Harry Announces Online Training
In past Six Sigma surveys, Quality Digest has stressed
the need to make available low-cost, comprehensive
Six Sigma training.
Mikel Harry may deliver just that with his latest
On Jan. 15, Harry announced the launch of the first
phase of his online Six Sigma training courses. The
80-hour Green Belt curriculum and its supporting
elements were exclusively designed by Harry and created
by the Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering at Arizona
State University in conjunction with the Six Sigma
The Green Belt curriculum contains 16 topics and
a total of 900 video clips conducted by Harry and
coordinated with online materials and textbooks.
Each topic contains knowledge and skill modules,
with an average of about 15 modules per topic. In
turn, each module consists of several instructional
steps, streaming video, reading assignments, MINITAB/Excel
exercises, student discussions and exams, all with
automated links and downloads.
In addition to course material, each participant
must complete a value-added, reconciled project.
Examples in both nontransactional and transactional
areas allow participants the ability to apply their
new knowledge in their specific professions.
According to ASU, the program must be completed
in less than 15 weeks, and graduates receive Six
Sigma Green Belt certification from the Arizona State
University Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering plus
10 continuing education units.
One of the unique aspects of the multimedia presentation
is that Harry has replaced the talking-head approach
to online lectures with a talking hand--Harry’s voice
over an image of his hand writing lecture notes on
a worksheet. The combination of voice and visible
notes gives the feeling that you’re sitting
next to the instructor.
The demos of course material have to be downloaded
and the files are quite large. Actual course videos
are streamed, Harry assures.
The ASU-SSMI Green Belt Certification Program costs
$2,200 and includes the following:
A “MyASU” account
Unlimited time-bounded access to the online training
Online enrollment in the Six Sigma Global Registry--SSGR
Online Green Belt certification exam
Online Six Sigma skills inventory
Online project assessment
Online practitioner profile
Online résumé builder
Online placement service
Quality Digest recently had the opportunity to spend a
few hours with Mikel Harry, who’s widely considered
the foremost expert--if not inventor--of Six Sigma as we
know it today, at his Phoenix ranch. Always outspoken,
Harry had much to say about the third generation of Six
Sigma, the current state of Six Sigma, Six Sigma consulting,
the American Society for Quality and more. But more than
anything, he was excited about the methodology’s
future--particularly his partnership with Arizona State
University to bring low-cost, comprehensive Six Sigma training
to a global market.
you speak about Six Sigma Generation III. What do you
mean by this? And how does it tie into
another of your concepts: IRCA--Innovate, Configure, Realize,
Harry: It’s how we apply Six Sigma in our own line
of sight as individuals. The first generation of Six Sigma
was focused on defect reduction: That was at Motorola.
The second was when I refocused it--at ADD and then at
AlliedSignal and GE--on economics and cost reduction. The
third generation is about value creation. How do I grow
the company, my shareholder value, my stakeholder value?
That’s my big metric now.
Six Sigma Generation III is about power thinking, not
tool application. We’re not giving up tool applications;
we don’t give up generations.
In ICRA, “innovate” means to introduce something
new. When you do that, you need to configure at the next
level down. When you bring in an idea, you’ve got
to configure the details of it. Once you’ve put the
details through configuration, you now have to realize those details. Once you’ve done that, you have to
attenuate, or lessen, risk.
First, you take big ideas and integrate them through
the lens of innovation. Then take the same big ideas and
look at the idea of configuration. Then look at the idea
of realization through the lens of risk and do that with
attenuation. You’ll start to have very deep and rich
insight into the problem you’re working out.
What else is new in Six Sigma Generation III?
Harry: The introduction of White Belts. Arm a White Belt
with the right ideas and simplistic tools applied in a
line-of-sight way on a much smaller project. What if half
of GE’s employees were White Belts? That would mean
250,000 people returning $20,000 a year. They could make
Black Belts look like nothing.
surveys seem to indicate that Six Sigma may be losing
momentum. Has Six Sigma run its
Harry: I talk to executives in a wide array of industries,
and I see that Six Sigma in manufacturing is saturated.
