Occasionally I get requests from clients who want the best Lean Six Sigma training course available and won’t take anything less. When I then ask how they plan to use the Lean Six Sigma tools and techniques, they aren’t sure because they don’t really understand what they are used for, but they do know that another company is using them with great success, so they need the same world-class training. This type of attempt to chase world-class leads down a path that easily begins to take you off course and it is important to understand that this detour can be very costly in the end.

When you use other organizations as the basis of your Lean Six Sigma training needs, you convince yourself that you need to focus on a specific area in a body of knowledge or maybe just to be safe, cover the entire body of knowledge. You may believe if the exams are harder, you will be that much better. Unfortunately, neither of these are true. The issue is not that one area is better than another, or more is better, rather the issue is relevance. The only way to know if you are chasing a goal that is not relevant to your organization is to ask some honest questions.

  • Do you envision your organization utilizing all the methods covered and if so, do you have an example of how it would be used?
  • Honestly evaluate the percentage of the body of knowledge that is needed – is it 60% and the remainder is essentially non-use content?
  • Are you comparing yourself to another organization that is in a different industry where those tools are applicable to them but not to you?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, it may be worth considering if you would have a more impactful and relevant Lean Six Sigma program if you focused on teaching what you are using 80-90% of the time. This approach allows you to include real-world examples from your organization to show how the tools are applied. This does not mean that you draw a hard line in the sand and never teach the other things, you simply make the decision to teach what is needed now. You then reserve the right to make those more advanced tools available to those who need them, when they need them instead of trying to force everyone to learn things that are not applicable in the current environment.

Remember, it may be tempting to want the most advanced course, or the hardest exam because of the label they carry, but that course or exam does not guarantee results. The only thing that is certain is that your participants will be spending more time on the learning side and will be frustrated by trying to come up with examples that are relevant and understandable in their workplace. Even if you find a way to make the training work, do you want people who are good at taking exams, or do you want great project leaders who can truly solve problems? Chasing World-Class comes at a price, and it goes beyond the cost of the training, it also carries a fundamental cost of time and mindshare. Instead of being tempted by the bragging rights of a difficult program, think of how you can have bragging rights for the highest Return on Investment for your Continuous Improvement Program.