Thursday, February 9, 2012

Lean Expert Certificate

By Al Norval

This is an eternal question – do you certify someone in Lean?

I understand the need people have for a certificate. They’ve worked hard on building their Lean knowledge and skillset and want some recognition for it. This is consistent with the culture of our entire education system where year after year people receive grades and at some interim points receive a certificate often in the form of a Diploma or Degree presented to them with full pomp and circumstance at a Graduation ceremony. So why not do the same thing with Lean?

There is certainly a technical component to Lean in the use of many of the tools be they TPM, SMED, Kanban, or Standard Work and people could certainly be certified in the use of these tools but what about the other, deeper side of Lean – the thinking that underpins the use of the tools. How do you certify people’s thinking? With the tools, people can memorize some facts and reproduce those facts at the appropriate time but often we find people using a tool in the wrong context. What was right for one situation isn’t right for another. People have developed knowledge of a tool but not the deep System of Profound Knowledge Deming talked about that enables them to use the right tool in the right context.

Is it possible to certify Lean Thinking?

I’m not sure how to do that and even if you could certify people’s thinking, a large part of Lean is the ongoing Pursuit of Perfection. The endless PDCA cycle of eliminating waste, creating more value for Customers, solving problems and learning. For people the Pursuit of Perfection often translates into Lifelong Learning, continuing to build their knowledge through practice and reflection. This ongoing process allows people to build profound knowledge.

What’s the answer?

I believe in Certificates of Participation as a means of satisfying peoples need for recognition particularly at the early learning stages. But as people continue to learn this need goes away and once it does, people become true masters.


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