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My Take on Lean and Six Sigma Certifications

By Ron Pereira Updated on January 14th, 2011

A few days ago I posed the question about whether exam based lean six sigma certifications were legitimate or frauds.

As usual, many of you came through with excellent thoughts and comments.

Some of you supported the idea, others argued against exam based certifications, and others maintained a neutral position.

Here’s my two cents.

Learning is Always Good

First of all, learning is always good.

It doesn’t matter if you read a blog article, book, or watch some handsome fellow wax poetic about lean on video… learning something new is never bad.

To Each His or Her Own

Next, people learn differently. At Gemba Academy we hear of how some folks love to read the PDF summaries of each lesson. Why? Because they like to read.

Other people prefer online videos, DVDs, in person lectures, or a combination of all these.

The point is everyone is different.

What about Certifications?

Now, to the question of certifications.

I am of the opinion that certifications can be good when approached properly.

And by properly I definitely feel some hands on project work should be done in addition to passing an exam.

The idea of completing a “virtual” project or no project at all doesn’t sit well with me at all as it flies in the face of going to gemba, or the place the work is done, to practice what you learned.

Certifications Means The World to Some

Many opponents of certifications live in the West where these types of things don’t matter much since higher education is the norm for many.

But I can tell you this… I have seen individuals from developing countries break down and cry when they received their certification… it meant the world to them.

So, it’s important to remember that not everyone has the same opportunities in life. As such, we should not be so quick to judge others and their accomplishments.

Problems with Certifications

With this said, certifications don’t come without their problems.

  • Resume Builder: Some folks simply approach certifications as a way to strengthen their resume. In other words, they don’t really care about what they are learning. They are only going through the motions to get a piece of paper.
  • One and Done: Another problem is the one and done… whereby someone completes the certification and never uses their knowledge again. Sad, but I have seen this many times, especially with green belts.
  • Elitist Attitude: Third, while not always the case, some certified folks become elitists… they feel like they are smarter and better than others. This flies in the face of respecting people, a pillar of authentic continuous improvement.
  • Learning Stops: Finally, certification sometimes leads to the person feeling as though there is nothing left to learn.  This is, obviously, never the case. 

Do Something

In the end… I come back to the story I wrote about before where my Grandpa was caught in the middle of a busy intersection… frozen with fear.

After a few seconds my Grandma, God rest her soul, finally yelled, “Well do something!”

It’s also like the question I get from my church friends on which version of the Bible they should buy.  My reply is always the same – the one you will read.

So, no matter if you choose to seek certification or not… I encourage you to do something.

In the end I really believe that if you constantly seek knowledge with a humble heart while working to help others… you will not go wrong.

What do you think?

What do you think of my perspective? Do you agree?

  1. Pravin

    January 14, 2011 - 12:29 am

    Sir, I agree with your assessment that certification is very important to some. In India this is definitely important.

  2. Frank

    January 14, 2011 - 3:28 am

    Certification to me is usefull when it supports personal goals, company goals or both. In my team we use certification to help ourselves to develop our knowledge on lean management. Herewith we can improve our daily work as lean consultants. In this way it supports both the personal as well as our team goals.

    • Claudia Vandermilt

      February 9, 2011 - 12:53 pm

      I agree Frank.

      We do the same with our team. The certifications allow us to gauge our, and our peer’s, progress and gives us added training and learning opportunities.

      It’s nice to do the training and have something to show for it as well.

  3. Aaron Simon

    January 14, 2011 - 10:54 am

    I received my Black Belt a few years ago. After 4 weeks of training, I had to complete a Green Belt project and a Black Belt project whilst also passing a 120 question Black Belt exam. I definitely feel real project application is critical as really anyone can learn to press buttons in Minitab but getting people to work together and solve problems is the hardest part of being a Black Belt.

  4. Imadeldin Magzoub Mohamed

    January 16, 2011 - 4:51 am


    Certification is like a Driver or a Pilot license to drive avehicle or fly a plane (after gaining the required skills by receiving appropraite knowledge and training) since no one could drive a car or fly a plane with just a fraud certification, thus certification should be properly done to reflect a trustfull judgement of the capabilities of the individuals.
    Certification also gives the stakeholders the confidence that the licensed persons are capable of doing the intended jobs and help them make decision to select and employ right persons for the required tasks.
    Also Certifying bodies beside, being technically able need to be honest with persons seeking certification and other stakeholders who directly or indirectly affected by the certification.

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