I’ll give you an example of why this might be. At
Motorola we had a big push for design of experiments in
the early ‘80s. We pushed and pushed at getting it
implemented. Then we saw enrollment start to drop off.
So we pushed more, but enrollment dropped off even steeper
until we finally realized we’d hit saturation. Design
of experiments had become institutionalized. It was finding
its way into hiring descriptions for new jobs. In other
words, we did what we set out to do: got it implemented
and institutionalized. For the formal training courses,
it was waning. But from an institutional point of view,
it was growing.
We’re starting to see, at least among placement
firms, a strong pull to hire Black Belts now. Take a look
at a lot of these online placement firms. They’re
looking for certified Black Belts.
becoming institutionalized. Has it fallen short of its
Harry: I don’t see it as having fallen short. I
see mistakes within the industry of Six Sigma itself, within
the quality profession.
An example is lean Sigma. It’s just an attempt
for consulting firms in a waning market in the current
economic times to throw something new to the customers,
something salient, something sexy. So they take a few lean
tools, they take a few simple Six Sigma tools, they merge
them together, they cut the training down, and they call
it lean Sigma. The unwitting customers hear a lot of talk,
they buy it, and they don’t have quite the success.
Does lean get blamed? No, Six Sigma does. A lot of purists
would say: “Oh, this is terrible. We’re losing
the sanctity and purity of Six Sigma.” I say: “No,
in a free capitalist society, nature is what determines
what’s right. And if that’s the way it’s
going, that’s the way it’s going.”
So all these variations
of Six Sigma, like lean Sigma, aren’t necessarily
Harry: People forget that Six Sigma is not an absolute;
it’s a vision. It’s a vision at the business
level, the operations and the process level. Six Sigma
relies on tools. Lean Sigma, ISO Sigma and all these little
other “X” Sigmas are exploratory tributaries.
To me Six Sigma is simply an umbrella, and sitting under
that umbrella are many types of tools and practices.
Let’s look at Six Sigma in a small firm of perhaps
five people painting a house. You’ve got a general
contractor and you have four painters working for him.
He reads about Six Sigma and asks, “How can I go
do it?” He’s not going to do reproducibility
studies, and Cp and CpKs. He needs a simpler and more fundamental
form of Six Sigma. Maybe
that’s the lean tool. And so that person believes
he’s practicing Six Sigma.
Well, he is. It’s a matter of degree.
When we last talked,
we discussed how difficult it is for small companies (those
with fewer than 500 employees)
to roll out traditional Six Sigma. Is this because traditional
Six Sigma is based on corporations with big structures?
Harry: Exactly. It’s what I call “vertically
integrated.” It’s a flow-down model. It starts
at the top and pushes Six Sigma down through the organization.
For small companies it’s got to go the other way.
It’s got to bubble up.
Here’s how: Suppose I’m an individual in
a company that’s not doing Six Sigma. But maybe if
I do it, and do it well, people will follow my example.
And besides, being a Black Belt, I’ll make more money.
So I’m going to become a Black Belt, put more money
in my pocket, and by doing well, maybe I can get my company
to start using it. So the reasoning process is from the
individual up instead of from the CEO down.
The goal is not to deploy it. The goal of flow-down is
deployment and implementation. That’s what I mean
when I say Six Sigma is changing its shape and character.
Six Sigma is no longer being promoted by the likes of Jack
Welch, Larry Bossidy, Bob Galvin and other executives.
They’ve said their piece. They’ve benefited
from it. Now we see surveys being done that show Black
Belts make more money. We’re seeing people say, I
want to be a Black Belt; my company is not doing it. How
do I get trained? We’re seeing an individual interest.
On an individual
level, is the training cost-prohibitive? And is this
that you’ve addressed as part
of your partnership with Arizona State University?
Harry: I’m going to cut the cost of Black Belt and
Green Belt training by a factor of 10. That’s my
new goal. Before, I was the Rolls-Royce of Six Sigma. Now
my goal is to become the Wal-Mart of Six Sigma, delivered
at the speed of FedEx with the quality of Toyota.
