption will be the new normal, it is useful to question the value of certain process improvement methodologies. 

Are Lean and Six Sigma Training Worth the Investment?

The point made by IDC is useful to bear in mind – namely, that customer-centric agility is essential in a volatile business environment.

That being said, process improvement methodologies do have a track record of boosting business performance, operational efficiency, and customer success metrics, among other things.

To better understand whether these types of training programs can offer value, let’s take a quick look at lean, Six Sigma, and lean Six Sigma.

Lean: A Method for Reducing Waste

The lean method is built around core principles that include:

  • Reducing waste
  • Increasing efficiency
  • Improving value for customers

By reducing waste – such as non-utilized talent or inventory – companies can cut costs, improve quality, enhance customer value, and, ultimately, create an operational code of conduct that can be applied across the whole organization.

Six Sigma: Reducing Variability and Defects

Six Sigma and lean both share overlapping goals, such as elevating customer value.

They also use similar tools, such as processes that can be applied continuously to enhance performance. 

Six Sigma, for instance, utilizes a repeatable tool, DMAIC, in order to define, measure, analyze, improve, and control processes. Some lean practitioners also use a similar tool, the Build-Measure-Learn cycle, to enhance customer-centric value creation. 

Unlike lean, however, Six Sigma doesn’t focus on waste reduction. 

Instead, its emphasis lies on driving better business outcomes by:

  • Reducing defects
  • Minimizing process variation
  • Using data-driven methods

Given the similarity between these methods, it shouldn’t be surprising that a number of business professionals have combined them.

Lean Six Sigma: The Best of Both Worlds?

Lean Six Sigma is a fusion of both systems, which prioritizes preventing defects rather than detecting them. 

It attempts to accomplish objectives from both lean thinking and Six Sigma, such as reducing both waste and variation within business processes. 

This system has become quite popular and a number of organizations have even begun to offer training in Lean Six Sigma. 

The question for many business professionals is: which is the best certification to obtain? 

How to Choose the Right Certification Program

There are many benefits to getting certified in lean, Six Sigma, Lean Six Sigma, or any other business discipline, for that matter.

A few include:

  • Better marketability. One of the biggest benefits of certifications is that they can be added to your resume and make you more marketable. This is especially true if you have applied the knowledge from those courses to generate benefits for an organization.
  • Added value to the organization. Organizations naturally have a vested interest in training their employees. The more their employees know, the more value they will add to the business. An organization that utilizes process improvement methodologies such as lean or Six Sigma, therefore, will be more interested in hiring and training employees who have certifications.
  • Salary. Businesses will also pay more to those who are certified, especially if, as mentioned, they use those methods in their organization.

Assuming that budget and time aren’t an issue – and that you’re willing to put in the time – it’s easy to argue that these certifications are valuable.

On the other hand, there are reasons one may not want to invest in any of the options mentioned above.

A few include:

  • Time and costs. Budget may be an issue for some, though professional development programs are usually better thought of as investments, since they pay themselves off over time. 
  • Usefulness of the program. Some organizations make extensive use of these process improvement methodologies. Others, such as the authors of the IDC report mentioned above, point out that newer, non-linear business methods may be more relevant in the digital-first era. 
  • Program format. Different programs have different formats: some are on demand video courses, some are lectures, and some are a hybrid. Since schedules and learning styles differ from person to person, it is important to take this into account. Also, although most are online, some classes are still offered offline, which may be another option for some students. 
  • Prerequisites. Although lean and Six Sigma courses usually don’t have any prerequisites, it is typically a good idea to be familiar with some sort of process improvement methodology before attending the class.

By taking all these factors into account you can make an educated decision about whether lean or six Sigma certifications are worth the investment. 

In some cases, they may be ideal – if your organization uses the method and you are able to apply it, then certification could be very valuable indeed. 

On the other hand, if you aren’t in a position to put a methodology into practice, these types of trainings would like not be a valuable investment.

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