How manyhealthcare Black Belts thinkthe biggest Six Sigma challenge is notproject management, or coaching your team, butteaching your Project Sponsor/ Executive Sponsor / Process OwneraboutSix Sigma? This is something I’ve encountered in early Six Sigma Project Waves.

The scenario I’m thinking about is the one whereyou’re meeting with leadership about your project.In public meetings, they’ve been supportive; however,to you they say things like:

“I don’t think that Green Belt will be able to attend too many of your meetings, I’ve got her on two special projects already.”

“We’re having a JCAHO inspection in March so team members won’t be available to you that month.”

“There’s no money in the budget for Six Sigma expenses like a team lunch.”

“You’ll have to go through the normal purchasing procedures if you want to buy a new fax for that department; it usually takes six months if you can talk the Director into approving the purchase in the first place – but good luck.”

You may go to your Executive Sponsor, Master Black Belt, or other Six Sigma leader, only to be told “That’s part of your job as a Black Belt to work with everyone to get them on board.” But some Directors or Vice Presidents may not acknowledge your authority to tell them to spend money, take people out of clinical care areas, or re-arrange their plans for the upcoming inspection. Certainly this is even more difficult when Six Sigma is first being introduced to a hospital or healthcare system.

In one project that I know of, the Black Belt had to put up with a lot of negative push-back from the Executive Sponsor and Process Owner (with the Project Sponsor pretty much absentee the whole time). He persevered, though, with assistance from his MBB. By the end of his successful project (which had a large financial benefit), he had gained enough political capital to make the leadership team much more action-oriented during the next project.

What has worked for you, when you’ve come across difficulties with your leadership team? Was there something specific that helped to get them to the “aha” moment of what Six Sigma is all about? Please share your experiences.

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