Six Sigma, as a professional discipline, is a Breakthrough Strategy with an effective approach & proper deployment involving the use of a set of High-end Statistical (the term sigma statistically refers to a measure of variation denoted by standard deviation) & Quality tools with Analytical thinking, arranged in a unique way for solving Chronic problems, with no known root cause(s), plaguing a business/process (in any Industry/work area or field), & improving performance therein, achieving Optimum results (by way of Defect Reduction, Yield improvement with Quality, Improved Customer Satisfaction, Higher Net Income – profit/cost savings to the business, & Continual Improvement). Simply defined in a professional sense, Six Sigma is a measure of Quality that strives for perfection with benefits to both Business & Customer. There are different levels of Six Sigma knowledge. Viz, Six Sigma Yellow Belt (SSYB), Six Sigma Green Belt (SSGB), Six Sigma Black Belt (SSBB), & Six Sigma Master Black Belt (SSMBB), coined in relation to martial arts. There is/are also Six Sigma Champion(s) (SSC) at the senior & top management of a company/organization, who provide(s) support to SSBBs & does/do not fall under the hierarchy of various Six Sigma belts.
The various belts (viz, yellow, Green, black & master black) refer to the proficiency & mastery of knowledge acquired in the Six Sigma discipline (post-training & examination), Yellow Belt (YB) being the first to start with going up to Master Black Belt (MBB) at the highest level. Successful completion of a SS project (for each belt/level), post-training & examination, would also make one Six Sigma Project Certified for that particular belt / level. The certificate awarded on successful completion of SS training & examination ratifies one’s knowledge & understanding of the Six Sigma subject (respective belt / level), & makes one eligible to work on SS projects. One can directly go for SSGB training & examination skipping the SSYB, but the same is not a recommended approach for SSBB by skipping SSGB & is not permitted for SSMBB.
The answer to the first question says that SS can be applied to any industry / work area or field. So, what are the specific areas ?
The beauty of Six Sigma lies in the fact that it can be applied to anything under the Sun, which warrants its application. It is a multi-function & multi-industry discipline applicable to various Industries & Verticals. Viz, Manufacturing/Production, Service (IT/BPO/KPO), Marketing, Advertising, Sales, Finance, Human Resources, Operations, Healthcare, Education, Hospitality, Shipping, Law, M&As, Construction, Aviation, Nuclear/Power plants, Equity & Stocks, Agriculture, Sports, Government sector, etc. You just name it & you have it. The companies that have realized huge benefits by deploying six sigma are Motorola, Wipro, Ford, Citigroup, Morgan Chase, Tata group, Reliance, etc, & many other companies both domestically & internationally.
By Aptitude we mean ‘Natural interest’. Six Sigma is essentially about Quality & Perfection (minimum/negligible effects) with benefits to both Business & Customer, irrespective of the work area/field & industry. If one has a penchant & inherent zeal for the above two (ie, Quality & Perfection), then one has the aptitude for learning & applying the Six Sigma discipline & concepts.
Knowledge of basic Mathematics & Statistic fundamentals, ability to reason & analyze along with an inclination to work hard.
Six Sigma involves Statistics. Can one handle complex statistical stuff, if coming from a non-statistical academic background ?
The complexity of SSGB is such that it can be handled by anyone having understanding of basic mathematical functions, reading comprehension level of a high school graduate & general proficiency in using Windows-based computer software (Ms Excel), as all the Statistical stuff needed for calculations is inbuilt in the above software, & one only needs to feed data correctly into the computer to get the statistical results.
A Degree or Diploma holder in any discipline irrespective of age & profession, starting with a SSYB/GB. Also, all years of Diploma & Degree students studying in any discipline are eligible & welcome to join a Six Sigma training course (for Six Sigma White belt, Yellow belt & Green belt) relevant to their curriculum for the respective academic year. Please refer to the page on ‘Educational Training Programs’ for more details.
After undergoing SS training, one’s entire thought process changes & the person starts looking at problems as opportunities, & current process/work as improvement areas. It changes the entire attitude & way of looking at things, wherein one starts thinking ‘Out of the Box’. Also implementing the SS learnings at work/profession makes one streamline work better, thus increasing work efficiency & effectiveness leading to a higher level of professional satisfaction & growth.
