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Lean Six Sigma and Frequently Asked Questions

Despite Lean Six Sigma being around for over twenty years now, it is remarkable that a significant number of companies and individuals still don't really know what it is. Below, we answer some of the frequently asked questions we receive from students and companies regarding Lean Six Sigma. Click each question to see the answer beneath it. 

There are also many articles and resources on the site and in the Blog which contain further information. If you don't find an answer to your question, don't worry, you can always contact us for an answer!

Put simply, Lean is about identifying and eliminating waste in the process to make it more efficient. Six Sigma is about understanding and reducing variability in the process to make it more effective. Both originated to make the organisation more competitive. The combination of the two is called Lean Six Sigma.

In the original Motorola model there were no Belts. The Belt system was introduced by the Six Sigma Research Institute in the early 1990's. Black Belts traditionally worked full time on improvement projects and thus required an extensive knowledge of tools. Green Belts worked part time and required less knowledge. Today, this distinction has become less clear as more organisations have adopted Lean Six Sigma.

Most schemes require 3 things, completion of training, the passing of an exam and the completion of a live project. The SigmaPro scheme requires submission of one project for Green Belt and 2 in total (1 can be Green Belt) for Black Belt.

Most people want to get certified because it demonstrates the ability to apply what has been learnt in the real world. However, it is not essential and it is up to each student to decide.

Most Black Belt training programmes will be between 15 and 20 days. This is because the amount of material is extensive, and to be able to learn it in less time is almost an impossible task. Even 15 day programmes are considered intense if they contain all the material required. Green Belt training is less, typically between 8 and 12 days.

It is delivered in 3 or 4 blocks to allow students to carry out projects in parallel with the training. This approach is essential for effective learning and was a crucial component of the original Six Sigma Research Institute model. Training delivered without this gap, or without the real project, is of far less value

The simple answer is yes, you can go straight to Black Belt. Originally the Black and Green Belt training programmes were developed separately, and some students studied Black while other studied Green. Over time, various organisations developed upgrade courses that allow Green Belt students to study additional material and become Black Belt qualified. This is quite common today, and many organisations allow students to study either as Green Belts and then upgrade to Black later, or study Black Belt from the start.

For most reputable organisations the answer to this is Yes. This can be difficult if a student is not currently working for an organisation. Sometimes it is possible to study as an intern and carry out a project, or do one for a voluntary organisation. SigmaPro occasionally has requests from organisations for students to help on projects so it is always worth asking the question.

The answer is almost certainly yes, but it does depend on your current level and type of job. Competent Black Belts in particular are in great demand and research shows that the average Six Sigma Black Belt salary is a massive 36% higher than that for all job postings.

The answer is almost certainly yes, assuming it is correctly applied and there is support for the projects being tackled. Our research tells us that the average Black Belt project is worth £121,000 to the organisation, and the average Green Belt project is worth £25,000.

Lean Six Sigma is not a regulated industry which makes it difficult for the student to decide which provider to choose. Our advice would be to look for one that has been training for several years and has a well established reputation in the industry. Ask who the trainers are and what their experience is, talk to them to make sure you feel comfortable. Look at clients worked with and if possible try and talk with previous students.

Well, both Lean and Six Sigma have been around for quite a few years now, and interest seems as high as ever. Most things do seem to be in fashion for a while before something new comes along, and of course training and consulting companies and universities are always looking for new and improved ways of doing things, so it is possible. The most likely thing is that Lean Six Sigma will continue to develop.

3.4 parts per million (ppm) is the number of defects found in a process which is operating at a six sigma level of performance. Sigma is the symbol for standard deviation, an indicator of the variation found in a population. The sigma score is the number of times that the standard deviation fits between the mean value and the specification limits. For a six sigma process the standard deviation fits six times between mean and specification limits.

DfSS stands for Design for Six Sigma, and is an approach to developing new products, processes and services. It is a component of an overall approach to organisation improvement, and is one component of Lean Six Sigma. It uses the methodology called DMADV (Define, Measure, Analyse, Design, Validate).

Most serious Green and Black Belt courses use software called Minitab to carry out the statistical analyses required for Six Sigma projects. Some organisations use other packages such as JMP. SigmaWorks is another package. The software is designed to make the analyses easier, and is not a substitute for a thorough understanding of Lean Six Sigma methods.

"PRINCE2® (PRojects IN Controlled Environments) is a process based method for effective project management. It is a standard used extensively by the UK Government and is also widely recognised in the private sector. Lean Six Sigma is a systematic approach to identifying and improving important business processes so that they operate efficiently and effectively to achieve customer satisfaction and the organisation's business goals.

If you would like to know more or find out how you can join one of our public or in-company training six sigma courses contact SigmaPro now.