Online Six Sigma Training

I’d like to get my Six Sigma green belt from an online course. Prices vary from $100 for an online video database to $2000 for live online 8-week courses, and I have no idea to how to judge what will be helpful. Has anyone taken any of these courses? And, perhaps more importantly, has anyone been in a position to evaluate the resumes of potential hires with these credentials? I want to learn the skills necessary for effective operations management, but I also want to make sure those skills are marketable!

I took a Six-Sigma class at my old workplace. Easy for me, as I had been a math major in college, and had seen all of it before.

Six-Sigma is marketable…but actual applications of it in the workplace seem nonexistent. It was nice to have the little certificate, but never once have I seen anyone actually using that level of math and stats for real.

The most offensive thing about Six Sigma is that it’s based on a statistical model for manufacturing that actually specifies only a 4.5 sigma deviation between the process mean and specified tolerance.

But 4.5 sigma doesn’t sound as good on marketing materials.

(Seriously, though, my experience in Six Sigma organizations has been that it is a completely useless tool for white-collar management and tends to be deployed by braindead MBA cargo-cultists. It can be a useful tool for analyzing manufacturing processes, though.)

Isn’t this just time-study stuff? Trying to figure out how to make employee tasks more efficient or something?

Pretty much. The single thing of any value I got out of it was “Poka-yoke,” or the notion of making processes as foolproof as possible. Put a safety lid over the power switch, for instance, so it’s less likely somebody will bump it with their elbow.

Pretty damn obvious, of course, but all too often overlooked.

We use Lean Sigma extensively where I work, which is related to Six Sigma. We have in-house training, so I can’t comment on anything external, but I do know there is a lot of value in having Lean or Six Sigma training in my industry right now (oil and gas).

ETA: We primarily use Lean Sigma, but I do know Six Sigma is used in the downstream world (i.e. refineries).

These things are used a lot on assembly lines. A lot of it is useful. Most of it is common sense. All of the math typically isn’t necessary since there are loads of canned software applications to do the work for you.

The information in the wrong hands can lead to some serious fiascoes. Beware the very green doofus with a belt and no real world experience.

Had to check the date to see if this was a zombie thread. Are people outside manufacturing still falling for this stuff? I had plenty of quality training of various kinds, and it was never applied anywhere close to appropriately.
When they tell you the way of measuring is taking a survey, run.
In manufacturing it makes perfect sense.

Even in manufacturing, it still has to be applied properly. A friend of mine used to work on a line at a cell phone manufacturer. They were given new goals to improve the quality of the product based on number of errors per opportunity. They determined that by changing the definition of opportunity to count each solder joint instead of each component, they reached the new goal without any effort. Bonuses for everyone!

As a manufacturing consultant and professor, I’ve been involved (as student or instructor) with dozens of Six Sigma (and related; Lean, Agile, yadda yadda) programs. They range from detailed normal distribution mathematics to undergrad industrial engineering basics to simple common sense. All of it is just repacked stuff that any manufacturing professional should already know. In other words, it’s just marketing and repackaging.

But it does sell! If you want a course on your resume, try to get one with a name brand in it. If it mentions Motorola, HP, General Electric, or other companies considered leaders, it will help you look like a star on paper.

Seems pretty useful to me.:cool:

I agree. I’ve done formal Six Sigma training, including a stand-alone Green Belt course, plus a few certs in hybridized company-branded variants.

It is nearly always (erroneously) pitched and implemented as a metrics-based solution in blind faith, and that it can be applied anywhere. It all too often leads to decisions to “build to the metric” instead of to tangible improvements. I’ve seen many a high level meeting where “I don’t care about the math, fix the chart!” is what is desired, instead of concentrating on the end product. The blind-faith marketing of Six Sigma also leads to a tendency to blame the implementers for any lack of results, instead of questioning whether it is even the proper tool that should be used, i.e. the classic “solution in search of a problem”.

As to the OP, a Six Sigma cert is nice resume fluff to have, and looks good in interviews for many job roles, but don’t spend too much (or any) of your own money on it.

… so it’s like working toward a tight bomb pattern?

I was working at an online advertising agency - of all places - where the CEO became enamored of Six Sigma after reading some business books about GE and Toyota and started the company down the path. Hired a consultant, trained a bunch of the management team, hired a pair of full time Six-Sigma “Continuous Improvement” experts to keep the whole thing going.

The problem was pretty obvious from the word go. Six Sigma can be useful in some environments, if implemented properly. Those environments invariably tend to be manufacturing or factories where you’re creating the same product time and time again. It gives you the opportunity to improve on how you’re creating that product because you’ve got a process and well … you could theoretically improve it. You get ABC inputs, you do <something> and then you produce XYZ. Or you should, every time.

Ad agencies aren’t like that … it’s a different input each time and it’s a different result each and every time. So it’s kind of impossible to generate a repeatable process that you can improve, cause there are exceptions all over the place.

But no, the CEO was all gung-ho for this for 3 years or so, kept trying different angles with different people and different projects. None of it really helped the underlying goal of making less mistakes, but the CEO wasn’t exactly open to contrarian advice. He thought Six Sigma was the best thing next to sliced bread.

I was talking this over with a former colleague at one point, who had dealt with Six Sigma at another company years prior and what he said made total sense. “Six Sigma is like a cult - you get a lot of people who buy into it wholesale and become converts and then go out and try to convert everyone else.”

It’s totally true - also in the same way that “outsiders” can see through the nonsense that’s being presented, but the converted can’t.
All that said, I did learn a few things during the Great Six Sigma Debacle that have proven to be helpful elsewhere … none of it involves math and none are unique to Six Sigma.

  • The “5 whys” (keep asking “why” while you’re trying to dig into a process)
  • Figuring out how to identify “waste” in a process, then figure out how to eliminate it (e.g. process mapping)

Enjoy …

There were some studies a few years ago showing the relationship between companies implementing Six Sigma and a drop in their stock prices.

I agree with the above posts that it can make sense in certain environments, but not in many others, and that is makes for good resume fluff.

You might want to reconsider calling Motorola and HP leaders these days.
Reminds me of the Baldridge curse - many companies winning the Baldridge award went bankrupt or otherwise crashed.

Very true. Nobody is on top forever.

Similarly, you might also want to reconsider how to spell “Baldrige.” More than one company that won the Baldrige award spelled it wrong in their press releases, much like you just did.

Thanks a lot for all this feedback.

For the record, I’m an MBA candidate–I’m currently (kind of) focused on marketing, but like most of my classmates I’d jump at the chance to work in strategic consulting at a top firm.

I’m also a math nerd; my father is a math professor, and growing up I learned more about math when he drove me two and from elementary school than I ever did in the classroom. Playing around with standard deviations, probabilities, and data analysis is fun for me.

From this thread, it sounds like the consensus is that Six Sigma has a few useful tricks for general business, but it really only powerful and valuable in manufacturing and operations (if it’s valuable at all). However, it’s still popular with a lot of people; if I can affordably get a name-brand Green Belt on my resume, it can improve my job prospects post graduation.

Does that sound about right?

So that’s why we never won when we filled out the form! :smack:

When I was at Bell Labs, involved with manufacturing, we put a lot of effort into the Baldrige Award, and our Merrimack Valley plant won. It is now a shopping mall.
I kind of lost faith in many quality efforts. We got trained in PQMI (which is what we used) was from our computer division, one particular type. When one of our groups got one, it was a pile of shit.
Quality as applied to design is very different from quality as applied to manufacturing. That’s probably the biggest disconnect.

Yep. Good job.