iSixSigma

Do you recommend that a company imbed Black Belts within business units or organize them in a central group that are "loaned out" to business units for project work?

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In my deployment and implementation experience, Black Belts should not be pooled into a central organization and then farmed out like a bunch of “rented experts.”  To my knowledge, only a few organizations have successfully implemented this type of approach.  When executed in a large-scale corporation, there is a certain amount of “up-front management appeal.”  However, this appeal is generally lost once the “back-end performance issues” become visible. 

Generally speaking, the centralization of human resources (where Six Sigma is concerned) leads to a reporting matrix that suffers from several types of common accountability and efficiency problems.  For example, line executives do not have autonomous control over the Black Belts assigned to their respective areas of responsibility.  The leadership implications of this should be fairly evident.  As yet another example, long-term performance incentives (for Black Belts) are often misaligned or disconnected from the success of daily operations (and those responsible for those operations).

All other things being equal, it is my belief that Black Belts should be firmly connected to those individuals that are responsible for the daily operation of a business.  For example, if a certain executive is responsible for a process that is being treated with a Six Sigma application project, then the Black Belt should “hard line” report to that executive.  In this manner, their ankles are linked together throughout the project.  In military circles, it is well known that when two people are in the same foxhole and confronted with the same adversities, there behaviors tend to be mutually supportive, especially when the bullets start flying.  In short, birds of feather stick together.