iSixSigma

Words of Advice for Frustrated Black Belts

“I entered the Six Sigma program with our organization in May as a BB candidate. Since then I have encountered a number of setbacks and frustrations. They aren’t unique to me, either. Many other BBs at my company are experiencing the same things. I’m hoping for some general advice. What can you do (as a BB) when:

  1. You get little or no support from your champion and/or sponsor,
  2. There are no GBs – that’s right zero Green Belts,
  3. Your mentor, the MBB, is too busy to talk to you and constantly misses appointments, reschedules, etc.,
  4. You work in a branch office and have very little interaction with other Six Sigma personnel,
  5. Projects are given to you with the outcome already decided (i.e., implement this new program).

“There are other problems but I don’t want to ramble.

“The way I see it, I am responsible for my success in spite of the roadblocks. Can anyone offer some general advice for people working in Six Sigma programs that are a little screwed up?” — Joe Q. Public, Black Belt

Unfortunately for many organizations in the world, the above quote – in part or in whole – is all too familiar. If you are relatively new to Six Sigma quality, you may currently be in the same situation. If you are an experienced Six Sigma professional, you may have created the above situation for one of your Black Belts and you don’t even know it.

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Many organizations hear of the benefits of Six Sigma quality and begin instituting quality, hiring Black Belts and implementing quality improvement projects – all without the correct systems and structures in place to support them. So what can you do to change the situation? This article will hopefully raise the awareness level of MBBs, Champions and sponsors enough for them to change the situation. But if it doesn’t, the Black Belt (or even Green Belt) can take the following actions:

Communicate

  • Make an appointment with your MBB, Champion or Sponsor to discuss your project frustrations. Clearly identify the frustration points: lack of support, poorly defined projects, absence or unavailability of MBB, lack of Six Sigma methodology understanding, etc. Keep the conversation as unemotional as possible. Also be careful not to be aggressive, so that your MBB/sponsor/Champion doesn’t become defensive.
  • Show positive project results. Share every success. Business leaders will pay more attention to your project and associated issues if they know that hard dollar savings are being delivered or are on the horizon. Remember to share credit as widely as possible.
  • Develop a communications plan with your project team, your business group and others within the business. You will gain support through education and the highlighting of successes.
  • Educate ignorance within the business. Whenever you come in contact with someone who has a misconception of Six Sigma, take a moment to educate and share your experiences. If you don’t feel like you have enough education, attend conferences or training courses to increase your expertise.
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Network With Other Black Belts

  • Check with other Black Belts and determine if they have the same issues. If they do, there are a couple of different options that you can pursue. One solution is to support each other in the completion of the projects. Another solution is to raise the collective concerns of the group to the Quality Director or Manager at your business. Most likely the director is unaware that such an issue(s) exists.
  • Use the help of other Black Belts on your projects. Every Black Belt has their own strengths – use them to your advantage, and be sure to praise them for their help, both privately and publicly.
  • Post your thoughts to the iSixSigma discussion forum. Your management may not care, but odds are you’ll find some help if you ask for it on iSixSigma.
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Resign or Be Patient

  • The prior is something I don’t personally recommend. To many, resignation is merely running away from the problem instead of trying to solve it. I recommend proactively trying to solve the issue. While doing that, you can always hope that the obstruction will be fired, promoted or leave on his/her own! There are caveats to every recommendation, of course. If your health is being negatively impacted, my recommendation is to remain healthy and find your next opportunity. Nothing punctuates an issue like an employee quitting.
  • Be patient and continue your Six Sigma work. A completed project with hard savings will often help change attitudes and support.
  • Ask your MBB, sponsor and champion exactly what “success” would look like on your project. At least then you’ll know what you need to do while you patiently work towards that goal.
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In closing, remember the main reason that makes Six Sigma so successful in the world today: $. It’s all about the money you are saving your organization by increasing productivity, reducing rework, and eliminating waste. Saving money and increasing sales brings teams together, unites differing views under a common flag, and breaks down roadblocks. The future of your Six Sigma program is built on the successes you deliver today. I hope the above suggestions, many of which are derived from the iSixSigma forum, serve to help alleviate some of the struggles we all face in our daily lives. Remember – you are not alone, and help is just a mouse click away.

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