Home FAQs Course Questions

What is the Optional Slide Guide?

During the course the instructor teaches from PowerPoint slides.  Some students find if helpful to have a copy of the slides upon which they can take notes as they go through the course.  For a small additional charge (that really just covers printing and shipping costs), you can get a copy along with your order.  An example page of the printed format is shown below.


Will Six Sigma Online's training enable me to take a third-party certification test?

At this time there is no consensus on what a Black or Green Belt should know, and as a result there is high variability in the skills people possess who say they are Black Belts. A couple of organizations have recently put forward certification tests and seek to become recognized as de facto third-party certification bodies. Neither certification is required in addition to the ROI Black Belt certification, nor is either certification considered a professional license, but they do offer some degree of standardization. ROI's Black Belt training will prepare you for either one. In both exams there are some topics in each that we do not cover, since our experience is that Black Belts do not perform those functions, or in the case of ASQ's certification, that the technique is invalid. So if you do want to proceed with third-party certification, we do recommend to reduce your stress by discussing these topics with your instructor and/or by purchasing a study guide from the respective organization. A comparison is in the table below.

Comparison of ASQ and IQF Third-Party Black Belt Registration

Number of Previous Projects Body of Knowledge Test Information Cost
(1 with three years work experience)
Some invalid procedures Offered twice per year, open book, no computers $180 members
$225 non-members
IQF 2 Better than ASQ CD-based test, open book, computers allowed $199

The most well-known of these is the American Society for Quality, or ASQ. ASQ also offers Black Belt training. (We urge you to compare their Body of Knowledge with ours.) ASQ's Body of Knowledge is based on Six Sigma Academy training, and as such contains tools advocated by Dorian Shainin that have been known for many years to be invalid. Additionally, the ASQ test is less technically rigorous than the IQF exam, probably due to the fact that since you can't use a computer in the exam they can only test you on concepts for most statistics tests. Click here to learn more about ASQ's Certified Six Sigma Black Belt.

The International Quality Federation (IQF) was created in response to ASQ becoming a competitor to its own members through offering one Six Sigma provider's training and Body of Knowledge as its standard. In our opinion, IQF has a better body of knowledge than ASQ and is more technically rigorous. Since you use a computer during the exam to analyze data, it is also a more realistic test of your skills. It does test on a couple of areas that most Black Belts usually do not perform (financial analysis in particular), and as such are not part of our training. It offers the added bonus of CD-based tests which can be taken on the Black Belt's schedule and potential or current employers can easily verify certification status. However, IQF is not very well known. Click here to learn more about IQF's Six Sigma Black Belt Certification.

What if there is a group that wants to go through the training together?

Sometimes groups want to take the training at the same time. It could be trainees at the same company, a group of company, suppliers, and customers, or a group of business associates. Having a group go through the training together has the benefit of providing a structure as well as knowledge or experience held in common by the group. Either way, we can set up a custom group course for you. Depending on your needs, we can provide target dates for each section and online assessment as well as password-protected access to a private area of the Discussion Board to protect proprietary group-specific information. Contact us to let us know your group's needs.

Why don't you teach {fill in the blank}?

There are a couple of topics that most Black Belt training includes that we do not. Here's why.

First, our training has been honed for over 20 years in Fortune 500 companies, so it includes those topics that we have seen our students need to know to extract the most benefit from their problem-solving activities. What you will find is that we cover more topics in more depth than any other Black Belt training, and that the topics covered are the ones you end up using. Secondly, there are a few topics that have worked their way into the cookie-cutter Black Belt curriculum that are not useful, or worse, invalid. What are these?

Financial calculations

We spend a lot of time in the course talking about the importance of showing a financial benefit, both to get a project started and at the end of the project. However, we do not spend a lot of time teaching the Black Belt how to do this. There are a couple of reasons for this. First is that no one is going to believe a Black Belt's assessment of their project's benefits without some other verification anyway. Second, and more insidiously, we have to watch out for the "careful what you ask for you might get it" mentality. For example, at a company of our acquaintance Black Belts calculated that they saved their company millions of dollars by efficiently recalling defective product from their customers. By focusing on the cost savings they neglected fixing the real problem, which was why the product was manufactured incorrectly in the first place!

