Six Sigma Training in Education

In a more traditional setting, this situation would be screaming for intervention from even basic six sigma training. We can all recognize the classic signs of a top-heavy, inefficient system that ignores the needs and wisdom of workers on the front line.

Our public schools are the foundation for American community. They teach students the skills necessary to grow and thrive and become a generation of engaged, responsible citizens. These same schools we rely on are also tragically underfunded, top-heavy, over regulated, often under-performing, and all too frequently the recipient of harsh criticism from the public and political perspective.

If public schools were a private business, they would be currently bankrupt because of out dated policies from high level executives, despite the heroic efforts from those workers on the front-line (teachers).

Sound familiar?

In a more traditional setting, this situation would be screaming for intervention from even basic six sigma training. We can all recognize the classic signs of a top-heavy, inefficient system that ignores the needs and wisdom of workers on the front line.

If students, parents, and communities are the customer, how can we meet their diverse and complex demands with Six Sigma?

While many of the necessary changes may be several decades off at the national level, local schools, principals and communities are finding success by implementing new policies within their building.

These successes look like:

Staff meetings structured around teacher input, not administrative agenda.

Data driven reflection. Many teachers today are getting extensive training in how to read the successes and struggles they have with teaching different concepts based on simple, on-going assessments of student learning. These are NOT massive end of year tests, however. The most effective form of data driven growth is small, daily assessments of writing samples, math problems of the day or even ‘exit tickets’ to quickly demonstrate whether a student got it.

Moving away from the baking soda volcano. Although a perennial favorite, the classic school project, this is a strong example of an activity which is often unrelated to a clear outcome. Teachers are being asked today, to consider how each lesson, activity, and even worksheet directly builds towards student understanding of a clearly defined outcome (i.e. a skill for students to master).

Hearing from the customer. Yes, that means listening to student ideas. Many schools give out regular student surveys about teachers and classes to gather feedback directly from the ‘customer’ about how effective the lessons are. Good teachers develop personal relationships with their students to understand their diverse needs. Parents and communities in successful school districts are also regular voices at school board meetings and ‘coffee with the superintendent.’

Although these are only a few examples, there is a clear correlation between the needs of our education system and the skills provided by Six Sigma training.

To find out more unexpected applications of Six Sigma, please contact us.

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The Future of Six Sigma 2013 Update

For those doing it right (arguably a minority, but a sizable one,) the Six Sigma approach has evolved into a new way to lead and manage an organization.

I am often asked my opinion regarding the future of Six Sigma.

Regarding the future of Six Sigma, it continues on despite rumors of its death which began shortly after its birth in the 1980s. For those doing it right (arguably a minority, but a sizable one,) the Six Sigma approach has evolved into a new way to lead and manage an organization. Many have rebranded the approach to shed the baggage which Six Sigma has accumulated during its 27-year run as a “fad.” The new approach to leadership and management is distinguished from the traditional approach by four characteristics:

  1. a balanced approach to stakeholder demands (versus managing primarily for shareholders,)
  2. a balance of short- and long-term goals (versus a focus on quarterly results,)
  3. emphasis on facts and data, (versus reliance on expert opinion,) and
  4. a “horizontal” value stream perspective (versus a top-down command-and-control hierarchy.)

Any one of these things would be a game-changer. Taken as a whole they would ordinarily be thought of as revolutionary. However, probably due to the fact that the changes happened over nearly three decades, they haven’t been widely recognized as having the impact that they’ve had. Instead, as organizations using this approach have pushed their usage upstream to suppliers and downstream to customers, their adoption has slowly spread from United States manufacturers to all industries globally. As a result it is now commonplace for career guidance counselors to advise people to become Six Sigma certified. Some advise recipients of Bachelors degrees to become Six Sigma certified before pursuing Masters degrees.

The Next Big Thing: Big Data

One thing I’d like to see embraced by Six Sigma is the Big Data Revolution, which is a theory-free approach to using data in corporate data warehouses. Big Data is akin to part of the Measure Phase of a Six Sigma project, except that instead of using information in a data warehouse to test ad hoc theories, Big Data crunches the data warehouse contents to look for correlations. Correlations are then used for planning activities and, usually, the cause of the correlation is not pursued. This is very different than the use of data in a Six Sigma project, where the analysis is focused on achieving a particular goal. I don’t see Big Data as a competitor but as an opportunity for the Six Sigma community to move into another area. After all, analysis is a skill set Six Sigma practitioners have. We need to add a few new tools to our toolkit (e.g., data mining tools,) but these are similar to the statistical tools we already use .

Six Sigma and the quality profession can add a dimension to Big Data by filling in the gap between correlation and causation. By employing our ability to assemble interdisciplinary teams and utilizing the tools of experimental design, we can go beyond Big Data’s casual acceptance of correlation and answer the all-important question: why does this correlation exist? This is essential if we are to avoid the many traps that result from blindly acting on correlation without a deeper understanding of cause-and-effect. For example, a call center using Big Data discovered that callers who were kept on hold for as long as 1-hour were no less satisfied with their experience than callers whose calls were answered immediately, providing their issue was resolved. Further research into the cause of this unexpected result led to the determination that the missing variable was that many callers hung up rather than wait an hour for their calls to be answered. The customers who abandoned the call were not asked to complete the after-call survey. When these callers were contacted and their satisfaction scores added to the data, the  correlation not only disappeared, it was reversed. I.e., customer satisfaction declined as hold time increased.

