Chicken and the egg; you need experience on Six Sigma projects before you can get a role as a Six Sigma practitioner – or even to get certified. So the question becomes How to Find Qualified Six Sigma Projects?
Recently many people have contacted me about finding Six Sigma projects to do. It’s easy for candidates in large companies with leaders that have already been introduced to Six Sigma to find sponsors and worthwhile projects. And it seems difficult for those who are not in that position. So what can you do?
Why You Should Look for a Six Sigma Project
Some candidates need to have projects to be considered for Six Sigma Black Belt certification. Certain Six Sigma organizations require candidates put into practice what they’ve learned before they are able to be certified. But how do you find a project? For example, the ASQ Black Belt certification requires a signed affidavit stating that you’ve completed one or two Six Sigma projects depending on your amount of industry experience.
Even if you do not need work experience for your particular certification (IASSC and Villanova exams do not require projects), applying what you have learned will tell you how well you know the material.
By default a six sigma project attacks an area of great need. The methodology ensures that you are meeting critical client needs and deploying your resources to meet that need in a responsible manner. What better way to stand out to your current or future employer? Running a successful project is a great resume builder.
Even if you were certified a long time ago, you should still look for projects to run. Six Sigma skills are perishable and we should all be looking for ways to participate in continuous improvement opportunities.
How to Find Qualified Six Sigma Projects
Fortunately, there is no end to the appetite for people to do good, significant work in this world. Ans Six sigma projects certainly qualify. A lack of projects to work is really a lack of networking. And, no, networking is not a dirty word.
The more people that know you, your abilities, your talents, and your interests, the more opportunities you will have. Every business is constrained by human capital. If you offer yours for free, especially with the rare and valuable Six Sigma skill set, you’ll never run out of work to do.
Where to Look for Six Sigma Projects
The funny thing is, once you do a few projects you will never lack for other new projects. Focus on getting one done and then another and I promise good things will come your way.
Your Current Organization
Your best bet to find an area in need of improvement is your current job. Take a look at the things that drive you crazy – how could you study and fix the problem? What about your colleagues? Are they experiencing any issues you could help with?
What about your immediate supervisors or local executives? Sure, you’re judged on expectations. But so is your direct supervisor. Ask her what is on her radar and go solve it! Perhaps she is a process owner. Take a look at this road map to using Six Sigma to improve things as a process manager for ideas.
Green belt candidates should be mentored by black belts. Black belts should be mentored by master black belts. Organizationally, the entire effort should be mentored by a champion. Now, we all know that reality is sometimes different than how they draw it up in the books. But if you have a mentoring relationship, regular 1:1 or skip-level meetings scheduled, or are on various committees with senior leaders, ask if they have a need for help and would be willing to sponsor.
If you do not have such relationships, there is no time like the present to forge them.
Organizations and Academia
By the time you start taking Six Sigma classes you have been through years of education. This is a great opportunity to reach out to previous instructors, professors, and academic institutions.
As a professional you should be a member of various trade organizations. Try contacting them. For instance, I’d bet your local ASQ branch would be a great resource for finding Six Sigma projects.
Sometimes people are simply not in a position to try the previous examples. That leaves freelancing. There are lots of websites out there with people looking for help. You won’t make top-dollar at first, but you’ll make something and help your resume in the process.
You could try posting your services on Fiverr, Elance, or Upwork.
Volunteering with causes you are passionate about are a great way to sharpen your skills while doing good for the community. Catch a Fire, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and other local volunteer shops are all places of potential need.
Ask Your Network
Social media has made it very easy to keep track of who is doing what in your network – and especially who is having trouble. That’s where you come in. For example, look at your network’s LinkedIn posts. If you see someone you know having trouble with cycle time, or something similar that a Lean engagement or a DMAIC could help, there’s your project!
Old employers, past colleagues, former professors are all great resources to reach out to.
Seek Outside Business Advisors
Small businesses are always short-staffed. And, yes, Six Sigma is especially useful to small businesses! Try contacting your local chamber of commerce and seeing if they need help – or know of a business that does.
SCORE is a great organization of retired business leaders that mentors to those new to the community. Try there!
Roll Your Own Company
I did this when I pursued my Six Sigma Green Belt Certification from a local college. I had a website that sold nutrition supplies. AdSense was just coming on to the scene and I wanted to learn how to optimize my process for generating leads. DMAIC was the perfect framework.
My Top Networking Resources
Finding projects boils down to finding people who have a need and helping them. Networking is the best way to do this. This was an important evolution in my journey as a professional. I had many different negative connotations about the term and its purpose. If you’re like me, and networking does not comes naturally – or if it brigs up imagery of slimy ’empty suits’, I’d encourage you to examine the following resources. You’ll be glad you did.
How did you find your last Six Sigma project? What are your tips for networking? Let us know in the comments.