Six Sigma Certifications: What You Need to Know

Six Sigma methodology and certifications are considered the golden standard for process and quality management and improvement of process outputs in organizations. Six Sigma is a methodology developed in 1986 by a Motorola employee. In 1996, General Electric made a full implementation of Six Sigma, making it the core philosophy of the company. This led to significant improvement of the processes and results in General Electric, including reduced costs and improved project timelines. Since that time, more and more companies across the world choose Six Sigma as the key approach to quality and process management within their organizations.

Six Sigma Methodology

Six Sigma approach is mostly based on the logic of identifying and removing causes of defects/deviations of the process outputs, minimizing variability in manufacturing in business processes. Consequently, all Six Sigma results are highly quantified, which makes it a convenient tool. Six Sigma methodology employs a variety of quality management approaches, including common statistical methods, empirical approaches and the like.

In the beginning, Six Sigma methodology was used by manufacturing companies, most of which are process-driven, and produce obvious outputs (quantifiable products). Over time, however, Six Sigma methodology was adopted by companies representing other industries, including financial services, health care and insurance. As Six Sigma methodology heavily focuses on customer satisfaction, there is little wonder that it's especially popular with companies that rely on customer satisfaction.

The standard metric for Six Sigma is 3.4 defects per million opportunities. What does this mean? For example, for every 1 million transactions that go through a system, you could have 3.4 errors and still achieve "six sigmas" – this measurement comes from a technical term used in statistics. Yet, depending on the nature of a company, it may not need to aim for six sigmas. For many companies, realistic goals include four or five sigmas, with six sigmas being left as something worth striving for.

Six Sigma processes heavily rely on efficient and well structured teams of Six Sigma professionals. These teams are an efficient infrastructure of people with streamlined processes, roles and goals. These people are called according to their Six Sigma credentials and their defined roles: Champions, Black Belts, Green Belts, Yellow Belts, etc. These project team members work in sync to reach their quantified value targets, which commonly include increased profits, reduced pollution, lower costs, increased customer satisfaction etc. In best case scenarios, Six Sigma projects lead to up to 50% cost reduction – depending on the specific of the organization, industry and other factors. This is why over the years Six Sigma methodology has gained an excellent reputation with organizations all over the world, and holders of Six Sigma credentials reportedly get 20% higher salaries that their counterparts who do not have Six Sigma certifications, yet possess other comparable credentials.

Becoming Six Sigma Certified Professional

Becoming Certified Six Sigma professional is a great idea for candidates with some background in statistical analysis, process optimization, management or related fields. Six Sigma certifications are available on the following levels:

  • Lean Six Sigma Black Belt
  • Lean Six Sigma Green Belt
  • Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt
  • Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt
  • Six Sigma Lean & DFSS

When faced with Six Sigma certifications, many candidates are frustrated with the fact that Six Sigma does not have a centralized certifying body, like Project Management Institute, ITIL, Microsoft or Cisco for IT certifications and so on. Six Sigma is a totally independent certification program where companies/employers organize their own certification process. There is also a variety of independent certification bodies that provide candidates with Six Sigma training and certifications.

In some cases, Six Sigma certification can be tied to a certifying organization, for example, if you get certified by an employer, this certification might not be transferrable to another organization.