Are you a Statistician or a Change Agent? Can you be both?

A Black Belt friend of mine was telling me about deployment in his company. I listened to his problems patiently and then said to him, “It looks like you have employed a ‘bunch’ of Black Belts who are brilliant at the statistics, but when it comes to facilitating a project team, who might for example have come off the night shift on the shop floor, they (the Black Belts) can’t get the team or the processes to change — thus few improvements and consequently little cash savings”. He admitted I was right.

I was generalising here, but what I meant was,process owners and team members, who might still work on site or are perhaps foreman or gang leaders promoted from the ‘shop floor’, often find it hard to relate to the type of Black Belt who is University trained and statistically minded. At school they would have been at opposite ends of the playground, one kicking a ball around the school yard and the other playing on his ‘Game Boy’ or even looking out of the window of the classroom doing extra maths or playing chess. This leads to a fundamental question: “Is Six Sigma really about Statistics or is it about process change?And in addition, ”Is a ‘good’ Black Belt someone who knows ‘Gage R and R’ or someone who can meet a group of co-workers and using the tools, make improvements and thus savings?”

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Do we as Black Belts get caught up in the technical side and forget about whom we really are? I.E. change agents.

Comments 5

  1. Dan Feliciano

    I think the whole Black Belt being a change agent is and was marketing hype. I know of very few Master Black Belts and even fewer Black Belts who can make change relevant and sustainable.

    If a Black Belt can’t reorganize and organize or fire and make a hiring decision, what can they really change?

    Most MBBs and BBs rely to heavily on data being factor to improvement. All the statistical data in world is still only directional. I have a saying, “data is directional, change is emotional.” Case in point, at your organizations next summer family outing, look at how many of your brilliant workers kids a negligently over weight, despite the knowing better. If they’re willing to kill their kids, what makes you think a little data will have an effect on them?

  2. Chris Powell

    Being a chemist by training, I have always found the people chemistry of a problem to be oftentimes the most challenging. When confronted with naysayer and those do not understand your work, take the time to explain, diffuse, compromise, evidence, and empathize with their position. Buy in often comes when two parties both realize there is a HUGE problem and all help and skill is required to solve it. That help often times requires shift leaders, operators, and maintenance people alike. It means going in and speaking to people on off shifts, being the butt of jokes, leading the skeptical, and ultimately requires a myriad of communication to obtain a result at the end of the day.

    Remember: Processes are run by people, therefore any fix requires that the people input to be involved and educated also. Include the operations staff in the success and trials; they will be living with the results after all.

  3. Vincent Granville

    How is six sigma different from data mining? What six sigma can do that data mining can’t?

  4. qualityg

    Reengineering forgot about the people side of change and the same result will happen with Black Belts.


    Black Belt = Statistician – I think Not!

  5. Andrew Hillig

    While this may be the case in the manufacturing industry, I find the opposite to be true in healthcare. In healthcare, I am often dealing with equally educated or more highly educated people than myself. Their attitude: "how dare you tell me what to do, I am a highly educated person…I should be able to decide what is best for the patient, not you!"

    In my mind, there is no good way to roll out such an intense change methodology like Lean or Six Sigma unless you can find a way to get everyone to see the big picture.

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