Lean Training: Belts Don’t Convey Mastery & Absence Doesn’t Indicate Ignorance by Laura Silvoy

An individual looking to expand their knowledge of lean faces many choices today. There are books and blogs to read, webinars to watch, podcasts to follow, and training courses to attend. Choosing where to spend limited time and resources can quickly become overwhelming. Additional factors can make this decision more difficult, including a saturated market lacking standardization, the idea that belts don’t necessarily convey mastery, and the fact that experience, not belts, makes great lean practitioners.

Performing a quick internet search will show thousands of lean training programs that currently exist. Some are offered online; others, in person. Some require weeks of study; others, a few days. Some combine the methods of lean and Six Sigma; others focus on only lean. Some involve project work; others are entirely course work. As more industries embraced the methodologies of lean, the number of profession-specific training programs grew rapidly, saturating the market with a variety of training programs having little in common.

An experience requirement listed in job postings or the desire for appellations may motivate individuals to become certified. Some job listings highlight certification requirements; fulfilling these requirements simply checks a box on an application, with no connection to the qualifications or experience the individual applying possesses. Certifications can only be compared to those with the same certification from the same institution. I believe certification programs grew out of the need for a professional to share their level of expertise and compare themselves among peers. Today, there are so many different variations on the lean and Six Sigma certifications that they can no longer be used as a measure of comparison.

In 2009, Mark Graban asked readers of his blog about the latest thinking on Lean certifications. In his post, he admitted his bias against certification. He shared the reason for his stance later in the comments, stating, “…my main criticism of certifications is that those doing the hiring often view them inappropriately (such as not valuing somebody without a certification who has much more experience).” The market for lean certification programs is more saturated today than it was in 2009, making it more difficult for individuals without a certification to prove their experience.

In our industry, which is currently overflowing with education opportunities, I think it is important to focus on furthering knowledge for reasons that make sense for your career path. I am currently pursuing Lean Silver, part of the Lean Certification Program, jointly offered by the Lean Certification Alliance, which is made up of the Association for Manufacturing Excellence (AME), the Shingo Institute, and the Society for Manufacturing Engineers (SME). I chose this program because it focuses solely on lean and aspires to create a standard experience and learning community for improvement professionals.

Regardless of the method you choose to continue your education, remember that we never stop growing as improvement professionals. There is a reason we call it “practicing” lean – because we’re always learning and striving for perfection.

Let us know your thoughts. Join the online conversation on certifications by clicking on these Healthcare Hangouts links:

  • 1)How do you decide which certification to pursue and when to become certified? Answer Here
  • 2)Outside of certifications, how do you develop new skills and demonstrate proficiency? Answer Here
  • 3)How do you respond to job postings that want certifications or work for a group that won’t help with certification? Answer Here


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