While reading Gianna Clark’s blog below,”Green Belt Sonic Boom,” my first reaction was: Great minds think alike! We are in the starting phase of a boom of training, and all of Gianna’s caveats are valuable.

Last year in October,our healthcare system started our internal training of Green Belts with a class of 40. We planned to start courses in the fall, winter, and summer of each year. The course includes 8 days of training, usually scheduled as 2 days each month, followed by atraining project which is a requirement for certification.

The first and second classes went well. Thenthe flywheel started to catch, and we were asked to start an additional class in April of this year. By the end of this class,we had100 Green Belts who had completed the training! But,only 3 had become certified so far. We had a discussion about what we would do if the number of Green Belts exceeded our ability to place them in training projects. Our support structure includes an Executive Sponsor at each of our hospital sites and a few other Operating Units; 13 Six Sigma Black Belts deployed around the system, and our Master Black Belt who coordinates the deployment. We have developed a schedule for projects using a Value Stream approach, and each Operating unit is active in 1 – 3 Value Streams at this time.

This June, our CEO announced that it would be an expectation for all leaders in the organization to become Green Belts. The summer and fall classes quickly filled up. One of our site Presidents asked for 2 additional sessions, in the summer and fall,so that all of her leaders could complete this requirement by December 2007.

Then another site Manager asked to have a session at her site in the fall. At this rate, as of December 2007, we will have “graduated” 250 Green Belts, of whom 3 (so far) have completed certification. (We also have about 50 Green Belts who completed DMAIC projects during the time that GE was providing our deployment training.)

So what can we do with all of these Green Belts, if we don’t have enough projects for themafter they complete the training?

As of this summer, we have broadened our training, and renamed thecourse as Lean Management. In addition to learning the DMAIC tools and structure, plus lean tools and approach, we are teaching about how to use these concepts to become Lean Six Sigma Managers as well as facilitators of improvement projects. We give assignments during the course, to ensure that they use thebasic tools, and there is a final (open book) exam at the end that we use as an educational capstone to the coursework. We think that the move to Lean Six Sigma management of daily processes is something that will keep them engaged, whether or not they are involved in projects.

In parallel with these developments, we are working with our WorkLife Services department (human resources) to add language to our leadership performance expectations about using the tools and concepts in their daily operations, and about expectations for facilitation of improvement projects. There is also some discussion about whether Green Belt certification should be a factor (or requirement) for internal promotions.

So: Should we continue to offer Green Belt classes, until we have trained all of our 1000 leaders?Should we call a halt until more of the Green Belts obtain their formal certification? If all leaders are using Lean Six Sigma tools and concepts in their daily operations, is that more important – or less important – or equally important – when compared to formal certification and assignment to facilitate projects?

We’re talking about all of those issues at our organization. Thanks Gianna for your very pertinent comments on this topic!

How about the rest of you? How have you dealt with the growth in your Green Belt ranks?

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