Interview With A Supply Chain Lean Six Sigma Green Belt

Should you pursue your Six Sigma certification?

Six Sigma
Six Sigma. Getty Images

I spent some time recently discussing supply chain and Lean Six Sigma with Larisa Leverich, who works in Ohio as a strategic sourcing manager.  I was curious about why she had pursued her Lean Six Sigma Green Belt certification and how that Green Belt certification helps her approach her supply chain and sourcing responsibilities

Larisa was born in Romania and has also lived in France and the United States.

   She has worked at her current company for four years, where she started as an intern in the same team in which she is now.  After her stint as an intern, she assisted the company’s Chief Procurement Officer, who went on to become the Chief Supply Chain Officer. 

In her strategic sourcing manager role, Larisa is responsible for the global sourcing of fifteen different commodities, including hardware and packaging.  While it’s not a job requirement to be Six Sigma certified, Larisa noted that the managers and directors on the direct sourcing team are typically Six Sigma Black Belts.  In fact, in 2007, there had been an in-house Six Sigma certification program because the need for process control and process improvement was seen as so critical. 

I asked Larisa when she became Green Belt certified and she said that it was just before starting her strategic sourcing role.  She noticed that every time she reviewed postings for a sourcing manager position, a Six Sigma certification was a “plus.”  So from August-November 2013, she worked diligently to get her certification.

 

What’s interesting is that prior to joining her current company, Larisa worked in France and never heard of Six Sigma.  And so even though she had always been process-oriented and always kept documentation and always looked for optimizations and efficiencies, Six Sigma was as far from her as, say, Ohio.

  She would watch incredulously as workflows would get stuck in the same place or the same complaints and the same issues would get in the way of processes. 

When a Quality Director (who also happened to be a Six Sigma Black Belt) gave her a couple books about Six Sigma, she immediately became interested. 

So in August 2013, she began her Lean Six Sigma training.  She chose Villanova University’s online program, so that she could study around her work schedule.  She highly recommends the Villanova program and calls it “challenging but rewarding.”  The Villanova program came with DVD’s and booklets.  There was a booklet for each section and four sections in total.  After each section, she had to take an online exam before she could move to the next section.  Each online exam was timed (two hours to complete about 100 questions) and as soon as she hit the “submit” button, she found out if she passed or not. 

After successfully completing the four sections, she received a Certificate of Achievement, but it wasn’t until after she completed a final exam that she became a Green Belt.  She took the month of October 2013 to study for the final and she took it – and passed – in November 2013.

With her Six Sigma training and Green Belt certification came a “revolution” of tools she could now employ.

  She had always been one to look for optimization opportunities and now she had the tools – project scopes, current state/future state, timelines, business cases, problem statements, cost/benefit analyses – to design, execute and manage her projects.  She can’t imagine not using Lean Six Sigma techniques now.

In her personal life, she admits to being “pretty impatient” and to always looking to get things done as quickly as possible – so she initially wasn’t sure if her Green Belt certification had any impact outside the workplace.  Then, after considering the question, she confessed to looking for a “value add” when trying to figure out how to spend her personal time.  She used to be a person who would go along with what others wanted, but – after her Lean Six Sigma training – she’s more inclined to join along only if she can find a value proposition in the activity.

  She’ll ask herself, “Is this the best use of my time” and if so, she’ll ask her friends, “Is this something we can accomplish in a half day instead of a full day?” 

She reminds herself to “eliminate waste, eliminate slack, eliminate inefficiency.” 

When I asked her if she planned to pursue Black Belt certification, she acknowledged that it wasn’t likely.  She enjoys the project and team management tools that the Green Belt has given her access to.  She’s not sure she’s interested in pursuing what she perceives as the quality aspect of Black Belt certification.  My feeling is that she revels in the thrill of successfully leading a project to completion and is worried that a Black Belt would be stepping away from the project management experience.  But if she does decide to go after it one day, I have no doubt that she’d bring the same successful focus on process optimization and controls to wherever that Black Belt might lead her.