Thursday, March 8, 2012

Lean Certification

How many of you have either been approached by a recruiter, or gone job shopping yourself and low and behold there in the job description is something like:

"Requires a Lean Certification from a nationally recognized academy"

Really if Hajime Ohba, Tom Harada, or some other well known Toyota Sensei applied, they wouldn't be eligible?  What about the thousands of their lesser known students that learned Lean through years of direct mentoring and coaching, and their students and so on?

What's it mean to have a certification in Lean anyhow?  It could mean several different things, though none of them are quite as valuable as employers seem to think.  According to a post I saw on Linkedin last week, you can get a online Lean Certification in 30 days for free!  Wow...that's some super fast cheap learning right there.  Or you can go the more "elitist" route and get the ultra cool SME / ASQ / Shingo Certificate which is tiered into Bronze, Silver, and Gold Levels.  Of course that will set you back $700 for the Bronze, $2000 for the Silver, and nearly $4,000 for the Gold, not counting exam surcharges.  Now in all fairness, the BOK (Body of Knowledge - ASQ speak for what you got to know to pass our exam) for that certification is pretty extensive, and certainly far better than any others I've seen....but I still have some issues with it.

Besides the exam, "Gold" Level Certifcates require: (Copied straight from SME website)

  • Completion of (200 hours 80 from Bronze, 80 from Silver + 40 additional hours) minimum education/training requirements.
  • One (1) tactical project, Two (2) Integrative (Value Stream) projects and Two(2) Strategic (Enterprise) Projects: events, projects and/or activities to which specific lean principles and tools were applied*
  • Mentoring/Coaching
  • Integrative Portfolio reflection: results of the events, projects and/or activities.
 So basically, spend enough money with them (your training hrs), pass a 150 question 3 hr exam, complete 5 projects and then the last step, an interview.  Wow...exhausting huh?  Why are you doing all this again?  Oh yeah that's right, your employer (or perspective employer) requires it.

Matter of fact, when my last employer brought me on, I got called down to my managers office about a week or so into the job and was asked, "Do you have a copy of your Lean Certification for HR?  I want to grandfather you as "Lean Certified" so you don't have to complete our Lean Leader training".  Well yes, actually I did.

I know, I know... here I am talking certificates down and low and behold I have one.  Well as it turns out, before my first employer seemed to know any better, they went through great pains to get us "certified" through a customized program at the University of Michigan.  It wasn't a "bad" way to spend a week, per se...the class at that time was taught by the likes of Jeff Liker, Mike Rother, Bill Constantino, etc all well established guys in their own right.  But besides a week of classroom sessions and exercises, all we had to do was complete a current and future Value Stream Map when back at our regular jobs and identify the gaps and show progress to get our certificate.  Was I really all "certified" to go out and practice and teach Lean?  Hell would be many, many more years before I even realized what the heck I didn't know at that point (I thought I was pretty good back sad huh?)

But you want to know the worse part?  I've actually now become conditioned to avoid companies that list requirements like this...because I know it's not a place I want to work.  Lean is not a program to be measured, (please God stop sending out Lean Assessments!) nor is it a "proficiency" that you can measure at some static point in time.  Lean is something you practice, every day,  it is literally the process of learning and progressing through the body of knowledge of your own world.  It's not whether you can calculate takt time, or know some stupid formula to calculate the proper number of kanban (which is ridiculous btw, that too should never be static).  Therefore, at any point in our lives, we are all both Sensei (Teacher) and Deshi (Student or disciple)...both Bronze and Gold - do I need to spend $4K, or can you just look at my work history and talk to my mentors and students to see that I do my best to spend every day being both teacher and student?


  1. Freakly speaking, six sigma is very good to be implemented if the company thinking for the long term benefit, it actually help to stabilize the process. The problem is six sigma project normally take quite long time since it being used to find out the rootcause, solve it and control it.

    And people always say six sigma can helps to produce better quality but i will say six sigma only helps on reducing defect. No one are going to improve their product quality if the recent product able to meet the customer's requirement but everyone is trying to reduce their defects to save cost and time.
    Six Sigma Certification

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  2. Lean certification is applied to manufacturing for the purpose of increasing output while cutting costs and lessening the overall impact on the environment.

  3. Truly very good blog and more informative content about the lean certification.This certificate is very important and will give more knowledge and improve skills. it is literally the process of learning and progressing through the body of knowledge of your own world.Lean Management Certification