Sunday, February 26, 2012

Is Lean REALLY taking over?

On Fridays, fellow ASQ Influential Voices blogger MarkGraban turns over his blog to guest contributors.  This past Friday, Tim Noble from Avery Point Group discussed results from their annual review of internet job postings.  Good news; more companies appear to desire individuals with Lean and Six Sigma qualifications.  Interesting news; more companies desire Lean skill sets over Six Sigma skills. More interesting news; there is more of a desire of a Lean centric skill set rather than a mix or a Six Sigma centric skill set.  I say apparently because by following the links that Avery provides, we get a very good summary (read marketing piece) of the study but not the actual study itself. Meaning, we cannot read about the study methodology or see the actual data.I am not going to poo poo the study.  In the most part, a lot of the results make sense as businesses become more educated consumers and they start to understand their own needs and how the Lean and Six Sigma skill sets fit with those needs.  Here is my take:
  • The Lean skill set is more appropriate to companies just entering the process improvement arena. The Lean basic toolbox is easier to understand by neophytes and requires less “techy” tools to use effectively (a good thing!)
  • Assumption: most companies do not have robust metric systems. The Six Sigma toolbox does wonders with robust metric systems and struggles when things are really difficult to measure.
  • With the Lean emphasis on eliminating non-value added activities, these efforts usually have a more direct path to balance sheet items.
  •  Level of Effort. Given the short-sided nature of most managers (again, another assumption but I have loads of anecdotal data to support this), they are looking for the quick win. Lean often translates to quick wins easier than Six Sigma can.
In short, Mr. Noble says to go fill out your Six Sigma resume with getting a Lean certification.  He mentions SME/Shingo/ASQ certification as something to consider.  Please consider it but also understand its foibles. If you are used to ASQ’s Body of Knowledge (BoK) format, the SME-centric Lean BoK structure will be confusing.  It was for me.  Also, there are three levels and to achieve the highest standard, it will cost in total over $2000, not including the effort that you need to do to document the work portfolio.  I took the Lean Bronze certification test back in 2006 and did not find it that difficult.  I found the documentation requirement so onerous I saw the certification as non-value added.  Again, my opinion, there are people who swear by this certification.  Equal time:  the ASQ Six Sigma Master Black Belt certification is just as costly and onerous.  Understand these processes need to  be difficult so that the certifications create value; but to whom?

Next up...I am in Phoenix at ASQ's Lean & Six Sigma conference. Will try to provide daily blog entries.  I did bring my camera so maybe I can get some photos of some of the players.  
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