That’s part of what I’ve been working on
for the past two years. We’ve formed a federation,
and major corporations are slated to join the federation.
We’re going to collectively come together and set
standards for Six Sigma--and not just in terms of tools,
methods or curriculum, but also in terms of roles and responsibilities
and the background it takes to qualify as a Black Belt.
Members of the federation, which are large-scale institutions,
are providing money and people to participate in the committees
to set these standards.
How will your
standards coordinate with the American Society for Quality’s
Black Belt training and certificates, or will they?
Harry: Frankly, I’ve lost faith in ASQ. It’s
too slow, and it’s too political. The corporate world--business
executives--want standards set for the benefit of businesses,
not for the quality professional. Although I fully endorse
exam, that tests knowledge, which is only one part of certification.
A university professor who’s fully
tenured with 30 years of school and has never been off
campus could pass that test. Black Belt certification is
about application and being a practitioner, not possessing
We’re establishing experiential standards, application
standards, leadership standards, as well as technical and
statistical knowledge standards.
So existing Black
Belts trained elsewhere would have to meet your criteria
in order to get certified by your program?
Harry: Just because you’re a Black Belt and you’ve
passed the CQE, that doesn’t mean we’re going
to certify you as a Black Belt. You fulfill the knowledge
but there are two parts to that: knowledge and action.
Can you do what you know, and do you know what you do?
ASQ is a big organization--100,000
members in the quality field. Everybody knows them, and
their certificate means something. How do you compete against
Harry: Really? Who recognizes what ASQ is in the business
But nobody knows who Six Sigma Management Institute
Harry: But they do know what
Arizona State University is and the other members of the
consortium. There is the
College of Engineering and Applied Sciences at Arizona
State University coupled with other scientific institutions,
as well as major corporations, underscored by their CEOs
and supported by the No. 1 in the field, me.
We’re going to provide certificates that I, ASU
and the members of the federation have signed, attesting
that when you become certified through the federation,
it’s recognized. There will be credits toward an
engineering business degree. You may be able to become
an industrial engineer via industrial engineering with
a specialization in Six Sigma. You’ll be able to
become an MBA with a specialization in Six Sigma.
How does someone get certified by the federation?
Harry: The first thing is to go online to Six Sigma Main
Street--www.sixsigmamainstreet.com--and register. It goes
through your demographics and your discipline area. For
example, if you’re in mechanical engineering, it
queries you about that discipline, asking a lot of questions.
It then puts together a world-class résumé for
The next thing is your Six Sigma skills, your knowledge
of key concepts and tools. There’s a total of about
900 questions. It queries you on two levels: To what extent
do you know it, and to what extent can you do it?
The next level is about 200 questions broken down into
about 20 areas. It interrogates you on historical experience,
current experience, military experience, Six Sigma tools,
processes, applications, articles published and other areas.
Taking the skills, the assessment and your résumé,
it builds a huge database on you.
Within this service, you can have people attest to what
you have said. They log in with a password and check off
the box labeled, “Yes, I know you did that.” This
is all maintained with your file. You can make that file
your credential and available to anyone you want.
Is this résumé available
to potential employers?
Harry: Yes. Employers can enter their requirements, it
searches, and if you’ve identified yourself as being
interested in employment and match their requirements,
it pulls up your record. Your file goes directly to them.
Is the curriculum for the online courses based on
Six Sigma Generation III?
Harry: We’ve shaped the new curriculum around ICRA--building
on the big ideas, focusing on line-of-sight, smaller-scale
problems, that we can disseminate throughout the company
with no instructor variation at virtually no cost. That’s
what Six Sigma Generation III is about: delivering new
knowledge that’s better focused, less costly, quicker
and with no instructor variation.
Dirk Dusharme is Quality Digest’s technology
To find out more about Mikel Harry and the Six Sigma
Management Institute, visit www.ss-mi.com or