Why is Six Sigma important as an additional professional course for self-employed & working professionals ?
Knowledge of Six Sigma is important as :-
An Education – Makes one understand the language of business improvement & sustaining the improvement.
A Qualification – Equips one with the necessary analytical & problem-solving skills.
A Career decision – Fosters excellent career growth opportunities.
No other professional course offers the same kind of versatility & flexibility blended with the trainee’s work knowledge that Six Sigma knowledge, exposure & qualification does. Thus, a self-employed/working professional having knowledge of Six Sigma (facilitated through effective training & learning) along with its omnipotence (overall applicability) strengthens their employment & career/growth prospects many times over, not only in the present job/own business, but also when looking for openings outside & in future professional life as well.
When is the suitable time to get trained in Six Sigma. Also, is work experience necessary before joining the SS training program ?
The best time to attend SS training & certification (based on exam) Program (SSYB & GB) is while one is pursuing a professional degree (Bachelors or Masters) with/without work experience for the following reasons :-
Earlier the SS learning is ingrained, better it is for future career growth.
Easy to understand & apply SS concepts due to exposure to Mathematics & Statistics in course of studies. Though, loss of touch with mathematics & Statistics for working professionals joining the SS training program should not be a cause for worry as the same (mathematical & statistical functions needed for six sigma) are now loaded into the relevant software applications (Ms Excel & Minitab) which are used in six sigma. So knowledge of operating the software application would be enough to learn & work using Six Sigma methodology
Upgrading one’s knowledge further in SS (BB & MBB) becomes easier later, while working / in professional life.
As explained above, one is not required to have prior work experience for undergoing SS training. However, working professionals joining SS training programs do have an advantage over students as they can apply the SS concepts learned at their place of work immediately after training, unlike those (includes students) who are not working. Though Diploma & Degree students can try applying the SS learnings in their project work, internships, etc, if it so warrants. Size of business is immaterial for six sigma applications, & one can deploy six sigma even in a small business unit owned by a relative or friend to do a Six Sigma project for gaining hands-on experience.
Thus, students learning six sigma have the advantage of directly applying it at work when they join a job, without having to undergo SS training at place of employment/work. Whereas working professionals who train in six sigma have the advantage of directly applying it in their present job/work area immediately after completion of SS training, unlike students who have to wait till they complete their studies & join a job. In both the cases (students & working professionals) its only a matter of time between learning & application. So, neither outweighs the other.
In addition to SS knowledge what are the skills that one acquires during the SS training program/course ?
One learns to identify & define a problem, collect & measure the relevant data, analyze the root causes, improve the process by providing the best possible (optimal) solution, & control it for future sustainability. So, one starts speaking the language which appeals to the Top Management at business/work, as one gains managerial, technical as well as soft skills.
Organizations worldwide seek SS professionals to achieve excellence, reduce waste & defects, enhance productivity with quality & consequent profit/cost savings to business, & increased customer satisfaction. With growing economic uncertainty the demand for SS professionals has gone up as their performance directly affects the bottom line, hence they earn senior positions early with very high pay scales. Thus, SS takes care of both organizational benefits & individual growth.
SS follows the DMAIC approach in problem-solving. DMAIC is the acronym for Define-Measure-Analyse-Impro ve-Control. There is also another approach, viz, DMADV, which is the acronym for Define-Measure-Analyse-Design-Verify, under ‘Design for Six Sigma (DFSS)’.
DMAIC is the most commonly followed methodology at work while looking at problems with a solution-oriented approach. So, we can say that DMAIC is a Logical & Structured approach to problem-solving & process improvement, an Iterative process (continuous improvement), & a Quality tool with a focus on change management. While DMAIC is used for projects aimed at improving an existing business/process, DMADV (under DFSS) is used for projects aimed at creating new product or process designs in a business/process, both operating at six sigma level of performance. The DMADV approach (under DFSS) comes only at the Black belt level in Six Sigma, unlike DMAIC which is prevalent at all levels. Viz, Yellow belt, Green belt & Black belt. One has to learn SS DMAIC before going for DFSS.
