At the outset I would like to quote from the book ‘Lean Six Sigma Demystified' by Jay Arthur, wherein the author writes "I don't care if you ever become a Green or Black Belt. I want you to become a money belt: someone who can find ways to make dramatic improvements in speed and quality that translate into cost savings or more sales because of improved performance". Most readers would be aware that organizations implementing Six Sigma Lean have skilled personnel in the form of Green, Black or Master Black Belts.
By and large I see two types of managers, the first one being the skeptical managers who don't believe in belts nor the Six Sigma initiative; and the second being the ones who will take pride in training as many belts as possible but don't concentrate on getting the belts to execute projects to bring improvement in the organization; so in either case the net result in terms of effective utilization of a good initiative amounts to the same. The third type of manager which apparently is a minority group is one not only encourages training of candidates, but also effective deployment of the knowledge through projects to drive productivity and quality improvement. Managers are normally called champions and champions are responsible to ensure that projects are identified and executed by their belts; the onus of implementing Six Sigma and deriving the maximum benefit lies with the champions and champions should never shy away from that responsibility and blame black belts or green belts for failure of Lean or Six Sigma.
Unlike other training programs wherein HR professionals are under pressure to show effectiveness of training, effectiveness is an essential part of the Six Sigma imitative, I would say it is in built into the program. However if we focus only on training and not on projects which does form a integral part of the program than we will be failing in bringing in a Six Sigma culture and benefit form it. So though the first step is training Green Belts and Black Belts, the next inevitable step is to assign projects to the belts and handhold the belts to successfully complete the projects within the specified time; yes in true sense to develop money belts is the role of the manager.
Running projects in an unscientific manner also reinforces the belief of skeptics that Six Sigma is no more than common sense
An important issue related to deployment of Six Sigma is the poor execution of projects by belts; this in my books is the most dangerous, because it gives a false impression that the organization is effectively implementing Six Sigma and deriving benefit from it. If candidates are trained as belts and left to themselves to run projects without support or mentoring, more often than not the belts may be solving problems in a haphazard manner without using the right tools or the right approach. The savings and benefits obtained will be by solving those low hanging issues or rather very obvious problems that was conveniently ignored by all till now. Going forward the belts will not have the competence to solve complex problems and eventually everyone will loose faith in the Six Sigma philosophy. Running projects in an unscientific manner also reinforces the belief of skeptics that Six Sigma is no more than common sense. I make it a point to review projects regularly in all the plants I am responsible or support in India and outside. Sometimes it's appalling to see that belts run projects in a very adhoc manner sometimes not even using common sense and this indeed is dangerous from the stand point of spreading the culture. This is like powerful tools in the hands of people who misuse the same for destruction.
Managers must understand the real benefits or running projects scientifically, which is not just limited to just cost savings or quality improvements but also personal development of employees by improving presentation skills, project management skills, statistical thinking and also helps develop better trainers. Business leaders and managers in organization embracing Six Sigma Lean must review all aspects of the program to ensure that the right approach is used to maximize the benefits and to ensure that they really develop into a money belt.
Pradeep Kumar E.T. A Master Black Belt in Six Sigma , is the Country Manager- Operational Excellence with Tyco Electronics Corporation India Pvt Ltd. Feedback can be e- mailed to pradeep@ businessgyan.com
Issue BG85 Apr 08