Learning from a consultant versus getting certified

In the Lean Six Sigma Worldwide discussion group on LinkedIn, Fong Lee Ho asked the following question:

Does learning Lean directly from the Sensei make a big difference versus taking those professional certifications?

To which I answered as follows:

I don’t know why the word “sensei,” which is Japanese for school teacher, is being endowed here with such an aura. To get started, you should use a consultant who can help you select the right projects to undertake first on your shop floor, organize the team to execute on these projects, and coach them to success.

Certification will do none of that. You should only pursue certification if you are looking for a job and need it as a resume enhancer.

More more details on the value of certification, see Certification Shmertification!

For a review of the Lean body of knowledge and five leading certification programs, see The Lean Body of Knowledge.

5 comments on “Learning from a consultant versus getting certified

  1. Sharing my thoughts.

    The word Sensei is so much more than school teacher. It is used in Japanese as a form of respect to doctors, coaches in specialty areas and mentors. When someone shares their time and effort with you to impart wisdom, they are senseis. With that said, my friend and colleague Michel is spot on. If you seek just information without intense application, then certification is the right choice. Yes, they also give you a good platform to influence when seeking new opportunities. However, the true know how comes from doing! Consultants add this dimension to the impact of businesses. Furthermore, to gain commitment from within we must be engaged in doing, No involvement, No commitment therefore no sustainability! This is actually the reason most consultants are utilized. With that, I hope my words do add value to this thread.

    All the best,

    • Sorry to insist, but, as a job title, Sensei just means teacher, and is used through High School but not Universities. In Karate, there are six levels of instructors, from Deshi to Soke, and Sensei is the second lowest. The word is also attached to people’s names as a form of address, instead of San, either to make them feel respected for their expertise or sarcastically. It is really nothing special.

  2. Comment in the Lean Six Sigma Worldwide discussion group on LinkedIn:

    I am a management consultant who works in healthcare. I obtained my Lean Manufacturing Certification from the University of Michigan in 2003. It was petty much product focused at that time and I had to think a lot to convert it into a service oriented philosophy. Taiichi Ohno’s book, Toyota Production System Beyond Large-Scale Production, helped extensively. Mike Rother’s Toyota Kata is awesome and I’ve recently been studying Shigeo Shingo’s book, Zero Quality Control: Source Inspection and the Poka-yoke System. Seems I seek out my sensei’s from printed materials. I hope this helped advance the discussion.

  3. Comment in the Lean Six Sigma discussion group on LinkedIn:

    In East Asia, a teacher in the Confucius era is a revered figure in the society. It’s still today in these countries. Yes, the quick solution with a transformation mindset would just engaged a consultant to lead and coach the team to success within the contracted period. In such instances, it’s just going to be a one off success and sustaninability is going to be a question mark.

    Those books are good reference books but learning from the direct lineage of Mr. Taiichi Ohno would be a mind opening life long journey of your own. Acquiring the knowledge, reflecting and progressively moving forward under their guidance would enable you to mobilize the no 1 asset in the company i.e. the human.

  4. Many organizations call “consultants” people who are truly “contractors,” brought in as a temporary extension of the engineering work force, to get a project done. This approach creates an impression of rapid progress. Contractors, however, do not transfer any know-how or know-why to the host organization, and whatever they dois often undone after they leave.
    A true consultant does not do the work, but instead trains and coaches process owners to do it themselves, so that they understand and own the changes. This is how you achieve sustainability.
    Very few people can to apply successfully what they read in a book, especially as beginners in a subject. Once you have accumulated some skills and experience, you may be able to use what you read without a third party helping you. I can read a new recipe in a cookbook and execute it, but I have been cooking for 30 years.

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