Who certifies the certifiers?

People are always asking me, either in person or through the “Ask a Question” page on this website, “how important are all these ‘Black Belt Certifications’ for improvement work”?  While it’s almost always helpful to take a class and learn some new things, the truth is that these certifications are so widespread and varied, their validity is questionable, on their face.  Many of these belt certifications take only a week of online classes to earn (if you don’t believe me, just Google it).  Other times, people’s own companies certify employees after putting them through a curriculum they created on their own – which may be strong, or may be weak.  Of course, some people put in years of hard work and also have some type of certification(s), but others just pay for a one-week course and have a certification of the same exact name.  There is no one governing board, at all (like the Bar Association or licensing requirements for CPA’s, etc.).  As silly as all this sounds, take a look at job postings on the internet.  Many job postings state things like “Six Sigma Blackbelt required/preferred”, but none of them ever say “State-certified Lean (or Six Sigma) Certification required”.  In other words, even employers don’t really know what to ask for, or what they are getting when they ask for/receive it!  And how does an employer know if the curriculum from a legitimate certification program matches his or her company’s philosophy, anyway??  There’s no way to know.

So don’t get sucked in, just keep it simple:

The answer I give those who ask me has never changed: experience matters most.  And even above experience, attitude and energy matter.  So test on attitude (good advice for all of us), and then ask very specific questions about very specific problems that a person has solved, or improvements they have made.  Can they lead?  Can they also follow, when necessary?  Were the gains they listed theirs alone, or were they a junior member on a big improvement team?  Have they ever served as a builder, starting a lean transformation from nothing, and changing an entire organization’s culture, step by step? (very very few have the depth of knowledge, leadership ability, and interpersonal skills to do so, and most never have).  Ask these questions and you’ll have what you need quickly.  If you aren’t sure what the answers should sound like, call me at 337-344-4326 and I’ll help you know what to ask and what to listen for, so you can be confident that the type of improvement you are signing up for is valid, and matches your company’s needs.

…and if you are still thinking you need a “Six Sigma Black Belt”, “Lean Six Sigma Brown Belt”, “Lean Sigma Green Belt” (??) or any other color of belt (or the matching shoes) just to make improvements in your own organization, just ask Mr. Miyagi his thoughts…