When I accepted this invitation from Mike Cyger, he suggested that I post once a week and so I have set aside Tuesday mornings from 5:00 to 7:00 to put down something I think is worthwhile. This week I got a call at 4 am from my beautiful wife, Aimee, telling me to catch the first flight home because she was in labor. Alison Grace Cone was born at 8:06 pm Eastern Daylight Savings Time on August 23rd. Mom and baby are doing great.

Because of this, I am going to share something from a good friend and even better MBB. He was kind enough to share these thoughts with me earlier. As anyone knows who has ever tried to document their thoughts, this sharing is one of the ultimate acts of trust and friendship. Enjoy.

From my good friend Ernesto Garcia, PhD –

The Champion

Long time ago, in another country, I had the pleasure of working as a consultant for the VP of Quality of an international paper company. As usual in consulting, we used to have some conversations over lunch. In one of those informal meetings I asked him “why are you in this position.” His answer was simple: “I have been here many years, formed most of the current VP´s, and they will listen and act when I ask them to do something for our Quality initiative.” This answer, and the training and mentoring of many Black Belts during their first and second projects, led me to one conclusion: all projects need at least three ingredients to succeed: technical competence, political influence and sound allocation of resources.

As all you know in Six Sigma projects, the Black Belt and process experts provide the technical competence or “know how.” This is a matter of training and application of tools appropriate to the context of the problem to solve and, of course, experience with the process and product where the problem lies. On the other hand, exerting political influence and making sure the allocation of needed resources is obtained, the main tasks of the Champion, make the implementation of company policy to happen. Therefore, how can a Champion be a good implementer of policy through Six Sigma projects?

Perhaps the answer is in the common trait I have seen in successful Champions: constant search for the answer of three questions when they deal with Black Belts and their projects:

1) What is the relation of your project with the objectives of the business?

2) What have you done to satisfy these objectives within your project, and

3) What do you need from me to make it happen?

The first question needs a lot of involvement from the Champion. She, in her position, can normally understand better where the company is heading than the Black Belt; she is closer to the top. Thus, the selection of the project, and its Critical to Quality or CTQ, should pass an acid test: leverage and support of company policy. The development of a simple tree diagram linking the objective(s) of the business to the project CTQ during the definition phase is critical.

The second question has to do with the correct application of the methodology after project definition: MAIC. A Champion ensures that all phases are covered in detail. Thus, she will always ask for proof of: (1) reliability, integrity, and validity of the data used (Measure), (2) Rigor of the investigation (Analysis), (3) Feasibility and impact of the changes recommended (Improve), and (4) Proof of sustainability of the solution (Control).

The third and last question has to do more with our Champion’s commitment and her ability to influence the organization, but it can be summarized in the allocation of one resource: the time she takes asking those questions to her Black Belt, as well as the time she obtains from other members of the organization to help the Black Belt during his project.

Good Champions have at least one meeting with their Black Belts every two weeks, excellent Champions schedule meetings every week. These meetings do not take much time, just 15 minutes. The important thing is to look for answers to the above questions in each meeting, as well as to obtain a list of key persons the Champion must influence for the sake of the project and the company. Outstanding Champions make telephone calls, aisle conversations, and other types of contact to ensure that key members of the organization will commit their time and support for the project.

At the very end this is not new for a successful Champion: it is called leadership.

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