In a modern competitive professional environment, many people are racing to upskill in a field that not only piques their interests but can also open up a plethora of opportunities. That said, it can be challenging to identify industries and areas of expertise that offer career growth and security.
One way to diversify your professional aptitude is to approach education and job search by specializing in a methodology rather than a niche. This could start with an understanding of business processes and the causal chain that makes a company tick.
Lean Six Sigma, for example, is a process improvement approach that helps individuals and organizations improve efficiency, productivity, reduce costs, and eliminate wasteful activities. It is a skill set that can add marketable value for the practitioner, thanks to its relevance across industries.
Villanova University’s Certificate in Lean Six Sigma program is an option for those looking to practice the methodology in a real-world setting and apply it to careers in a diverse range of fields.
Read on to learn the history of the methodology, the ways in which you can become certified, the Lean Six Sigma belt level process, and the practical application of Lean Six Sigma across industries.
Villanova University’s Lean Six Sigma program equips learners with the knowledge to enhance their business decision-making skills, preparing them for professional success.Learn more about Villanova University’s Lean Six Sigma program.
What Is Lean Six Sigma and How Does It Differ from Six Sigma?
Lean Six Sigma is a hybrid methodology developed to provide organizations and corporations with knowledge and tools to improve their business processes. It combines both the Lean and Six Sigma principles. To gain a clearer understanding, let’s look at all concepts involved.
Lean methodology, according to Villanova University, is heavily focused on eliminating any activity that eats up resources yet does not add any value, otherwise known as waste. This can be in the form of “unnecessary transportation, idle inventory or wasted motion” or anything else that may cause inefficiency in a production process.
American Society for Quality (ASQ) notes that “Six Sigma quality” is a term used to describe when a process within a business or organization is well controlled. The Six Sigma method seeks to eliminate variance in products and services as much as possible, thereby streamlining an organization’s efforts to make its processes more efficient.
“This increase in performance and decrease in process variation helps lead to defect reduction and improvement in profits, employee morale, and quality of products or services,” ASQ notes.
A six sigma level of quality means having only 3.4 defects out of one million opportunities. Doing anything a million times with only having it go wrong 3.4 times denotes an extremely high level of quality.
Lean Six Sigma Methodology
Lean Six Sigma is a quality improvement methodology that combines Six Sigma methodology with Lean methodology to eliminate both defects and inefficiencies. Ultimately, Lean Six Sigma looks to create a culture within an organization that empowers employees and encourages continuous improvement.
People interested in learning and helping organizations implement both approaches can study Lean Six Sigma and earn certificates as well as certifications to demonstrate their proficiency. Those working within a Lean Six Sigma framework can collaborate effectively, resulting in more streamlined and efficient production.
The History of Lean Six Sigma Methodology
Although Lean Six Sigma is a thriving methodology in our contemporary world, it certainly isn’t a new concept.
One of the first instances of Lean methodology in action appeared in Henry Ford’s use in the 1910s, when he pioneered a famous manufacturing process that streamlined production for car manufacturing. After World War II, Kiichiro Toyoda, Taiichi Ohno, and other people at Toyota used Ford’s process and methodology to develop their own called the Toyota Production System.
Six Sigma, on the other hand, can be traced back to Motorola in the 1980s. Quality Engineer Bill Smith coined the term Six Sigma to refer to quality improvement measures Motorola was putting in place to improve the company.
Who Should Learn Lean Six Sigma?
The short answer: everyone interested in building a unique, transferable skill set should learn Lean Six Sigma. According to ASQ, Lean Six Sigma applies “anywhere variation and waste exist”. Put simply, it’s a methodology that can be used across various lines of businesses, making its practitioners a relevant addition to any given team.
According to Villanova University, its Lean Six Sigma online program is also “ideal for professionals in virtually any industry, who currently manage projects or who aspire to assist or lead process improvement initiatives”.
Take Angela Lahr, for example. She is a Lean Six Sigma practitioner and Villanova University Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certification-holder who utilized the methodology to streamline processes in her healthcare position. Lahr now uses her training to restructure the supply chain process from order entry to delivery to the nursing units. She also found her new skillset helpful in the decision-making processes when designing new nursing units.
If these skills and processes interest you, read on to see how you can become proficient in Lean Six Sigma and obtain a certificate that can verify your position as a champion for efficiency.
Lean Six Sigma Belt Levels
Earning a certificate and certification in Lean Six Sigma is evidence of your skill and understanding in the methodology and your professional skill development. Using the Lean Six Sigma philosophy, you will be working as part of a team, with members assuming different roles depending on the level of education.
Lean Six Sigma knowledge levels are typically categorized by ‘belts’. Much like martial arts belts, each Lean Six Sigma belt title is awarded to practitioners based on their level of skill, experience, knowledge, and training in Lean Six Sigma.
Yellow Belt certifies that the belt-holder has a basic understanding of the tools and terminology of Lean Six Sigma. Yellow Belts typically support a Lean Six Sigma project by contributing to data gathering or creating process maps and often work under the direction of a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt or Black Belt project leader.
Most of the work completed on Lean Six Sigma projects is completed by Green Belts. They are knowledgeable and work at the heart of the project, often applying strategies like the DMAIC methodology, which stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control. Green Belts typically dedicate between 25% and 50% of their working time to Green Belt projects.
