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Six Sigma Overview

Six Sigma is a powerful philosophy and a data-driven methodology to improve processes by finding and eliminating root causes for defects within those processes. Although Six Sigma is focused on quality, Six Sigma’s bottom line is dollars. Each Six Sigma project undertaken in an organization must have a positive financial or customer-oriented impact on that organization. Unlike traditional quality initiatives that had incremental benefits were hard to directly measure, Six Sigma is a business initiative and its breakthrough benefits and return on investment are directly measurable. When Six Sigma is done correctly, all the investment in time, resources and training have proven to be returned multiple times.


With Six Sigma, just as any good initiative, it is imperative to have the right people achieving bottom-line results, not just performing activities. Doing this starts with the right skills and qualifications which in-turn starts with the right training & certification.

Standard Six Sigma Training & Certification
Standard Six Sigma training and certification methods usually follow the following pattern:
  • Training is performed over multiple weeks
  • Students take multiple choice exams to show mastery of the knowledge taught during the training
  • Students find a Six Sigma project that is sponsored (usually by an executive) and work with a process owner and a team to solve a deep problem. Once the student solves the problem and proves the results, she is certified as a Green or Black Belt


The problems with the traditional approach is as it stands are numerous:



Training is more about talking at students than having the students learn for themselves. For most adults, this collegic approach to training is not effective and does not help infuse the topics being taught


Theory over practical application:

Much of what is taught is theoretical and impersonal and does not help the student walk away with the knowledge of how to apply this to her own function and workplace



Taking “impersonal” to an extreme, many Six Sigma trainers are providing automated content online. It is believed that this will help the student by offering a flexible medium where the student may learn and comprehend on her own schedule as well as help the sponsoring organization to mitigate the problem of lost productivity buy eliminating class time. While online training is a revolutionary paradigm for instruction, we don not feel it is an effective medium for Lean Six Sigma. This is because we are looking to build process improvement experts, not simply disseminate knowledge. Bottom-line results come from proven skills, which is a far cry from understand theory. Online education never has been and never will be an effective means to build skills, especially those required within Six Sigma projects.


Multiple-choice exams:

Absorption of knowledge is tested using an ineffective technique that can be out-smarted by good test-takers who may or may not have the right level of knowledge. At the same time, there are those who have spend decades in the workplace doing brilliant work who are not good test-takers and cannot get past this barrier. Unfortunately, these types of exams mostly test the student’s ability to take the test and neither their knowledge of material nor their skills that come with applying that knowledge.


External projects:

The No. 1 barrier to completing a Six Sigma certification is to find and complete a Six Sigma project where an improvement is performed on a business process. These processes are usually interdepartmental in nature having hidden root causes that the student needs to discover. However, because of the nature of the project, most sponsors are not willing to let someone take on a project such as this without a certification but students cannot get certified without the project. Even if a project is found, the team the student works with may or may not cooperate and the student themselves often don’t have the time necessary to bring the project to a successful conclusion. Over and above, students usually lack the one element above all that is needed for success - seasoned mentors to guide them through the process.


For these and many more reasons, the majority of Six Sigma certification projects are never completed and the student does not get certified, although the investment in the student has been made. Some industry estimates have put the figure of completing the certification below a shocking 30%. This wastes the investment put into the student and certainly does not help the organization reach the ROI that Six Sigma promises.


To reach that ROI, students must demonstrate deep-seated skills that can be applied in their own environment or any other environment. VRDS’ training and certification method delivers just that.


Our Training

VRDS has designed each course in our curriculum from the ground up to be focused on building the right skills within the student, not just having them listen to information. We develop material, course room environments and delivery methods that are experiential, fun, and practical.


We live by fundamental training principles, including:


The Most Basic Human Need:

Training and learning doesn’t have to be a burden. Some suggest “to learn” is our most basic human need. We strive to develop courses so you have fun learning: flinging, spinning, and conducting acts of physical and mental creativity. Dress comfortably.


Launch, Explore, and Summarize Methodology:

This three pronged approach is what fundamentally differentiates our courses. First, we launch an idea or tool by providing the minimum effective practical knowledge required to begin using the method. We then explore with examples, exercises, and interactive labs – elaborating as we go. Finally, we summarize our findings and monitor our skills development. This is the methodology that holds the course together.