Big Data also misses the boat in a number of other ways that Six Sigma and quality professionals can address. There are inherent problems with relying solely on data in data warehouses. These data are generally operational data, not data from planned experiments. Thus, they are often missing important variables. When variables are not manipulated in a planned way, statisticians are often not able to disentangle their interrelationships. They are also not able to properly explore important interactions between the variables. Operational processes are carefully controlled, so the variables involved don’t vary by much, leading to the “range restriction effect” that hides underlying relationships. These and other shortcomings of “happenstance data” analysis are well-known to Black Belts and Quality Engineers.

Speaking of skilled professionals, the obvious preferred group for addressing Big Data issues is Statisticians. However, Statisticians are in notoriously short supply and have been for decades (if not always.) Six Sigma “belts,” quality engineers, and reliability engineers are trained in a significant subset of useful statistical techniques. This pool of skilled workers can be leveraged to greatly expand the reach of the few statisticians available in most organizations.

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Pyzdek Institute Announces Online Lean Training

The Pyzdek Institute LLC has added two online Lean training classes to its portfolio of online courses on Process Excellence topics. The new courses are written and presented by Thomas Pyzdek, author of The Six Sigma Handbook, The Handbook of Quality Management and numerous other authoritative works.

New online products added that teach the Lean approach to operational excellence

Tucson, AZ October 28, 2011 – The Pyzdek Institute LLC has added two online Lean training classes to its portfolio of online courses on Process Excellence topics. The new courses are written and presented by Thomas Pyzdek, author of The Six Sigma Handbook, The Handbook of Quality Management and numerous other authoritative works.

Pyzdek Institute E-Learning

Thomas Pyzdek, Author of Lean Training

All Pyzdek Institute online lean training utilizes the latest e-learning technology and methods. “Although I have decades of experience teaching in classrooms, I realized that online e-learning was a fundamentally different way of teaching. I consulted with experts in e-learning as I developed the training,” said Pyzdek. “These are the same people who provide consulting to the University of Arizona for their e-learning. Their guidance and insights were invaluable in making my courses highly effective learning experiences.”

Among major providers of online Lean training, the Pyzdek Institute is the only one to utilize the popular Moodle Learning Management System. Worldwide there are over 54 million users enrolled in courses which use Moodle. Moodle allows organizations to carefully monitor the progress of all students, including lesson modules completed, resources downloaded, quiz results, and so on. With Moodle, when a student says that they have successfully completed their training, they can provide documented evidence to prove it. In addition, The Pyzdek Institute’s lesson modules are SCORM compliant, making it easy to integrate them into corporate learning management systems.

The Pyzdek Institute allows companies to have private areas on the training site so that communications among students, such as forum posts, are not visible to people outside of the company. Companies can also have designated Group Leaders who can help students enrolled in the training.

Complete Online Lean Training

The Pyzdek Institute’s Lean course consists of 11 modules covering the entire Lean body of knowledge. It is designed for people actually leading Lean teams and Lean implementation. According to Pyzdek, “Organizations benefit by implementing Lean before Six Sigma. Lean implementation can be done quickly using a simple tool set. Our Lean course provides these tools in a set of easy-to-use online training modules.” Topics include: mura/muri/muda, value, value streams and value stream mapping, A3 thinking, takt time, spaghetti diagrams, push and pull systems, 5S, constraint management, level loading, flexible processes, lot size reduction, Kaizen, quick changeover and SMED, and much, much more.

Online Lean Fundamentals Training

“Many organizations are interested in a 10,000 foot overview of Lean.” Pyzdek said. “That’s what our Lean 101 course provides. We want to introduce Lean to the organization and show them what it can do for them.”

The course, dubbed Lean 101, provides an overview of the Lean approach to process improvement. “Any new initiative is intimidating, until people understand what the initiative is all about. This course provides that background.” Pyzdek explains. The course is aimed at the people in the organization who will be impacted by Lean, but who may not need to be trained in the nuts-and-bolts of Lean techniques. For example, people who work in support organizations, people working in an area where lean is being applied, or people working in other areas of the company who need to know what Lean is, even if it’s not yet being employed in their area. These “stakeholders” learn the Lean philosophy, concepts and terminology and how these things come together to improve the workplace for them and for customers.

Lean 101 training is organized in three modules. Module 1 introduces Lean, provides a brief historical overview and context, and covers the principles of waste and value. Module 2 discusses value streams, flow, and push and pull systems. Module 3 presents continuous improvement, Kaizen, strategic and tactical considerations for Lean, and the synergistic relationship of Lean and Six Sigma. In addition to a course reading assignment, each module contains a narrated video lesson, a storyboard, and a self-scoring quiz. The company estimates that completing all of the coursework will require approximately four hours of student effort, including online and off-line work. Moodle tracks each student’s progress through the training and provides detailed reports. Training is self-directed and self-paced. Students are allowed 90 days to complete the 3 modules.

Lean training is priced at $395 and Lean 101 training is priced at $99. Group discounts are available.

Persons interested in complete details, or in ordering the training, should click here.

Media Contact:

Thomas Pyzdek (520) 204-1957


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