A Master Black Belt (MBB) has been trained as a Six Sigma Black Belt and demonstrated proficiency in statistical tools and expertise in leading and teaching others. Within the healthcare organization, the MBB trains Black Belts and Green Belts, helping to select, scope and mentor projects. MBBs also guide the organization in addressing quality from a strategic business perspective and focusing statistical problem solving efforts to drive results.

The MBB has successfully led multiple project teams through the methodologies to closure and subsequent sustainability. The MBB is responsible for using Six Sigma to help the healthcare organization operationalize strategic objectives while driving a common language and enthusiasm for performance improvement. In addition to Six Sigma expertise, it is necessary for the MBB to acquire advanced presentation, teaching and change management skills.

Beyond “Teacher”

In addition to teaching Six Sigma methods, the Master Black Belt plays a vital role as coach, mentor, and strategic business planner. Fundamentally, the MBB shifts from a focus on doing and leading specific projects as a Black Belt to developing an entire cultural change within the organization.
In this capacity, the Master Black Belt will:

  • Manage the project selection process
  • Ensure projects begin and remain aligned with organizational CTQs
  • Assist in clarifying project components if project team is confused
  • Act as mediator or conflict negotiator on project teams as necessary
  • Monitor project teams to review key measures and data collection plan
  • Counsel project teams when there is poor identification of key measures and an inadequate data collection plan
  • Facilitate team building, focusing on conflict resolution and decision making if project team members dispute data or other process step
  • Conduct a mutual post mortem along with senior managers, team, and Champion at the end of the project review
  • Lead Six Sigma projects that may be more substantial in scope than those lead by Black Belts
  • Work in tandem with the Six Sigma Champion to:
    • Create commitment to reach Six Sigma project/team goals,
    • Tear down roadblocks to the Six Sigma process,
    • Ensure stakeholders support team’s efforts through DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control)
    • Question team leaders to ensure they are focused appropriately
    • Encourage follow-up and monitoring of activities
    • Help transition project ownership to the process owner upon completion of the Control phase, and
    • Recognize progress, promote success, and celebrate accomplishments.

MBB Leader Roles and Topics of Discussion

MBB leadership has nothing to do with rank, and everything to do with skill, desires, and behavior. Master Black Belts possess skills that other healthcare leaders can leverage to turn challenging opportunities into remarkable successes. Prime candidates for the MBB program include Black Belts on the front lines and in middle management, leading projects and managing clinical departments, working in the daily operations of the hospital – those already taking the initiative to improve healthcare delivery in their organizations. With feedback and practice, those who want to learn to lead Six Sigma can substantially improve their abilities to do so.

MBB leader roles include integrator, project manager, relationship coach and manager, and topics for discussion in the MBB for healthcare program feature:

  • Strategic business perspective
  • Systems thinking
  • Change leadership
  • Results
  • Project selection and management
  • Networking and influencing
  • Coaching and mentoring.

Adding Value By Establishing Master Black Belt Success Profiles

Alignment: Success profiles answer key human resource questions such as how to hire and select appropriate employees, how to develop a skilled workforce, how to develop a pipeline of talent, etc. They help by clearly articulating and communicating common standards of excellence required of employees so they can be more personally successful and accountable.

Measurement: Applying success profiles in an assessment and goal – setting process helps organizations specify performance targets (e.g., competency levels, reduction of gaps between current and ideal performance) that can be measured over time.

Efficiency: Clearly communicated performance standards embedded in coaching tools improve the quality and effectiveness of coaching by focusing interventions and involving individuals in the process as collaborators.

Motivation: Employees take more responsibility for their success when performance standards are clearly communicated, resulting in an enriched work environment where there is increased initiative and productivity.

Success profiles work best when used to:

  • “Raise the bar” of performance standards
  • Align individual behavior with hospital strategy, mission, vision and goals
  • Clarify how employees should behave and perform in a rapidly changing and dynamic work setting
  • Produce more accountability and self- directed development in the workforce
  • Provide management at all levels with more effective tools for staffing, assessment, training and development, and career management

Bringing MBB Leadership Back To The Organization

Success Factors for MBB Programs in Healthcare

Many elements are necessary to build a successful Master Black Belt program for healthcare, including:

  • Consider candidates from a variety of healthcare management settings
  • Include stringent educational testing and learning standards to ensure currency and validity
  • Consult content experts for Six Sigma, change management and leadership sessions
  • Convey that the journey toward MBB leadership is one of self-improvement and awareness
  • Develop and use Master Black Belt success profiles
  • Along with technical skills, emphasize importance of “soft skills” along with technical skills (presentation delivery, interpersonal relations, communication)

The session material provided in the MBB for healthcare course is intended to refresh understanding of basic statistical concepts and methods and enhance the soft skills needed to deploy and work in a Six Sigma environment. It is not a complete course in statistics, nor will it provide a detailed explanation of all concepts for novices. It provides the information needed for exposure to statistics used in Six Sigma projects and to become comfortable with teaching the basics of statistical thinking and making change last.

Master Black Belts in healthcare will need a variety of skills and information in order to function effectively in their new role. Some of this will be at a higher level, imparted immediately to allow the MBB to quickly get started. They will also need to acquire a certain amount of depth in many subjects, and this is usually appropriate once they have had a few weeks experience in the role.

The MBB leader program provides most of the basic information needed to go back to the hospital and become the leader in Six Sigma. However, it is based on the assumption that they already have the skills of a Black Belt and the desire to be the best. If this is not the case, additional training and experience may be necessary prior to enrolling in the MBB program.

Today’s MBB leaders are involved with all aspects of running a Six Sigma initiative under the direction of a Champion (CEO, CFO, CQO, CNO, CMO or Executive VP). MBB leaders are planning, organizing, directing and controlling activities and uses of personnel, equipment and supplies to meet the needs of customers – patients, physicians, employees, vendors, etc.

Becoming a Master Black Belt in healthcare can open up exciting possibilities-both for the individual and the organization as a whole. The new MBB leaders in healthcare will be the designers of healthcare’s future when it comes to performance improvement, safety, quality, financial impact, operational process improvement, clinical and satisfaction metrics.

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