Soft Skills and Six Sigma

DMAIC, DMAVD, DFSS or any other Six Sigma framework is a disciplined data-driven structured methodology that if implemented as required will yield breakthrough levels of improvement in organizations.

Having applied Six Sigma and other process methodologies across multiple SBUs at our organization one aspect that is not given much attention in many formal Six Sigma training courses is the role that a Belt’s soft skills play in the success or failure of a project.

Whether we know it or not most of us spend a good deal of our working lives interacting with others (i.e., formally through meetings, calls, presentations, emails etc or informally though conversations, discussions even the odd chat down the corridor).

Thus how effectively we interact with our peers could dictate how successful we are in convincing them to accept our point of view. I have found this tends to be the norm, be it Six Sigma project or be it asking for a favor from a close friend.

A limitation that I find in many Six Sigma training courses is the lack of emphasis and attention to developing a Belt’s soft skills. In fact to be a successful process expert requires you be an effective communicator, negotiator, project manager, team leader, mentor and coach all in one. Developing these skills can significantly help a Black Belt successfully implement Six Sigma or any process methodology across the company hierarchy.

In nurturing prospective Green Belts and Black Belts, I use a “10 point soft skills matrix” to evaluate the soft skills competency of a Belt prior to engaging in a Six Sigma project.

A rating scale is used with scores ranging from 1-4, depending on the varying strengths in a particular competency. The soft skills competency of any prospective process expert can be evaluated using this matrix and necessary levels of training could be customized as required.

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The 10 points along with the relevant rating criteria is shown in Figure (1).

The total score for all ten categories and the score for an individual set of skills are computed. As per the reported scores, appropriate training is provided to the required individuals in conjunction with Six Sigma Black Belt and Green Belt training.

Comments 3

  1. GaryPCox

    Keep in mind Zakir, that to rate a person on the softskills you must be in a position of witinessing them in action. Then the question comes to mind what skill do the assessors have to give this type of rating?

    IF one were to do a Gauge R&R on this type of assessment of softskills what would be the result?

    While I totally agree that softskills will have an impact on the success of the BB to work through the project , I’m not fully convinced on how to successfully measure them. 360-degree feedbacks are the most useful tool in my opinion… however…

    It is also my personal opinion that it is in the DNA of a person if they will reflect on their personal softskills and apply the discipilne needed to improve them based on that feedback.


  2. Sandeep Bhadu

    I agree both with Gary and Zakir, but my own experience while working is the BB requires a lot of soft skills as he/she has to deal with various functions during his project. General fear with people providing data is that any flaw in data may cause in losing job. Here a BB should make them understand that this is not a person specific fault finding job rather it is for system improvement.

    Also mentoring team members to DMAIC/DMADV/DFSS requires a lot of patience and technical expertise.

  3. Matt Barney

    I was an Industrial/Organizational Psychologist before becoming an MBB; and there is systematic, repeatable science behind "soft skills".

    For example, when I revamped Motorola’s Six Sigma curriculum, I licensed Dr. Robert Cialdini’s Principles of Persuasion, based on 30+ years of DOEs on what situations cause people to say yes to requests. Similarly, I’ve been recently working with him on using modern psychometrics, the remedy to Gary’s concern about Gauge R&R. Rasch Measurement produces engineering worthy measures for human variables, but have only recently started to be taught to Black Belts for customer, employee, and patient measurement

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