For several years now, we have found people who claim in their CVs to have mastered Lean Six Sigma approaches and in particular the title of Green or Black Belt. The knowledge tests of certain candidates that we had carried out for recruitment agencies showed a very wide dispersion between the levels of mastery, which had the consequence of devaluing the true professionals, disappointing the companies and globally discrediting the approach. It should be borne in mind that the ability to deploy a sustainable Lean Six Sigma approach is closely dependent on the content and facilitation of training, on the proven implementation of projects and on obtaining a skills certification.
In view of this, and due to a certain Lean Six Sigma "fad", several specialists asked AFNOR to work on a national standard relating to competence requirements in this field.
The aim of this approach was to have normative documents defining the skill requirements for project managers leading Lean, Six Sigma or Lean Six Sigma operational excellence processes.
The AFNOR has defined the challenges that we recall below:
« Issues of standardization in the field
An initial observation can be made today: any performance or operational excellence approach (Lean, Six Sigma, etc.) must be a means of enhancing the skills of individuals in order to federate teamwork that certainly aims at productivity, but by placing people at the center of the approach.
The challenge of standardization in this field is therefore to make Lean and Six Sigma methods more accessible to people working in the operational field by providing, within a consensual framework, reference documents, tried and tested methods that are recognized, understood and accepted by all, in order to facilitate dialogue and economic exchanges between the various market players »
From all this work, the NFX 06-091 standard « Requirements for the skills of improvement project managers and workshop leaders » was published in April 2011.
1. Competency requirements for Lean management, 6 sigma and Lean 6 Sigma project managers
The standard defines:
- Simple project corresponding to the Green Belt level
- Complex project corresponding to the Black Belt level
According to 8 criteria such as: geographical dispersion of the project, size of the team, cultural diversity, level of maturity of the process, degree of resistance to change...
The standard also specifies levels of knowledge, know-how and soft skills, but does not specify a number or volume of projects and/or worksites carried out to confirm the know-how.
2. The Lean 6 Sigma University (UL6S)
Created in 2003, the main objectives of the UL6S are to:
- Certify skills, now based on the NFX 06-091 standard
- Carry out benchmarking actions, disseminate good practices in the field, and share experiences of Lean 6 sigma deployment
- Validate the content of training courses provided by training organizations
Since its creation, UL6S has defined clear criteria for obtaining the training, in particular for improvement project managers (simple = Green Belt and complex = Black Belt)
a. Criterion 1: The content of the training provided
The training must be complete and cover in detail the entire project approach according to the DMAIC process (Define - Measure - Analyse - Improve - Control) including the phases, stages and end of phase reviews. It must contain the associated tools and in particular the statistical tools for Six Sigma and the advanced tools for Lean such as VSM (Value Stream Mapping), physical performance indicators, etc. The tables of the standard set out the levels of knowledge required for each tool.
The program should not be confused with training in problem solving (MRP, PDCA, G8D...) and its basic tools (Pareto, cause/effect, 5 Whys, 6M, brainstorming). This is considered a prerequisite for attending a Lean Six Sigma cycle.
A good indicator is the duration of the training. It should be 6 to 8 days for a Green Belt, 16 to 20 days for a Black Belt, and be carried out in several sessions.
For Six Sigma and Lean Six Sigma, training and the use of specialized software is imperative in order to avoid tedious or impossible calculations without computer tools. The most commonly used software programs are Minitab, Elistat, JMP, Statistica, ...
The qualifications of the facilitators and the number of projects they have developed or even supervised are essential indicators in the selection of such a course. The use of two facilitators (alternating according to the sessions and the content provided) often allows for a better assimilation by the candidates.
Throughout the course, the completion of a qualified individual project (as project leader) selected in advance with the tutor, as well as active follow-up between sessions, are both compulsory and not optional elements for this type of training.
The following paragraph describes, as an example, a typical curriculum for a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt cycle.
Although Lean Six Sigma is a remarkable approach in terms of efficiency and coherence, it is clear that one cannot improvise oneself as a Green Belt or even a Black Belt.
Training and carrying out relevant projects in line with the company's objectives must lead the candidate to obtain a recognised certification relating to the acquisition of new methods and knowledge with a view to improving their employability or even progressing within their company while making a more decisive contribution to it. These perspectives constitute substantial elements of motivation for individual candidates to seek certification within the framework of training by the CPF (Personal Training Account).
In view of these expectations, training led by experts leading to validation by a jury of specialists composed of both external members and actors who have participated in the project proves to be fundamental in order to really transmit the know-how sought.
In an uncertain professional world, the trainer and the certification constitute a real guarantee of quality, making it possible to differentiate the true from the false and the good from the bad. In other words, obtaining a formal and recognised certification as a Lean Six Sigma professional provides a means of guaranteeing the mastery of high-level skills that are increasingly sought after by companies.