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by Dirk Dusharme

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 venture.

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 Management Institute.

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:

Initial enrollment

A “MyASU” account

Unlimited time-bounded access to the online training site

Minitab software

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.

QD: I’ve heard 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, Attenuate?

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.

QD: 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.

QD: Quality Digest’s surveys seem to indicate that Six Sigma may be losing momentum. Has Six Sigma run its course?

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.

QD: So, it’s becoming institutionalized. Has it fallen short of its potential?

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.”

QD: So all these variations of Six Sigma, like lean Sigma, aren’t necessarily bad?

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.

QD: 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.

QD: On an individual level, is the training cost-prohibitive? And is this something 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.

QD: 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 ASQ’s certification 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 theoretical knowledge.

We’re establishing experiential standards, application standards, leadership standards, as well as technical and statistical knowledge standards.

QD: 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?

QD: 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 that?

Harry: Really? Who recognizes what ASQ is in the business world?

QD: But nobody knows who Six Sigma Management Institute is either.

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.

QD: 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 you.

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.

QD: 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.

QD: 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.

About the author

Dirk Dusharme is Quality Digest’s technology editor.

To find out more about Mikel Harry and the Six Sigma Management Institute, visit www.ss-mi.com or e-mail info@ss-mi.com.