ICF International Six Sigma Green Belt Certification

ICFI Six Sigma Green Belt Certification

Learning Circle Planning Document

This document describes ICFI’s Learning Circle approach to prepare nine ICFI staff to take and pass the American Society for Quality’s (ASQ) Six Sigma Green Belt certification exam in December 2009. Needs, goals, capability/capacity, evaluation, and sustainability, along with a detailed plan, are included.

Interest and Business Needs

Nine people throughout ICF, including Z Tech and recently acquired ICF Macro, have expressed interest in learning more about Six Sigma and/or earning their Six Sigma Green Belt certifications, which if achieved, will increase ICF corporate process improvement capability and capacity.

Note: Business value of Six Sigma will be an open and on-going discussion topic. While the need is obvious where an RFP requests Six Sigma services, there are other situations where Six Sigma-related skills are of benefit. For example, anything involving performance measurement, some aspects of QA/QC and IV&V, process improvement, efficiency, effectiveness, organizational and process evaluation, streamlining, strategic planning, presentation of results, business process re-engineering, new product/service/process design, to name a few.

Goals and Outcomes

The goals and desired outcomes documented by this plan are at two levels, organizational and personal:

Best Practice and Fit to ICFI

Six Sigma is an improvement strategy used in multiple business sectors that improves process quality by identifying and removing process errors and variation via a set of quality management and statistical methods to meet goals of cost reduction or profit increase. ASQ, the preferred certifying body, does not require a completion of a project as part of the Green Belt application and the knowledge required to pass the exam is less than for a Black Belt, but at least three years of work experience is required. Once a Green Belt has been attained, and a follow-on project has been completed that demonstrates application of Six Sigma methods, the Black Belt certification can be pursued (having completed a project is an ASQ prerequisite for Black Belt).

Certification benefits include: 1) Increasing ICF process and quality improvement capability; 2) enabling response to customer needs (JFCOM, a recent DOD customer expressed interest in Six Sigma training, and ICF has competed twice for Six Sigma work with the FAA); 3) developing ICF talent at low cost and help achieve one of ICF’s five strategic objectives – “world class people;” and 4) build new contacts across ICF practices and locations. Expanding ICF’s process improvement capability and capacity will help not only at the practice level, but also at the corporate level as need for outside resources will be minimized.

Capability and Capacity


Nine ICF staff members have expressed interest in learning more about Six Sigma, and seven would like to earn Six Sigma Green Belt certifications. ASQ estimates approximately 100 hours of self and/or group study to pass the certification exam. Members will also need to make themselves available for regular conference calls in Fall 2009.


ICF has developed a Quality Net Share Point site, which was key in leading to several inquiries about Six Sigma training opportunities. The group will continue to use the site, located at https://workspace.icfi.com/tms/Projects/qualitynetwork/default.aspx, to post contact information, a calendar, ASQ and ICFI materials, and group-generated materials.

ICF’s Oklahoma office has a number of Six Sigma Belts and they conduct in-house Six Sigma training and training to their government customers.


This Circle will achieve their personal professional development goal of Six Sigma Green Belt certification through a combination of group and self study.

· We will organize and hold a series of conference calls beginning in late August through early December. The first call’s purpose will be to introduce the group, discuss goals and objectives, and agree upon the group and self-study process. As part of group introductions, each member will complete a brief Personal Information Sheet (see Appendix B) and post a photo to the Quality Net site within one week of the call.

· Given the group agrees to the group and self-study process, subsequent calls will feature one to two members presenting what they have learned, what they personally seek clarification on, and questions for group discussion based on the Six Sigma Green Belt body of knowledge. The body of knowledge is divided into five major categories. The number of group members preparing a category for the group will be based on the length of the category; one member for shorter categories, two members for longer categories.

· Members will prepare a PowerPoint or other learning materials to support group learning. The materials will be of sufficient quality to be shared outside the group, or to be used as resources for subsequent Green Belt study groups. Members will post their materials to the Quality Net site prior to the conference call, with sufficient time for other members to download and review them.

