Certification and a project requirement

The subject of certification and project requirement comes up from time to time, so we wanted to take some time today to discuss it and the position that MSI takes.  There are a few large certification bodies that have a project requirement on some of their certifications.  This includes organizations such as the Project Management Institute (PMI) and the American Society for Quality (ASQ).  Many other certification bodies however, do not have these requirements.  Why is this?

The concept behind requiring a project is that the certification body wants to show the applicant has both book knowledge and experience.  This is a noble goal and can make sense in certain situations.  It has some extreme limitations however.  This is why many certification organizations are actually moving away from the “project requirement” method.  Here are the top 4 reasons why:

  1. It’s easy to lie.  Certification bodies do not have the resources to verify every individual’s experience that applies for certification.  Most readily admit this limitation in their fine print.  They typically rely on an audit process where they randomly select 1% of applicants to verify their information.
  2. You can’t “test” project application.  A certification exam can only measure someone’s ability to understand the theory behind a subject like Six Sigma.  It can’t test your ability to apply it in a practical scenario.
  3. It creates a very difficult barrier to entry.  Requiring a project before certification creates a “Boy’s Club” mentality within an industry.  “You can’t get certified until you work on a project, but you can’t work on a project until you’re certified.”  This is not the way organizations should conduct themselves, especially when they’re talking about improving process-flow within their organization.
  4. Natural flow of learning.  Before the days of the internet, most people who got Six Sigma certified did so through their employer.  The process worked like this:
    1. Go through training to learn the process (1 to 4 week process).
    2. Get tested on your knowledge and pass the certification exam.
    3. Work on a project at the company, under supervision.

This is the natural flow of the learning process.  You learn the fundamentals of the process, then go and work on a project.  Someone who wants to learn about Six Sigma shouldn’t be punished just because they don’t happen to work for an organization where they can get trained and gain experience.

How the Management and Strategy Institute solves this problem

The Management and Strategy Institute (MSI) breaks up our certification process into two distinct areas, practical knowledge (the certification) and applied knowledge (project simulators).  This allows the individual to have the option to certify just their knowledge, or both knowledge and project application.

MSI is one of the only certification companies in the world that has a two-stage approach like this.  This advanced, forward-thinking approach to certification is one of the reasons that MSI certifications are so highly valued within the professional business community.  This approach solves the problem of lying on the certification application, while simultaneously lowering the barrier to entry and improving the students ability to understand the process!

Because MSI is a certification body, we set our own standards through the Six Sigma Quality Standards (SSQS) program.  This program is designed to show critical elements of the certification process in an open and fair way so that students can decide which certification company best fits their needs.  All of our certification requirements are available to view prior to certification.