Business executives and managers must juggle many different demands on their attention, much of it focused on developing and implementing business strategy, exploring new markets, and creating updated products. Issues involving continuous process improvement can often slip through the cracks.
However, support at the executive and management level is key to success in process improvement, as is having people in an organization with expertise in process improvement strategy, tools, and techniques. Executives and managers who earn a Lean Six Sigma certification solve both issues.
What Is Process Improvement?
The creation of innovative technologies has led some to believe that automating an operation solves most process problems. This is rarely the case. Process improvement addresses every detail of an operation, including people, machines, system designs, and materials. It requires assessing the current operation, identifying problems, and taking a data-driven approach to solving them.
The key to success in process improvement is making it continuous. No process in a competitive market can remain stagnant. Executives and managers who want to excel in their industry put strategies in place that require routine operational evaluation. Doing so results in reductions in errors and waste and a consistent product that meets evolving customer expectations.
What Are Lean Six Sigma and Six Sigma?
Both Lean Six Sigma and Six Sigma provide quality control methodologies that systematically improve any process. The continued popularity of both reflects their proven success and applicability to any operation in every type of business.
Six Sigma focuses on eliminating errors that lead to defects in a company’s products or services. The term sigma refers to one standard deviation in a given data set. The idea with Six Sigma is that six such deviations should occur before a process results in a defect. By achieving this high standard, managers can expect an operation to reach a point where only 3.4 errors per one million process events result in a defect.
Six Sigma’s most frequently used strategy is DMAIC, an acronym for define, measure, analyze, improve, and control. Each represents a process phase.
- Define. A project team defines the problem to solve. This usually includes creating a project charter, detailing customer needs and requirements, and developing a process map.
- Measure. The team collects data on the current operation, determining the baseline sigma.
- Analyze. The team uses data and process analysis to find the root causes of the problem.
- Improve. The team generates potential solutions, evaluating them, and selecting the one the team agrees provides the best solution.
- Control. To maintain solution benefits, the team designs a control plan to ensure the correct implementation of the new strategy.
Lean Six Sigma
Although they share some of the process improvement tools, including DMAIC, the focus of Lean Six Sigma differs from Six Sigma. Lean focuses on eliminating waste. In Lean, anything that does not add value to the end-user (typically, the customer) is eliminated from the process.
As practitioners refined Lean over the years, they created a list of eight waste categories.
- Defects: Defects in a process cost time, money and increase the risk of not meeting customer requirements.
- Overproduction: Creating more product than is needed to meet current demand.
- Waiting: This refers to the time that employees or machines sit idle, waiting to complete the previous step in an operation.
- Non-utilized talent: Not making use of the talents and skills of all employees.
- Transportation: Creating transportation systems that are longer than needed.
- Excess inventory: A result of overproduction involves the cost of warehousing supplies, materials, and products.
- Motion: This refers to unnecessary actions by employees or machines.
- Extra processing: Unneeded steps in an operation that do not add value include requiring too many people to sign off on a document.
It’s important to have people in an organization who understand how to identify these issues and apply tools and techniques to eliminate them. That’s why many executives and managers decide to earn Lean Six Sigma certification.
What Is Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Certification?
As in martial arts, Lean uses a color-coded belt system to designate the level of knowledge a person has reached.
White Belt: White Belts learn the basics of Lean with several hours of training.
Yellow Belt: Yellow Belts go through about 10 to 15 hours of training, learning enough to assist on tasks such as creating process maps and gathering data.
Green Belt: Most consider Green Belts the backbone of a Lean project team. They assist the project leader, usually a Black Belt, and handle much of the day-to-day work. They also have the skills to lead smaller projects on their own.
Black Belt: Black Belts must pass a written exam and work on at least two successful Lean projects. They typically lead project teams.
Master Black Belt: The Master Black Belt is the highest belt designation. Master Black Belts have five years of Black Belt experience and has completed at least ten projects. They oversee a company’s Lean Six Sigma efforts, usually reporting directly to senior executives.
The online Lean Six Sigma Green Belt certificate from Kelley School of Business at Indiana University is an opportunity for professionals to advance or launch their leadership careers. The Kelley School offers the program in partnership with MoreSteam, a global technology leader of online Lean Six Sigma training.
The 16-week curriculum consists of four courses, each lasting four weeks. Topics of study include:
- Introductions and Definitions
- Improvement, Control, Simulation Capstone, and Exam
Students receiving a score of 80% or higher on their exam earn a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt certification from the Kelley School of Business.
Graduates emerge with the theoretical underpinnings, practical skills, and experiential training to become Lean Six Green Belt certified. In addition, students round out their learning with team leadership and project management skills. The Lean Six Sigma Green Belt certificate program is a targeted, efficient, and effective path for motivated professionals ready to take the next step.