There has been an uptick in chatter about “lean certifications” in various forums lately. For anyone considering getting some kind of certification, I’d like to pose some things to think about, especially before you pay a lot of money to someone to “certify you.”
There is no standard definition of what “lean” is. Anyone claiming to certify you in “lean” is simply certifying to their own standard.
Toyota does not “certify” people. They mentor, they train, but do not “certify.”
Anyone making a big deal over calling themselves a “sensei” probably isn’t. There are a few exceptions, mostly people who spent 15+ years working directly for Taiichi Ohno, or perhaps some next generation people. The term “sensei” in those cases is one of respect, not a title or defined level of understanding.
There is no test you pass to become a “sensei.”
It is, in my opinion, totally impossible to demonstrate the necessary knowledge and skills with any kind of written exam. It is much more about how well someone interacts with people to teach and guide them through solving problems than it is knowing how to calculate takt time of a feeder line.
How good a certification looks on a resume depends on who is reading it.
I suppose there are hiring managers out there who buy this. I have certainly seen more than a few “Help?” posts by people hired for expertise who don’t know how to break down a value stream and figure out where to put a pacemaker.
When I am reviewing resumes of someone claiming lean expertise, I look at the whole story. A “certification” means you have gotten some formal education, but doesn’t tell me you can actually put any of it to use. I will use that certification as a starting point for questions. My questions try to draw out:
How did you learn this stuff? Are you still learning? Or do you think you already know it all?
I will try to get you to tell me some stories about how you have taught people, and what you learned in the process.
I will ask questions trying to draw out your understanding of jidoka, andon and problem solving as critical components to the management system. What I am looking for here is where you are on a continuum of understanding from “implement the tools” to “creating a deep culture.”
A certification, by itself, does not add to or detract from your credibility – unless you come in believing that “being certified” automatically means “being qualified.” If that is the case, you probably didn’t make it in the door, and if you did, my bullshimeter is likely to peg about 90 seconds into the interview. I’ll keep at it, because sometimes people don’t know what they know and I give the benefit of the doubt for a long time, but if a “certification” is all there is, then there really isn’t much.
On the other hand, if you are looking for your own professional development, and look at a program for what it is: An academic education, and possibly an opportunity to establish professional network, then go for it. Just don’t go in believing that “being certified” means a whole lot else.