· Members assigned to the categories will lead their conference call, with additional facilitation by Jim Toney to clarify concepts, promote group discussion and knowledge sharing, and reinforce self-learning. Group discussion will be documented by Jim Toney (initially; others may be assigned on rotating basis) use of a meeting template, attendance, an agenda listing key topics, and a summary of any issues or actions to be resolved, with documentation posted to the Quality Net site within one week.

· A part of each conference call will be a discussion on the applicability of the body of knowledge to current and future work. Discussion documentation, , will be analyzed and reported by Jennifer Dewey as an organizational-level deliverable to be shared with ICFI leadership (most likely to be George Lowden at corporate level, and TMS, Z-Tech and Macro) in January 2010.

· Members are free to contact each other individually or with requests to the group to ask questions, seek information, share information, etc. via e-mail, telephone, and the Quality Net site. It is desired that members conduct discussions via Quality Net to promote transparent communication and provide an opportunity for all to contribute to the discussion. There is a Wiki capability that may be used.

· Each member will apply to ASQ by October 16, 2009 to take the exam on December 5, 2009.

Assessment and Sustainability

The group will be assessed on process and outcomes. Process evaluation will entail a determination of the: 1) extent to which the plan was implemented as intended; 2) quality to which activities were conducted; 3) amount of participation from members; and 4) satisfaction with the process.

Specifically, the process evaluation will document the following:

· What group activities were actually implemented (versus what was planned)?

· Were group activities implemented according to schedule?

· Were group activities implemented according to their description in the plan?

· Who participated?

· What mid-course corrections were made?

· How satisfied were members with the process?

An outcome evaluation will firstly assess if all group members passed the exam. Regardless of success, each member, including Jim Toney and Lisa Gabel, will be surveyed in regard to final reflections on the process as it helped or didn’t help them prepare for the exam. Staff interest in continuing onto a Black Belt, and whether they would want to use this learning process as a component in mastering the Black Belt body of knowledge and preparing for the certification exam.

Process and outcome evaluation, along with documentation of the applicability of the body of knowledge to current and future work from conference calls, will be provided by Jennifer Dewey as an organizational-level deliverable to be shared with ICFI leadership in January 2010. Included in this deliverable will be recommendations on educating future staff on the Six Sigma Green Belt body of knowledge, and member desire for Black Belt certification.


Personal Information Sheet – Topics for Introductions

1. You work in ICF’s _____ office, but where do you live?

2. ICF has implemented a no-holds barred telecommuting policy. Where do you and your laptop, Blackberry and mobile phone really want to live?

3. What is a professional passion of yours?

4. What is a personal passion of yours?

5. How do the two intersect (if at all)?

6. What kind of learner are you (e.g., visual, etc.)? How can the group help you to learn?

7. What is the one question you want to ask group members?

Positive outcomes of the Learning Circle

1) The "perceived" peer pressure to meet deadlines prompted each member to review the needed materials.

2) The presentation assignments prompted each member to learn their assigned material well enough to teach it to others.

3) Particpants were reassured to learn that not everyone understood the material perfectly. This was especially important as we moved from high-level theory and principles to in-depth statistics.

4) We also realized that the American Society for Quality's primary handbook on Six Sigma for Green Belt Certification wasn't the best resource. Several participants found other resources, many through the Indiana Quality Council, that they are using to supplement the ASQ book.

Lessons Learned:

1) The group would have liked some time to collect issues of concern, confusion, etc. a few days prior to a designated presentation, which would have helped to address topics of real concern.

2) The group recommends for the future, some additional statisical presentation be provided to give a common foundation for all participants in this area.

3) Because of the group's discomfort with the ASQ book, many of us will not take the exam on December 5, 2009, but conduct further study and take it in June 2010.

Finally, the group recommended that each of us sign up as a mentor to future cohort participants if ICFI runs another Six Sigma learning circle.