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5 Tips for Choosing a Lean Certification Course

By Steve Kane Updated on September 25th, 2020

There are many Lean certification courses available from a wide variety of organizations. Choosing the right one to suit your specific needs can be a bit tricky. Here are some tips and considerations to help you find the right one for you.

Lean Body of Knowledge

It’s often argued that Lean certifications don’t align with a standardized or governed body of knowledge. All of the research I’ve done indicates this is true. There isn’t a single set of Lean tools, methods, or ideas to make up a standard certification course. There are, however, consistent themes found in most courses. These include organizing the workplace to make problems obvious, reducing complexity, adding value and eliminating waste, scientific thinking, problem solving, standardization, kaizen, etc.

The Only Genuine Knowledge is That of Actual Experience

The topics covered in a certification course are one consideration. The method by which the learning content is delivered is, arguably, a greater consideration.

Adults learn best through experience. Books, videos, seminars, etc. are good ways to learn. Much of this learning is lost within hours and most is lost within days, if the learning hasn’t been applied in the real world. Experiential learning deepens both understanding and retention. Here’s a brief explanation from Wikipedia.

Experiential learning focuses on the learning process for the individual. One example of experiential learning is going to the zoo and learning through observation and interaction with the zoo environment, as opposed to reading about animals from a book. Thus, one makes discoveries and experiments with knowledge firsthand, instead of hearing or reading about others’ experiences.

Experiential learning can exist without a teacher and relates solely to the meaning-making process of the individual’s direct experience. However, though the gaining of knowledge is an inherent process that occurs naturally, a genuine learning experience requires certain elements.[6] According to Kolb, knowledge is continuously gained through both personal and environmental experiences.[16] Kolb states that in order to gain genuine knowledge from an experience, the learner must have four abilities:

  • The learner must be willing to be actively involved in the experience;
  • The learner must be able to reflect on the experience;
  • The learner must possess and use analytical skills to conceptualize the experience; and
  • The learner must possess decision making and problem solving skills in order to use the new ideas gained from the experience.

Personal experience is more advantageous than abstract concepts or theory alone. Ideally, certification courses rely heavily on real-world application of the topics presented along with the reflection and analysis of the experience.

Gap Analysis: Current State vs. Future State

The acquisition of a certification is often a countermeasure to a knowledge gap. Selecting a course, then, is a matter of matching desired skills and proficiency with both the learning topics and practical experience that will be gained from the selected course. It’s important to know what actions and experiences the course will provide in order for you to gain the experience you want in order to bridge the knowledge gap.

One-On-One Coaching

Frequent coaching sessions from a seasoned practitioner is a critical component of experiential learning. The coaching process provokes reflection, which leads to deeper understanding. The coach, ideally, is outside of your org structure and has no preconceived beliefs about what is or isn’t possible within your organization.

Tips for Selecting the Right Course for You

  1. Know where you are in your continuous improvement journey and where you want to go. Are you looking for a broad awareness of continuous improvement tools, a deep understanding of Lean principles and philosophy, or, perhaps, a deep understanding gained from your personal experience practicing Lean methods. Be deliberate about the skillset you expect to have at the completion of the course. Choose a Six Sigma course for data mining and statistical analysis. Six Sigma will help you get a strong grasp of understanding variation within a process.
  2. Choose a course that provides professionally trained coaches. Coaching is a professional discipline. It involves more than giving advice and making suggestions. A professionally trained coach can help you gain much more from your certification course.
  3. Choose real-world experience over simulations or other exercises. Simulations and other exercises are important and certainly have their place. There’s just no substitute for learning in your workplace within your job role and area of responsibility.
  4. Make genuine improvements as you learn. Making improvements to your work that benefit your organization is a rewarding and intrinsically motivating experience. Choose a course that applies lessons directly and immediately to your work. This approach will give the quickest return on your investment.
  5. Scale your expertise within your organization. It’s said that you learn best by teaching. Choose a course that is designed to help you scale your expertise across your organization. You’ll deepen your knowledge by helping others deepen theirs. A good certification course will provide you with the curriculum, learning materials, and support to allow you to help others gain continuous improvement proficiency quickly and easily.


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