Teaching Six Sigma

My organization is embarking on a new frontier: teaching our own version of DMAIC to new Green Belts and Black Belts. For our first three waves, we used the material provided by our consultant.Now we’re ready (we think) to customize it with our own organization’s goals and culture.

The original training focused on the DMAIC process and included 17 days over six months – the same training for both Green Belts and Black Belts. Each Black Belt was assigned a training project with 1 – 3 Green Belts on the team. In this model, the BB was responsible as team leader and project facilitator, with GBs assisting.

We have made two major changes for this next wave of training. We now wish to include more elements of Lean throughout the training, and we are preparing Green Belts to be team leaders with a Black Belt mentor/coach helping several Green Belts on their various teams.

In order to do this, we’ve split the classes so that Green Belts get the essentials of the project structure and emphasis on what they need to know to lead an effective project team. This training will take 9 days total, with both GBs and BBs in attendance. We’ve included tools for scoping the project and preparing the charter; Customer and Process CTQs; Value Stream Mapping; data collection; descriptive statistics and lean metrics such as Process Cycle Efficiency; classic Lean tools such as 5S, Takt time, and pull; planning for Rapid Improvement Events; use of Failure Mode Effects Analysis; facilitating the Control phase; and measurements needed for the sustaining the improvement.

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In addition, we have planned some additional days of “Black Belt technical training” to include more of the technical and statistical knowledge that the BBs will need to effectively coach the Green Belts – MSA, sample size calculations, process capability, statistical analysis, design of experiments, etc.

This feels risky to me, because I’m concerned about (a) taking too much out of the Green Belt/Black Belt combined courses, so that the material becomes watered down; and (b) leaving too much in that doesn’t pertain to the type of projects the Green Belts will be leading, so the educational material isn’t value-added.

If any of you have made this transition, to teaching your own versions of the DMAIC/Lean material, I’d welcome your insights and suggestions.

Comments 5

  1. Marty

    Hi Sue,

    We do a very similar approach. However, our combined Green Belt / Black Class (which we call DMAIC basics) is only five days. Black Belts then have several additional modules of training.

    I find this works very well. We don’t go over the statistics as much in the DMAIC basics class, but rather give them some of the simpler Six Sigma and Lean tools, and introduce them to the DMAIC format for solving problems.

    We teach them that for low hanging fruit and simpler processes, complicated statistical tools are not necessary.

  2. Sue Kozlowski

    Thanks Marty for your comment. We find that acceptance of Lean tools is easy for most folks as soon as we tell them they don’t have to learn statistics! We are reserving that for the "advanced" courses for the Black Belts.

    Also thanks to Mike LaChappelle who emailed me to share the way he teaches work cells – by asking people to think of their kitchens. Nice idea, and one I’ll definitely use in future courses!

  3. Mike Carnell

    We have done exactly what you are doing on our deployments because it transfers the ownership of the program to the organization and takes it from the consultants. There is a long history of failed initiates (beyond just Six Sigma) where when the consultants walk away the program goes with them. That is the result of no hand off. The success of the program should actually increase with the handoff because it is no longer consultant driven – they are always considered outsiders to the organization.

    We rarely initiate any green belt training with consultants. If you allow a consultant to train GB’s those GB’s will always see the consultants as the experts. We graduate Black Belts and they train GB’s that way when GB’s need help they turn to the internal resource.

    I see what you are doing as exactly what you need to do to assure ownership and success which in turn will increase the sustainability.

    You might want to go one step further. As you reach the next budget process make sure that targets are created by each department with projects to back them up. It will fill your project pipeline and it avoids the buy-in issue. When the Process Owners identify the projects and build them into the budget they are committed by definition.

    The only issue I would be concerned about is the GB’s assigned to BB’s teams. That can create the impression that a GB is a BB’s go-fer. That isn’t their job. We keep BB’s on crossfunctional projects and GB’s on natural work teams.

  4. Sue Kozlowski

    Thanks Mike, you have some great ideas about the budget process – I forwarded your comment to our MBB! And I agree about having GBs assigned to BB teams – we found that the GBs assumed that the BB would be taking care of everything, so they didn’t pay too much attention in class and were surprised when we held them accountable for leadership and learning. We now are training the GBs to function as team facilitators and BBs (after their initial training project) to mentor/coach the GBs and (as you said) work on cross-functional and system projects.

    Thanks again for sharing your insights.

  5. Andrew

    We began internal DMAIC/Lean training as well after working with consultants. The initial training included both Gren and Black Belts. However, we extended the training duration for the Black Belts and capable teachers.

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