Belts in Part Time Roles

Most methodologies warn against the use of part time resources as project leaders. This is more so true with Blackbelts. However, the Army has a unique situation with the Army Reserves. These are true full time members who serve up to a total of 38 days per year. Couple that with the fact that most if not all are being pulled in other directions on other mission essential tasks, and their availability becomes even less so.

We currently have 1 Blackbelt and 2 Greenbelt candidates who fit these roles. A strategy we are looking at is having those memebers/candidates report for active duty to complete the critical pieces of the project.

Comments 6

  1. Mike Carnell

    We could get into the issue that you mentioned about being pulled in a lot of different directions or we could talk about the fact that part time BB have not been successful (depending on the definition of success). The first question that comes to mind is what are you (the Army) going to do differently to make this succeed where others fail?

    The second issue is basic math. Most have some delusion that SS projects take 6 months. It is relatively easy to manage that cycle time down to 90-120 days. With some effort less. At 38 days per year a project takes how long?

  2. ISLSS

    Well said Mike, and agree as usual. Part-time resources typically take 3 times or longer in delivering the same results as those resources that worked full-time. Little’s law also proves that the more stuff (different project, work direction, etc…) in process under any resource at any time will increase the overall process lead time. Additionally, part-time black belts would compare to industries part-time green belts. I hope the ARMY gets serious with its Lean Six Sigma deployment – of which one of the ways it will "walk-the-talk" is when Black Belts become full time, project cycle times are better managed and thus, closed faster, etc…

    While the Army has enough fruit on the ground to gain huge improvements with part-time resources for the short -term – I have to ask – are the enemies of the United States working part-time efforts on their attack plans? Hmmmm … hope they are not full time – last thing I would want to see is a part-time Army Black Belt go head up against a full time terrorist Black Belt.

    Seriously, Full-Time Black Belts at ~1% and 2-6% Green Belts of the overall population has been a proven recipe. Change the recipe at your own peril / gain!

    Best wishes,

    Steven Bonacorsi

  3. Bryon_M

    Steve & Mike,
    Capt Harris is refering to the Army Reserve while your comments seemed aimed at the Regular Army. There are legal/ethical constraints. These people are supposed to work 2days/month +2w/yr- when not activated. That is a unique problem.

    I throw the question out to the Six Sigma world: Should we insist that soldiers be activated to be Black Belts on projects? To be Black Belt candiates? Not allow reservist BB/GB? Shouldn’t we limit activation to our current war-time needs?

    I mean… a Reservist is not even a "part-time- Black Belt" in the traditional sense. A BB-pt would normally be doing their ’day-job’ at the same location as their Six Sigma gig. So an hour+/day would not be out of the question. Also they are relying on their Process Owners to help drive the bus. So they can keep the ball in the air by being phyically available. For the Reservist… not so much. In terms of Little’s Law the capacity is severly limited and WIP really has to be "1". That is one consideration. Even then, the cycle time is going to be on the order of 1 Black Belt with 10 projects of WIP

    (~21 working days for a BB/month vs. 2 working days for a BB-reservist — who by the way– is still taking a PT test, doing other required (by law) training)

    It boils down to what Capt Harris refers to in his post: Is a Reservist BB that is not activated to full time doomed to fail? What about if this is their certification project?

    DISCLOSURE: I sit 5m from Cpt Harris

  4. Andrew Downard


    I wrote an entry on a similar topic a while ago (see link above) Unlike most others, I am a strong believer in part time Black Belts.

    My belief is that any model can be made to work if set up and supported correctly. Part time BBs will certainly take longer to complete projects, but that’s not always the end of the world. And in fact it confers some advantages, as I point out in my previous blog post on the subject. Pick the right projects for these part-time folks, support them in the right way (which might be different than for full time BBs) and you’ll be okay.

    The important thing is to match the deployment strategy to your needs and requirements. In your case the needs and requirements sound unique (or at least very different from most corporate deployments), so it wouldn’t surprise me if the best deployment strategy is also unique.


  5. Mike Carnell


    My comment wasn’t aimed at either the reserve or the regular army. There is no significant history of success with part time Black Belts. If your environment is constrained to the limited time you still need to ask the question “What am I going to do different.”

    People can engage in some hypothetical discussion about projects taking a long time to complete may not be all bad but the fact is when they run long term people drift away and work doesn’t get done. If that is your model save the training money and use it for something else.

    The Lonmin deployment in South Africa featured in iSixSigma Magazine delivered a net benefit of 206 million rand (approx $34 USD) in year one with 23 Black Belts. A similar deployment delivered 24 million rand (About $4 million USD) in 2 years with around 500 Green Belts. The part time model does not work if deployed in the classical manner so if you want a result you need to answer the question “What are you going to do differently?” It has nothing to do with anybody’s Army, it has to do with developing a deployment model to fit your circumstances. Unless of course you have no expectations in which case you will probably get exactly that.

    Good luck

  6. ActionMagnet

    An update:

    Our part timers are not producing.
    The answer to my question is:
    Yes. If a Reservist wants to be certified as a BB or GB s/he must be put on orders (activated) for six months at a minimum. That is the deployment model being espoused by the Army Reserve. This unit failed to heed that and the result is … no results.

    there is nothing new under the sun. To be a successful BB/GB you need to work projects. To do that you need to put in a significant amount of time. If it could be done in 2 hours a week, everyone could do it and we would not need dedicated BBs. It’s like ROI. No I no R.

    Now we need a ’recovery plan’. Translation: some else has to pick up the ball.

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