What is Six Sigma?

It seems like everyone likes to jump on a particular certification flavour of the month. Today I thought I’d give you the coles notes summary of 3 major ones.

What is Six Sigma?

Depending on the “Hot” certification or degree, people tend to rush out to get their MBAs, Project Management Certifications (PMP), Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA), Chartered Management Accountant (CMA) – the list is endless. Now there are contract management certifications, risk management certifications, appreciative inquiry – you name it, there’s a course for it.

Being in the process improvement industry, there are a few out there that people often ask us about. Today I thought I’d tell you a little about each of them.

Lean, Six Sigma, MTM – OH MY!

So let’s do a quick crash course on these three types of certifications:


Description: Lean focuses on elimination of waste. The 7 wastes in Lean are:

1. Defects
2. Overproduction
3. Transportation
4. Waiting
5. Inventory
6. Motion
7. Processing

Eliminating non-value added activities and reducing wastes are the key process improvement strategies.

Cost & Time to certify: ~2-6 days, $3-8k per person (depending on certification level)

Six Sigma

Description: Six Sigma is focused on identifying and reducing defects and errors in processes. This methodology focuses largely on statistics and rigorous infrastructure for both people and project management to achieve process improvement.

Cost & Time to certify: ~5-20 days, $5-20k per person (depending on certification level)

Method Time Measurement (MTM)

Description: MTM is a procedure based methodology for improving methods and standard time for repeatable processes. It involves identifying, classifying, and describing the motions used or required to perform a given operation and assigning pre-determined time standards to these motions.

Cost & Time to certify: ~5 days, $3,600 per person (depends on type)

So what if I don’t have time or that kind of money?

Well, that’s when you might want to consider hiring a consultant 🙂 Our methodology, (ALERT:shameless self promotion) The Whiteboard Way, combines the best tools and methodologies from each of these, while also adding an appreciative inquiry lens to achieve the positive results (ie. culture shift, or simply Better.Faster.Cheaper). We are rigorous in our approach, but make it simple enough that it doesn’t overwhelm or scare people who need to use it.

The methods above, project management expertise, and a creative and sensible approach are the best way to attack your business conundrums. No one organization or business is the same, and therefore you should seek customized solution for your business that aligns with your business culture. So, if your culture isn’t already data driven, Six Sigma, as an example, is going to be incredibly overwhelming. Sending everyone for thousands of dollars in training is not going to yield great results until the culture and processes support data and its management to get everyone started.

There are a million different books including Six Sigma for Dummies or Six Sigma for Everyone (I used this one during my MBA) that you can use to simply guide you along the way.

Do you have any stories about process improvement training that went really well (or really poorly) at an organization? Tell us more!

@whiteboardcons using #betterfastercheaper or email us at info@whiteboardconsulting.ca/staging.

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Until next week,