Lean Six Sigma offers professionals a variety of educational pathways to learn the skills and knowledge that best suit their needs. Determining the best path to pursue is the first step for those who aspire to sharpen their leadership skills with a Lean Six Sigma training credential.
With online Lean Six Sigma programs, some choose to pursue education at various belt levels, including Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt, Green Belt and Black Belt. Each belt designation dives deeper into the methodology’s tools, techniques and strategies.
Others decide to pursue Principles of Lean training, which focuses on the application of five Lean methodology principles in real-world situations. The program focuses on teaching how to use those principles to increase customer satisfaction, improve the quality of products and services, increase productivity and make operations more efficient.
Choosing the right path requires understanding the differences between Six Sigma belts and Lean methodology.
What are the Principles of Lean?
At its core, Lean is a methodology that aims to optimize processes and eliminate waste to improve efficiency and effectiveness. For leaders who want to develop a high level of proficiency in the use of these Lean principles, earning a Lean credential can provide the skills and knowledge they seek.
Lean practitioners originally developed these principles in manufacturing, but over the years they have proven effective in a variety of industries. The five principles are as follows:
- Value: Focus on understanding and delivering value from the customer’s perspective. Identify what the customer considers valuable in a product or service and eliminate anything in operational processes that do not contribute to that value.
- Value Stream: Analyze and map the entire value stream, which includes all activities and processes needed to deliver a product or service. Identify and eliminate bottlenecks and non-value-added activities to streamline the flow.
- Flow: Create a continuous and smooth flow of work through the value stream. Minimize interruptions, delays and batch processing to ensure work moves efficiently from one step to the next. Avoid unnecessary waiting and inventory buildup.
- Pull: Establish a pull system where work is pulled based on customer demand. This requires producing only what the customer needs at the time they need it, reducing overproduction and excess inventory.
- Perfection: Strive for continuous improvement and perfection in all processes. Encourage a culture of continuous learning and problem-solving. Continually identify and eliminate waste and inefficiencies to optimize processes.
Lean Principles Help Achieve the Goals of Lean Six Sigma
Those who choose to become experts in Lean principles do so with concrete goals. Everything in Lean strives to accomplish goals that fall, for the most part, in three main areas:
- Create value for customers
- Minimize waste
- Improve operational efficiency
Understanding customer value requires learning customer needs and then meeting them. For Lean practitioners, the focus is on creating value from the customer’s perspective and ensuring that every action and process contributes to that value.
Lean also focuses on reducing waste, including what is known as the eight wastes of Lean: overproduction, unnecessary waiting, excess inventory, defects, unnecessary transportation, over or under-processing, unnecessary motion and underused employee skills.
Improving operational efficiency includes a variety of strategies such as developing a culture of continuous improvement, optimizing the flow of work or materials through processes, aiming to reduce cycle times and eliminating bottlenecks. Employee engagement and an agile, flexible workforce also helps companies achieve Lean goals.
The Lean Six Sigma Belt System
For those who choose to pursue a Lean Six Sigma belt, the various best levels meet the needs of professionals at different levels of proficiency.
A Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt learns some of the foundational tools and techniques used in Lean, with a focus on finding what causes defects and waste in a process, product or service. Yellow Belts also learn how Six Sigma is used to address these issues, creating more efficient operations and more effective products.
A Lean Six Sigma Green Belt receives more advanced training. They often take a leadership position, working under the guidance of a Black Belt, on project teams that focus on using data-driven approaches to create sustainable process improvements. Some may lead smaller projects of their own.
A Lean Six Sigma Black Belt is ready to take on a leadership role in process improvement projects. They guide the growth in all phases of a project, from creating a project charter and defining goals to extracting actionable information from large sets of data. They also have mastery over the use of a wide variety of Lean tools, techniques and strategies.
Choosing the Right Lean Six Sigma Training
Through SMU Continuing & Professional Education (CAPE), professionals have access to online Lean and Lean Six Sigma programs taught by industry practitioners who have at least a Black Belt certification designation and understand how to take the theories of Lean Six Sigma methodology and apply them to solve complex business challenges.
For those who do not want to follow the traditional belt pathway, the online Principles of Lean Certificate program focuses on how to use the main principles of the methodology to create better value for customers.
Whichever path they choose, professionals cannot go wrong in becoming adept in the use of Lean or Six Sigma. They not only can immediately help the company they work for, but also boost their chances to earn a promotion or make a successful career change.