Green Around the Gills

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.

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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.

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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?

Comments 6

  1. Hannah

    We had a re-think around our Green Belt deployment. Rather than training a lot of GBs and then trying to find them things to do, we looked at what support our business needed in achieving its strategic objectives. In our case, the business’ need is currently around monitoring and controlling their processes. Until we get this right the DMAIC projects will have limited value. So our GBs are primarily trained in Process Control. Once the process is under control, and we have the data to recognise the need for a DMAIC, they are trained in DMAIC.

    There’s no pressure on a GB to use DMAIC: we want them to have the flexibility to do what they need to do to control and improve their processes.

  2. Sue Kozlowski

    Thanks for your comment, Hannah. We finally came to that same conclusion, after spending some time chanting the "every manager must be a green belt" mantra. Now, we do have Green Belt certification available, but it’s more important to us to enable managers to use lean six sigma tools and concepts in their everyday work, as a way to build the foundation for process improvement.

  3. Sue Kozlowski

    Thanks Vincent for your post. I loved your conclusion. The trait of perseverance – also known as persistence – stubbornness – and obstinancy – serves us well when the light bulb turns on for those of us who "get it." A quote attributed to Taiichi Ohno says, "Two steps forward and one step back is ok. No steps forward is not ok."

  4. Vincent Chin

    Hi Sue,
    When we first started Six Sigma in Starwood Asia Pacific each hotel had about 1-2 candidates sent for GB training. Majority of hotels had about one GB and one BB, which is not many for a roll-off. Six Sigma was further underpowered by resignation of GBs and ’dormant’ GBs. Fortunately it was passion and fire, not to mention perseverance that saved the day. I was a full-time Financial Controller but stuck and stood my ground in Six Sigma. I still remember sitting-in with the MBB past 1 am in the office getting my projects reviewed. Because being Financial Controller is heavy responsibility, Six Sigma took the other half of my working life clock. That was how it was in the early years. Conclusion- loved it.

  5. Tad O’Reidy

    Sue: I really like your comments, but on the one about women execs, you mention the much bally-hooed yet disproven theory of "Brain Side Dominance" There are measurable differences in women and men that are chemical, electrical, and physical, but that does not extend to "whole brain" or right vs left. There is very interesting research in the field of gender effects, women are much better than men at pattern recognition, some men are dramatically better than all other people at 3D mathematics. When it comes to verbal skills we have another myth, men and women are about equal. So why do women score better on leadership? We still do not have a definitive peer reviewed research study, but I hope that Sutton at Stanford, or someone like him will look at power vs leadership . One hypothesis that we cannot yet reject is that boys in America and most of the west are encouraged to use power, where girls and women are encouraged to use leadership. If it is sociological as opposed to physical one would expect to see less difference in leadership scores between men and women in countries with greater measured gender equality (Hofstede et al. The PDI study you cited is very heavily US, I would like to see PDI replicate this in Sweden and Singapore. Thanks again for a high quality blog


  6. Sue Kozlowski

    Thanks Tad for sharing your very pertinent points! It would indeed be interesting to see more studies on the use of power and leadership – especially in this country where the two are sometimes equated.

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