I am often asked to certify people as Six Sigma Green or Black Belts based on projects that have been completed through the Define-Measure-Analyze (DMA) phases of the Six Sigma Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control (DMAIC) process. I adamantly refuse. DMA is not a Six Sigma project. DMA is not DMAIC.

I’ve been asked about the difference between TQM and Six Sigma or between a Six Sigma Black Belt and a Certified Quality Engineer (CQE) . One answer is that TQM and the CQEs are big on projects that “show management what the problem is,” but not so big on actually implementing improvements and permanently changing management systems to maintain the improvements. This, in large part, is why TQM died while Six Sigma is still going strong after nearly 30 years after it’s creation, and why Certified Six Sigma Black Belts and Green Belts are in greater demand than Certified Quality Engineers.

It’s hard to be a change agent. It’s challenging to find Leaders who will back your project, Sponsors who will help you see the project through to the end, and Process Owners who will maintain the gains and manage the new process properly. That’s real change. It shakes up the status-quo and threatens the existing order of things. It moves people out of their comfort zones and may threaten their position or status in the organization. They will resist you and find excuses to continue doing things the same old way.

It’s much easier to merely identify a problem (Define,) document it (Measure,) and perform an analysis that indicates what’s causing the problem (Analyze.) This may make people a bit uncomfortable, but it doesn’t really change anything. People will nod sympathetically, pat you on the back for all of your hard work, and continue doing what they’ve always done. Unless the project makes the world a permanently better place in some measurable and meaningful way, it’s not good enough to be a Six Sigma Certification Project, at least not at The Pyzdek Institute. DMA projects are a dime-a-dozen and ultimately they change nothing. DMAIC projects are an accomplishment that will make you proud.

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