Till the present day, there is no Law / governing body in place either domestically/internationally (like ISO), statutorily supervising & regulating the conduct of training, & certification of Six Sigma as an academic or professional discipline. The certificate awarded (on passing the examination) would ratify the knowledge & proficiency of the trainee in the Six Sigma (SSYB/GB/BB) domain, showing the trainee as reasonably competent (maybe based on subsequent assessment at place of work) to initiate & / or work on Six Sigma project(s) either at place of employment / business, & thus is an important value addition to one’s professional CV. Prevalent Universities (mostly owned by corporates/others) offering training & certification programs in Six Sigma (exam based) are autonomous ones devoid of any recognition by national/international body(ies) for Six Sigma (which is/are non-existant till now), & are based on their own (SS trainer) credibility in the market & industry. So, one’s knowledge in the subject (Six Sigma) & the ability to apply the same practically to get the desired results certify the person’s proficiency in it more than the certificate issued (based on training & examination) by any Six Sigma trainer (as an autonomous or government/semi-government body) in the world. This applies not only to Six Sigma, but also to any Degree/Certificate awarded by any University/Educational institution to its students on completing a particular course, therein. A Degree/Certificate earned is only an opportunity/passport for career growth, but unless one performs on the job secured based on that Degree/Certificate, it (Degree/Certificate had) would be of no use. Of course, without mentioning, effective training in the subject (SS) by the SS trainer plays a vital role here in addition to the trainee’s capability in learning, understanding & putting it to use for enabling the above. From a career perspective, one firstly has to make a beginning by learning Six Sigma through a good training program & getting him/herself formally certified (by undergoing an examination).
Yes. There are quite a few international & national SS training institutes that offer online training in SS. Although online training offers one the benefit of learning per availability of time & convenience, it has the following shortcomings :-
Face to face interaction between the trainer & trainee is missing in SS online training. Thus, a personal touch is lacking. Besides, since online training is done by an automated software, trainee questions pertaining to SS but out of scope for the software, cannot be answered, during the course of the training (email follow up is required).
Any SS training program (whether online/class room) has participants from diverse backgrounds having different needs for learning SS. An, online SS training program follows a standard teaching procedure which is generally not flexible enough to meet the various learning needs & expectations of different trainees, thus reducing the scope for having practical SS insights into one’s (trainee) area of work.
Advantage of undergoing online SS training per time & convenience generally leads to lethargy, thus prolonging the duration of training causing knowledge acquisition & consequent application gaps.
One misses the opportunity of interacting with other trainees coming from diverse business/professional backgrounds/functions in an online training program, unlike a class room type training program. This also limits, rather restricts the chance of professional network development.
Last but not the least. It may be difficult to interact personally (by phone) with past participants of the online training program to gauge their feedback before joining one, as online trainers generally do not provide anything more than email ids of past participants (for security reasons), contacting which may not yield a response always.
There can be more that one can mention, but our objective is not to decry or vouch for any particular method of training, but to help & enable prospective trainees in making an informed choice, keeping in mind their (trainees) needs & constraints to get optimum value for time, effort & money invested.
Is it necessary (as an employee/working professional) to learn Six Sigma by oneself at own expense (it being a professional course), which can be learnt even through employer/corporate sponsored program later ?
Any employer would prefer to have onboard an employee who can make Optimum contribution towards work & business. Knowledge & proficiency in the Six Sigma discipline equip the employee with the skills needed for the above & much more making the employee a first choice at the employer’s end, as the employee speaks the language which appeals to the company management. Of course, an employee who is good at work but not six sigma qualified, does stand a good chance of being trained in the same (six sigma) by way of employer sponsorship, but an employee who’s trained beforehand in six sigma (before starting to work) will always have an edge over his/her peers who are not six sigma qualified. Besides, there is always an element of uncertainty associated with the future job market & one really cannot predict/expect what may be in store for oneself. Moreover factors like timegap & cost (ISPE rates are the least & most economic) also matter which can influence the employer’s decision in sending an employee for a six sigma training program irrespective of the employee’s performance. As the saying goes ” Make hay while the Sun shines “, it’s up to the employee/working professional to be proactive & undergo six sigma training now which will be beneficial in present & future career growth or remain passive & wait for an opportunity (in six sigma training) at place of employment, which again is uncertain. So, it’s a decision to be made between ‘Choice’ & ‘Chance’ in one’s present & future career.