We prefer to spend the time teaching Black Belts more tools that will be useful in their chosen area of expertise: advanced problem-solving.  We do train the Black Belts how to use the Taguchi Loss Function, since that is a crucial technique for choosing the optimum solution.  However, these calculations are not intended to generate actual dollar losses or savings, though they do generally predict correctly the order and magnitude of real losses.

Response Surface Methodology (RSM)

This is almost universally taught to Black Belts, and for no good reason. Imagine a simple experiment where you manipulate two continuous variables, Pressure and Temperature. If you picture the settings on an x- and y-axis, the effect on your response variable (say quality) can be plotted on the z-axis, resulting in a 3-D surface. The idea is that once you have a part of this surface, you can look for the steepest slope, then follow the surface to get settings in Temperature and Pressure and eventually home in on a local maximum.

While there is nothing wrong with the technique, we just don't find it useful in real life all that often. Frequently the variables that you are interested in manipulating are nominal, like vendor or production line, so there is no surface. Additionally, because of sampling error, it may take you a while to home in on that local maximum. Finally, many people find RSM to be confusing and complicated. We have seen that it much more efficient to encompass the entire range in a fractionated screening experiment and when needed set variables at three levels. Fractional orthogonal array designs are pretty straightforward to understand and can be easily customized to fit your research question. We also teach how to turn the output from such an experiment into predictions for settings you didn't even run to enable you to optimize your output.

Signal-to-Noise Ratio

Since we are talking about teaching highly fractionated orthogonal arrays, some people advocate the use of the signal-to-noise ratio in the analysis. This has been shown to be invalid, and there are better ways of achieving the same objective with the post-hoc analyses we teach.

Shainin Techniques - Multi-Vari

Shainin techniques, for example multi-vari analysis, are frequently taught in Black Belt classes. These too have been known for some time to be invalid, and again there are simple, rigorous ways of achieving the same objectives.

Please contact us if you have a specific technical question about the curriculum. We are very proud of what we teach and the successes our Black Belts have had using these tools.

What are the system requirements?

The system requirements for playing the videos are pretty basic.  First, you need to have a browser with Flash installed.  You can check to see if Flash is already installed on your computer by clicking here.  It almost certainly is, but if it is not, there is a link on that page to download a version for your computer.

If you will be viewing the classes on disc, you will need a DVD-ROM disc drive.  DVD drives are really inexpensive now - if you don't have one, try searching amazon.com if you are interested in purchasing one.

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  If you have a fast internet connection, you can view the course online via the learning portal.  You will still be given the discs so that you can refer back to them when you need to do so.

As far as other computer requirements, best results will be achieved with computer with Pentium III (or equivalent) processor or better and 128 MB or more of RAM, adequate free hard drive space, 16-bit or better sound card and speakers (or headphones), 65,000-color or better video display card.  The course will display in a box no more than 640x480 pixels wide, so you should set your display to that size or larger.  If you have any doubts about a computer, try viewing one of our demos.

You may be prompted to download the TechSmith Screen Capture Codec (TSCC) the first time you view a session.  You only need to do this once.

We also will be using Microsoft Excel and Word files during the course, so you should have a program capable of reading those formats.  If you don't own those products, you can download a free, Open Source application suite called Open Office.  This suite should allow you to open and use these files, however Six Sigma Online has not tested this functionality.

Random Heresy

Rules for statistical thinking

I know we have been talking about statistics a lot in my last few articles, but recent reader comments have prompted me to think more about why doing statistics properly matters. Come with me, dear reader, on a journey to find out why


News Flash

Six Sigma's lead instructor Steven Ouellette wrote an article with Dr. Jeffrey Luftig on "The Decline of Ethical Behavior in Business."



Six Sigma Online's lead instructor Steven Ouellette was profiled in the June 2008 issue of Quality Digest magazine. If you want to learn more about Steve's peculiar view of the world, as well as what he studied for a year in Europe, read the profile online.




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