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Difference Between Six Sigma and PMP® Certification

Difference Between Six Sigma and PMP® Certification

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Last Updated August 8, 2018

Over time, Six Sigma and project management have proven successful at turning around struggling companies or making good organizations even better.

Both focus on specialized strategies to create better business outcomes. They approach this goal in different ways.

Six Sigma is a methodology designed to identify defects and variations in a process. By using Six Sigma tools and techniques, an organization can reduce mistakes, cut costs, increase efficiency, produce better products and services and become more competitive in the marketplace.

Project management involves creating and managing projects that finish on time, within budget, and with an outcome that matches the original business goal of the project.

Employees who become adept at Six Sigma earn certifications at various color-coded levels. Those who want to become experts in project management typically earn a Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification through the Project Management Institute.

Earning either certification can help elevate an employee’s standing within an organization and make them more attractive job candidates for leadership positions.

Earning a PMP® Certification

The Project Management Institute, founded in 1969, offers the PMP® certification, generally regarded as the most industry-recognized certification for project managers. Professionals can prepare to earn the certification by taking classes offered through universities and colleges. Classes are offered on-campus or 100% online.

A PMP® certification indicates that a person has achieved expert level status in utilizing the more than 42 tools of project management, and validates their competence as a project manager. The PMP® Exam is based off A Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide), maintained by PMI, which includes standardized best practices for approaching various project challenges.

The main goal of a project manager is to increase the success rate of projects. That involves key areas such as defining goals with organizational executives, setting and staying within a budget, breaking a project into smaller segments and guiding a team to complete those tasks, and eventually completing the project by deadline and with a quality result that aligns with overall business goals.

Six Sigma Certification

Training and education is key to Six Sigma success, and it helps prepare professionals for leadership roles. Employees learn Six Sigma at various levels designated by color-coded belts. In ascending order, they are: White Belt, Yellow Belt, Green Belt, Black Belt and Master Black Belt.

To lead a Six Sigma project, a person typically needs to have reached the Black Belt level.

Six Sigma focuses on a data-driven examination of a process that identifies and eliminates defects. Its goal is to have no more than 3.4 defects per one million opportunities. Getting there requires leveraging a wide variety of different strategies and tools, most involving a detailed look at every phase of an operation. Applying the tools and techniques of Six Sigma can help improve customer and employee satisfaction and improve the overall bottom line.

Main Differences Between PMP® Certification and Six Sigma

Here are some of the differences between the PMP® and Six Sigma certifications:

  • A PMP® certification focuses on improving the success rate of projects. A Six Sigma-certified employee focuses on finding and eliminating defects within a specific process
  • A certified Six Sigma professional aims to reduce wasted time, effort and money on a specific process, while a PMP® certified professional focuses on how to plan and execute a project
  • Six Sigma projects have a continuous control phase, while project management focuses on completing a project by a specific deadline
  • A Six Sigma professional uses data-driven methods and statistics to identify and solve a challenge, while a PMP® certified project manager uses standardized practices to efficiently deliver a project that meets a pre-determined goal.

How They Work Together

Six Sigma certified professionals can benefit from earning a PMP® certification and a project manager can find value with a Six Sigma certification. A Six Sigma professional is an expert at finding and solving a problem, and a PMP® certified project manager is an expert at correctly implementing the project itself. Used together, a practitioner can identify a problem and then use project management training to ensure the solution is implemented in the most efficient and effective way possible.

Someone who has earned a Six Sigma belt – particularly those at the Black Belt level – has become an expert at using proven methodologies to solve a problem.

Black Belts are like business detectives; they are brought in to determine why a process is not working right or to its potential. In the beginning, they do not know what they will find. Eventually, they lead a team that identifies the defects, eliminates them, and creates a sustainable, better process.

Ultimately, employing individuals with both Six Sigma and project management certification may prove a great advantage for any organization. And for the individuals themselves, achieving both certifications can help make them more qualified for high-level positions while working directly on setting and achieving strategic business goals.

PMBOK and PMP are registered marks of the Project Management Institute, Inc.