Black Belts – Full-time? Yes!

Benchmarking results consistently identify examples of Six Sigma success. Even so, getting “naysayers” on board is a continuous challenge. What do you tell them?

Nayism 10: Why can’t we just have part-time Black Belts. I can’t afford to have a full time resource dedicated to Six Sigma project work.

When someone asks this question they may be looking for a good compromise between letting their folks work projects and having them do ‘other’ things that are part of their job. If that is truly what the organization needs, then Green Belts may be the answer. But this should not be decided ‘on-the-fly’ but rather as part of the overall deployment strategy. It’s difficult for some folks to see the advantage of a full time Black Belt because they are overwhelmed by the thought of not having that person available to fight fires. So, here’s what I say . . .

Most jobs have two piles of stuff to do. One pile includes improving the business. The other, fire drills. Fire drills are defined as responding to customer complaints, stock-outs, billing errors, late orders, product defects, reliability problems, the list goes on. Resources are usually stretched thin and the ‘fire drill’ pile always seems to get them because that’s what the business needs today. Day after day, the ‘improving the business’ pile is put on the back burner. A Black Belt who is dedicated full-time has the time to address the ‘improve the business’ pile. As this happens, the fire drill pile starts to disappear because the processes that caused the fire drills were fixed.

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Having full time Black Belts as part of the Six Sigma deployment strategy requires the organization as a whole to make the tough decision and commit the resources needed. Although painful at first, the long term payoff is worth it.

Comments 5

  1. Greg Taylor

    This is so true. I can’t count the number of times that I’ve faced the exact same situation (people not wanting to give up their “best” people to become Black Belts). People — even those that are process owners and are supposed to be “strategic” in their thinking — often have trouble seeing the forest through the trees. Their visibility is clouded by the fires and smoke today. You phrased a response to this nayism perfectly!

  2. ramblinwreck13

    Sorry I could not disagree more. In many companies a full time Black Belt is both under utilized and less effective when this becomes their only focus.

    Full time Black Belts have no political power base from which to get things moving compared to functional Black Belts in positions of authority over resources and processes.

    Change that is resisted by some in an organization can be better understood and better implemented by the person who will have to live with the consequenses long after the project is finished. To be leading that organization as a Black Belt will give a more effective and meaningful solution to all concerned.

    Full Time Black Belts get lost from the day to day priorities on the operatons with 2-4 Black
    Belt projects and 10-20 Green Belt projects going on at one time, the average Black Belt will become detached from the trends in the business that they need to watch out for. If they were given regular assignments they could more clearly see these emerging trends and address them before they became 6 Sigma project fodder.

    I speak form some expereince, as a fulltime Black Belt in a Fortune 100 company, I found myself Bored and without a clearly defined or important future. Yes Black Belts were supposed to be the leaders of tommorrow and the problem solvers of today, but the reality was that we were the operational money savers. If you were good, they did not want to loose you, if you were bad your career was over, either way the employee lost.

  3. qcihdtm

    I believe that the solution is having the Black Belts mentor the black and green belts and the green belts mentor the YBs.
    I don’t think a mentor should run projects, just mentor them.

  4. ITBB

    I agree with ramblinwreck13. Currently i am a black belt in training. I have been into this role for 4 months and i am not feeling any good at all. I am frustrated with the projects –we should be operational money savers, but it was really a challenged. I am so worried that not meeting those expectations might result to negative performance as Performance = Project x Projection. To be honest, I just dont see myself fully utilized and not as important as before when i was still assigned with Client/Operational role.

  5. Raf

    I believe the following regarding this topic:

    1. BB and MBB are full time positions
    2. GB is a part time position
    3. BB and MBB should be considered as a step in a career not as your career.
    4. Prior to appointing someone to a BB full time role, HR should have a process and a commitment to reincorporate that person to a high responsibility role at the end of his 2 year assignment (provided that results are tangible and good work demonstrated)
    A comment for ITBB, I am sorry about you, if you are disappointed with your move you must raise this to your supervisor as your company has huge expectation on you, in theory you are one of the best and thus the investment on you is high.
    If you feel far away from your client, something wrong is with your Six Sigma program or with you as a business man. In Six Sigma everything is tied and linked to the customer, remember VOC? this is funny.

    And finally, You are more than a money saver, you are part of your company future. Start working or someone else will do it for you, and bring that money back. Your company needs it. I have the feeling you are one of those trivial many lazy Black Belts…

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