Six Sigma is a well-respected approach to improving processes in manufacturing and business. The goal is to make processes as close to perfect as possible, achieving output that is more than 99.9 percent defect-free. Anyone who has a good grasp of math, a basic understanding of statistics, and has computer experience can successfully complete Six Sigma training -- and you don't need to be sponsored by an employer to attend. So, the quick answer is, "Yes, anyone off the street can learn Six Sigma as long as she gets herself ready with knowledge and skills -- the right stuff -- that will give meaning to the training."
One skill you had better have before attending a Six Sigma class is a basic understanding of statistical analysis. Statistical analysis is used to measure process efficiency before, during and after you have applied your improvement actions. When you conduct a Six Sigma project, you will need to collect the right data. Then you put that data into a software application such as Minitab, which performs the analysis. The software also plots graphical displays, such as scatter grams.
Basic Flow Charting
You should have some basic knowledge of flow charting to start Six Sigma training. Six Sigma uses process flow diagrams or process maps to look for ways to improve. Process maps typically identify each step at a high level, along with the inputs that feed the process and the outputs the process is supposed to provide. In Six Sigma, these maps also identify the customer of the process and its suppliers. Six Sigma training uses these concepts in a template referred to as SIPOC, which stands for supplier, input, process, output and customer.
Green Belt Certification
If you think you're ready to take the training, look for a green belt certification program. Green belt certification gets you started on projects by following a path to define, measure, analyze, improve and control the processes under analysis. Trainees learn how to frame process improvement opportunities and to use new tools to solve efficiency and quality problems. Lean Six Sigma training also teaches you to recognize and remove process wastes such as the resources, inputs and outputs that don't add any value.
Black Belt Certification
If you are like most people, you will learn enough through green belt certification to start making those desired process improvements without pursuing additional training. If, however, you want to become an expert in Six Sigma, go for black belt certification. Black belt certification means you haven't just learned about Six Sigma tools and methodologies, you have successfully applied them. To become black-belt certified, you must complete a Six Sigma project and present the results to an accredited trainer. Trainers are typically master black belt certified, which means they regularly use Six Sigma methodologies. Plus, they have proved themselves as coaches and mentors.
A careers content writer, Debra Kraft is a former English teacher whose 25-plus year corporate career includes training and mentoring. She holds a senior management position with a global automotive supplier and is a senior member of the American Society for Quality. Her areas of expertise include quality auditing, corporate compliance, Lean, ERP and IT business analysis.