Black Belts have the technical and data-driven knowledge that Green Belts possess. They also have expert-level knowledge of statistical tools and how and when to apply Six Sigma to a process. Black Belts practice Lean Six Sigma full-time.
Leadership is also significant for being a Black Belt. Black Belts are leaders who manage Green Belt teams. They lead problem-solving projects, as well as train and coach project teams.
Master Black Belt
Master Black Belts are the highest-ranking Lean Six Sigma professionals. They are mentors to Black and Green Belts. They develop important metrics and create a strategic direction for projects. Often, they don’t spend the majority of their time on particular projects. Rather, they act as an organization’s Lean Six Sigma internal consultant and manage a portfolio of projects.
If you’re interested in gaining Lean Six Sigma competency, your next question is likely how to complete the necessary training and earn certification. Which education path is available to you?
An Overview of Villanova University’s Lean Six Sigma Online Program and Courses
Villanova University is ranked as a top national university according to US News & World Report’s 2022 “Best Colleges” rankings. Its Lean Six Sigma offerings are designed with adult learners and working professionals in mind. They are 100% online, providing students with world-class training in a flexible, practical way.
Villanova University’s Lean Six Sigma faculty members are seasoned practitioners ranging from award-winning authors to industry leaders. Their extensive experience allows them to provide high-level theoretical insights and knowledge of practical Lean Six Sigma applications.
Marv Meissner, the Professor of the Practice at Villanova University’s College of Professional Studies, for instance, has more than three decades of experience as a quality and training executive. He is a trained Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and has taught varying levels of Six Sigma belts to more than 1,500 professionals.
“There is recognized value in quality. All of the Lean Six Sigma instructors have extensive knowledge and practical experience in the course topics. Lean Six Sigma is one of the skill sets that most differentiate a resume and Villanova University’s courses and programs are some of the most widely recognized available,” Meissner said.
Let’s take a closer look at Villanova University’s Lean Six Sigma offerings:
Villanova University’s Certificate in Lean Six Sigma Online Program
The Certificate in Lean Six Sigma teaches students how to lead projects and apply the Lean and Six Sigma tools to a variety of situations to solve critical business programs. Within the program, students will be taught how to:
- Lead a project using DMAIC methodology
- Increase productivity with fewer resources
- Identify customer needs and requirements
- Eliminate the root causes of defects and waste
This 100% online program covers three courses:
- Lean Six Sigma (8 weeks)
- Six Sigma Green Belt (8 weeks)
- One elective course
Students can choose from any of the following elective courses:
- Essentials of Data Visualization (8 weeks)
- Essentials of Project Management (4 weeks)
- Finance & Accounting for the Non-Financial Manager (8 weeks)
- Foundations of Agile Methodology (8 weeks)
- Lean Six Sigma Black Belt (16 weeks)
- Maximizing Team Effectiveness (8 weeks)
- Strategic Organizational Leadership (8 weeks)
The Lean Six Sigma courses, with the exception of some electives, within the program also feature simulated projects to help you to prepare to effectively practice Lean Six Sigma inside or outside your organization.
After successfully completing the Lean Six Sigma course, the Six Sigma Green Belt course, the Lean Six Sigma Black Belt elective course, or the Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt course*, students are qualified to sit for the corresponding certification examination administered online by Villanova. Note that only one examination can be taken at a time. Certifications can reflect your competency of Lean Six Sigma concepts and applications, thus potentially reinforcing your value within an organization.
*The Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt course and corresponding certification exam are offered outside of the Certificate in Lean Six Sigma program. To be eligible for the Master Black Belt course and certification exam, candidates must complete the Lean Six Sigma Black Belt course as a prerequisite. If a candidate holds a Black Belt credential from another organization, this may be considered as a prerequisite with university approval.
An advantage of obtaining a certificate and certification from the same institution where you studied is that it demonstrates a continuity of knowledge. This may reflect well on the practitioner with their future employment.
“An advantage of earning certificates and certifications through Villanova University is that the student is getting trained and certified to the same Body of Knowledge (BOK)–and experiences a seamless process–instead of getting trained at one organization and getting certified at another where the BOK’s may not be consistent,” said Meissner.
Get the Skills to Succeed Across Industries
When you get certified in Lean Six Sigma, you can prove your proficiency in a versatile skill set and methodology—not just a specific craft. You learn skills that can be applied to any industry that deals with efficiency, production processes, and repeatable processes.
One byproduct of learning the Lean Six Sigma methodology is that it improves leadership capabilities and increases the practitioner’s value in an organization.
Adding certification to your resume indicates to employers that you’re dedicated to and excited about improving business quality. It also validates that you possess the knowledge to help the company achieve better, more effective processes.
Ed Hayes, a Lean Six Sigma certified legal staff professional and Villanova adjunct faculty member said, “I truly believe that Lean Six Sigma and business process management comprise a powerful triad of knowledge. That triad, coupled with change management tools and concepts, are [good] bodies of knowledge for organizations to have in these highly competitive and ever-changing times.”
Learning how to apply the waste-fighting tools of Lean and the defect and variation reducing principles of Six Sigma is ideal for professionals in virtually any industry who aspire to assist or lead process improvement initiatives to transform their organization into a leaner, more efficient business.
Find out more about Villanova’s Lean Six Sigma offerings to get the ball rolling on your future.
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