Short Attention Span Theatre:

People, regardless of age, have attention spans of twenty or so minutes. We strive to engage you with a host of varied and creative approaches.


Progressive In-Class Labs:

Labs are initially conducted in small groups which are continuously decreased in size until the student is comfortable designing, conducting, interpreting, and presenting their own results and findings.


Lots of 1-to-1 Attention:

This is achieved in many ways, dependent on the student’s preferred learning style, including: in-class walkabouts, mentoring sessions, personalized labs, and continued coaching support after training.


Skill-based Training:

The word “training” conjures up images of skills development. In contrast, “education” is primarily about obtaining knowledge. Obviously, knowledge is a prerequisite to training. Unfortunately, most corporate training and almost all higher education is exclusively knowledge-based (i.e., long lectures, multiple choice exams, and case studies). Our courses move you from education to training as quickly as possible through experiential learning.


Learn by Hand First:

We analyze and communicate lab results with many techniques that require facts, calculations, and doodles. We learn to do this first by hand to gain a deeper understanding of the tools and techniques. Bear with us on this one because it is the number one positive comment we receive on surveys. We will be creating a lot of flip-chart dust. We will write results down, discuss them with peers, check our intuition versus results, and present conclusions to the class for validation and reinforcement.


Practical Statistics:

Only practical statistics are taught. If we can't use it or don't need it to further a more advanced tool or technique, we don't cover it.


Unique Content:

We provide you with content that is not found in traditional training. Our decision trees and job aides are a passion with us and accelerate your skills development.


By upholding these principles to the highest regard in every class we hold, we ensure that the student is employing best way possible to build the skills that she will need to apply in her process improvement work. However, this is just the first step.


Our Certification

As much as we strive to make our training the best in the industry, training alone will never yield the best process improvement experts. To reach that goal, the student must prove they can apply the concepts and demonstrate the required skills. We know that it is fool-hearty to try and apply these skills in a real project for certification before the student is ready but certification in the industry suggests that a project was completed. How can the student prove skills they are not ready to apply? Our solution to this conundrum is in our unique approach to certification.


Our certification is not based on exams and real project in the work environment, but rather four elements that work together:


  • Classroom experiential training
  • Individual assignments
  • A simulated certification project (Black Belt only)
  • Mentorship


Take-home assignments:

Students will be given a series of scenario-based assignments to complete on their own time during and after the classroom training. Because our goal is to train resourceful professionals, students are allowed and encouraged to use any resources available to them, including course notes, texts and other books, Internet content and newsgroup sites as well as mentors, including those provided by us.


Instructor-led simulated project:

Students will complete a Six Sigma project during the course as part of their certification. Unlike other organizations, our model does not require the student to select his or her own project (as well as the corresponding approvals, funding and politics). Instead, all students are assigned a simulated project, based on a real-live Six Sigma project that was previously completed in the field by an expert. This simulation lets the student apply and demonstrate their skills through all the steps of a real Six Sigma project without any of the obstacles or risks (e.g., the human factor, budgetary cuts, leadership changes) that could greatly complicate the first project and diminish its chances of success. While the industry struggles with less than a 30% certification rate overall, according to recent estimates, VRDS proudly enjoys a certification rate of over 90%.


The Complete Package

Our integrated approach to training & certification lets the student:


  • Learn the material experientially
  • Use the take-home assignment to form the building blocks for each skill
  • Learn how to put the skills together in an end-to-end project


Each step is a chance for the student to prove her skills, but more importantly, is a mentored learning environment where it is ok to make mistakes and learn from them without repercussion, as it would be during a real project. With that said, the simulations are so intense, students often comment on how much harder it was compared to most of the real projects they took on afterward.


The Bottom Line

Your bottom line – results that lead to the company’s bottom line. Our bottom line – build skills to get those results. This has been our single goal for over 22 years and will continue to be so. We hope this preview of our teaching and certification philosophy gives some insight into what makes our curriculum effective in building skills, not just teaching information.


Interested in any of our provided services? Contact us today!