Can Lean Six Sigma Training Be Done Online?

Online Lean Six Sigma Training

I was recently awarded my Lean Six Sigma Black Belt from an online Lean training program. The Lean Six Sigma training addressed understanding the physics of flow, waste components, statistical process control, Theory of Constraints and the principles of both Lean and Six Sigma DMAIC. The use of statistical software, Minitab and Sigma XL, were covered in the course, and 8.75 Continuing Education Credits were awarded upon completion. But was the online experience something I would recommend?

Like so many things today, it depends. I do not think online Lean training at the Black Belt level is for someone who lacks experience in the subject. I had participated in local instruction for Yellow Belt training, which was offered by the TQM Network and the Lasater Institute. The training, named "The Science of Systematic Innovation," covered the basic components of Lean Six Sigma. The process is several intensive days of training in developing actual Lean Six Sigma principles. The workshop is highly interactive as you apply each principle through real-life type examples. Scott Lasater of the Lasater Institute conducted the Lean training; he is known as "the guy who taught Six Sigma to Jack Welch."

I have been a do-it-yourselfer for many years. In the '90s, I was heavily involved with applying the Theory of Constraints and the GE Workout principles to my own organizations. But for the past 10 years I became immersed in Lean and Six Sigma. However, I needed statistical training to give me a solid foundation in Lean and Six Sigma and help in learning Minitab and SigmaXL. I mean, really, how many of us would learn algebra or geometry on our own? I needed a structured approach to be able to do this. I was very impressed with Scott’s presentation, but I wanted to do the Lean Six Sigma training at my pace and in my own environment, which led me to consider online training. I also felt that with the base of understanding Scott provided me, coupled with my own knowledge, I would be willing to tackle the Lean Six Sigma training program online.

Starting the Process of Selecting a Lean Training Program Onlne

Starting the selection of an online Lean training program was a very easy process: I just Googled it. It was quite interesting the choices, price range and the number of people involved in Lean Six Sigma training online. Like any good systems person, I sat down and really concentrated and formulated the outcomes I needed from this training. After doing this, I started my selection process:

  1. Completed over a dozen online forms requesting information and background on program.
  2. E-mailed a variety of companies that responded, from the lowest to the highest priced, expressing my interest. I also followed up with a few programs that did not respond to keep a variety in my bucket.
  3. Responded to many in their preferred method: e-mail or telephone.
  4. Evaluated the curriculums: Since Lean training was part of what I had requested, along with Six Sigma, I looked for how strong the Lean component was.
  5. Evaluated time and quality of my responses to my questions. I felt that the response would be better before they received my money than after.
  6. Re-considered off-line training as an alternative and compared the pros and cons of both. Once again, I decided that online training would best suit my needs.
  7. Based on my outcomes, I narrowed my selection to three companies and picked the best program for me.

What I Learned from the Online Lean Six Sigma Training Selection Process

I created an evaluation spreadsheet as I was discussing the process with the Lean Six Sigma online training companies. In my final decision process, I used an additional spreadsheet that weighted the criteria that were important to me in making a final decision. For example, live instructor training was not important, but having a Lean component in the actual curriculum was. The figure below is an example of how I compared the online training programs based on my personal needs. I summarized my findings using a scale of 0-5, 0 being the worst and 5 being the best; only for pricing did I use a scale of 1-5, in which the highest priced program received the lowest score of 1. (Click on diagram to enlarge.)

Summing Up Lean Training Online

The advantages of online training are obvious: instant accessibility, the ability to work at your own pace and instant feedback. However, depending on your level of experience, prior statistical knowledge and the outcomes you desire, Lean Six Sigma online training may or may not be suited for you. If you have little previous Lean Six Sigma training, I would recommend using companies that have assigned instructors and/or blended training with live workshops, online or offline. Several companies just send you a book and offer little in the way of support except for testing and grading. Be extremely cautious of choosing that type of approach. Check out the book they recommend at the library and review it first. See if you can self-teach yourself and determine if that is the outcome that you desire.