Learning any six sigma program (from YB to GB or GB to BB) is not influenced by time factor, but one certainly needs to see that there is not a huge time gap between learning & application of Six Sigma knowledge. Also, being able to complete a SS project before going for the next level SS program will be an advantage as the person has hands-on experience of working on a real-time SS project. Choosing to go for the next level of SS program is essentially an individual professional decision, which only has career advantages.
As mentioned previously (in Ans to the third question above), is it possible for one to directly go for SSBB training skipping SSGB ?
A SSBB training program is built upon the SSGB program. Post SS (GB/BB) training working on a SSGB project essentially requires making improvements at a Process/Department level involving less complex & cross functions. Whereas working on a SSBB project requires making improvements in the business involving much complex & cross functions to impact the Organisation as a whole. As a junior or middle management personnel it is advisable for a person to undergo training in SSGB first, as a beginner in one’s Six Sigma journey. However, people at senior management level who are in a position to take/influence major decisions at the Organisation level may directly go for SSBB training provided they are reasonably proficient in Business improvement techniques, Resistance analysis, Change management, quite a bit of Statistics, etc, knowledge of all which is needed at the SSBB level. Also, a person at the junior/middle management who possesses all of the above & undergoes the SSBB training directly (skipping the GB) may necessarily not be able to convince the senior management of his/her organization to allow him/her to work on a SSBB project, unless he/she has proved his/her mettle by working on a SSGB project successfully, which is better facilitated through a SSGB training first. For those who don’t know, even Mr Azim Premji (Chairman of Wipro) started his Six Sigma journey by undergoing a GB training.
The successful completion of a SS (GB/BB) project post-training proves one’s (trainee) knowledge & proficiency in the subject (SS), & the capability to apply the same practice to real-time situation(s) (which warrant application of SS concepts) encountered in one’s professional life. This is something very similar to one who starts working (SS project) after completing formal education (SS training). It may not be possible for everyone post SS (GB/BB) training to immediately get/work on a SS project. However, undergoing a SS training equips the trainee with the necessary knowledge, skill & competence needed to work on one (a SS project) at place of employment/business, when such an opportunity arises in future, making the person (trainee) a first choice at the employer’s end to work on it. Without saying, undergoing SS training & certification program (exam based) is also an important value addition to one’s Professional CV enhancing one’s future career prospects. ISPE provides assistance to work on a real-time SS project at BB level.
After undergoing SS training can one change his/her work industry. For eg, from Manufacturing to Service, etc, per interest/need ?
As mentioned previously (in Ans to third question above), SS is a multi-function & multi-industry discipline applicable to all Industries & Verticals whose methodology & concepts remain the same all over (any industry) & at all times. However, post-SS training it would be advisable for a person to complete at least one SS Project successfully in the his/her current area of work/specialization to acquire confidence & bring credibility to one’s practical competence in SS deployment before moving forward to seek openings in other work areas/industry, per interest/need. At the same time, it needs to be borne in mind that at any point of time SS knowledge cannot be a substitute for specific Domain knowledge related to any work area/industry, & it (SS) is only a tool for bringing breakthrough improvements producing never seen before results (in terms of improved quality, productivity, profit/cost savings, customer satisfaction & continual improvement), therein, by improving the way of using the respective domain knowledge effectively & efficiently for doing the same work in the optimum (best possible) way. Having mentioned this, SS professionals working on a SS project unrelated to their core area of work/specialization can always seek the help of other Subject Matter Expert(s) (SMEs) in the relevant work area, both inhouse/external, which is a normal practice in the industry, for successful completion of the respective SS project therein. A clear testimony of this fact are Six Sigma professionals working/operating as Six Sigma consultants, who carry out improvement projects across the industry in various/different businesses that their clients may own/have.