Green Belts often face project delays and frustration resulting from conflicting priorities – day-to-day, business-as-usual duties versus Six Sigma project work. Although most companies communicate that Green Belts will spend approximately 25 percent of their time on projects, the reality is that this is usually in addition to their current workload. The best way to attack this problem is to assign Green Belt projects that address current opportunities for improvement within the Green Belt leader’s current role or responsibilities and to ensure Six Sigma-related goals are incorporated into their current performance management routines.

Performance management can best be defined as a systematic process that involves all employees, as individuals and members of a team or group, in improving organizational effectiveness in the accomplishment of their mission and goals. This really makes sense. If an employee’s success is measured on how many goals are achieved within individual performance plans, then the performance plan must contain all key initiatives worked on by the employee.

Including Green Belts Activities

If Green Belt activities are not a part of that plan, what motivation does a Green Belt have to reach their Six Sigma-related goals? Even if the Green Belt has a very competent Master Black Belt who is pushing them to complete their project, at the end of the day, what motivation does that employee you have to push forward with their Green Belt project if their performance review or raise will suffer? This happens in many companies. Executive management supports Six Sigma and issues directives to Green Belts to complete their projects successfully; however, the employee’s success is measured solely by business-as-usual goals.

There must be integration of the Green Belt’s Six Sigma journey into performance plans. The Six Sigma coach should be able to provide feedback to the Green Belt’s supervisor in order to help bridge the gap of business-as-usual duties and performance and that of the Green Belt’s project. Both coach and supervisor have a role in helping promote skill development and plan career paths. And both should be involved in some way in measuring accomplishments and rewarding the employee based on abilities to achieve project as well as current job duty goals. Of course, individual performance goals along with project work should be aligned with the organization’s goals.

A company does not have to reinvent its current performance management process, it just needs to examine and strengthen key linkages of Six Sigma coaching, supervisor collaboration efforts and best practices that have proven to work well. The coach who helps Green Belts with their Six Sigma projects needs to be involved in the performance plan of those employees.

Three Phases of Performance Plans

Most organizations practice some degree of performance management in order to:

  • Facilitate clear and effective performance management discussions with greater proficiency and confidence.
  • Work collaboratively with employees to identify action plans for meeting and exceeding performance and individual development goals.
  • Communicate clearly so employees will better understand performance expectations and be able to make clearly the connection between individual and organizational goals.

Best practice performance plans are divided into three phases – creating a continuous cycle in which managers, coaches and employees work in partnership to:

  • Establish performance expectations.
  • Monitor progress in delivering those expectations through joint coaching and development.
  • Evaluate the results.

Phase I. Performance Planning

Developing performance objectives is the first step in the creation of any performance plan. Performance objectives must be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, Time-bound). The individual development plan should help align the employee with current and future needs. And, the supervisor and coach must successfully be able to successfully the performance plan and individual development plan to the employee using collaboration and an effective meeting process.

Individual development goals support business goals because they focus on the long-term professional development of the employee. Supervisors, coaches and employees should work together to identify these goals ensuring that they contain not only the business goals but also those of the Green Belt’s learning and project goals. Development opportunities should also be identified at this time from which an action plan can be created. This action plan will enhance the employee’s current skill level as well as develop new skills.

There needs to be a balance between the employee’s current job goals and those of the employee’s role as a Green Belt. As you create the development plans take both of these into consideration and consider the following questions.

As the employee development plan is created, the current job goals and those of the employee as a Green Belt should be considered by asking the following questions:

  • Current work assignments and Green Belt projects: What type of Green Belt projects or assignments could be identified within the employee’s current job that are best for development?
  • Future development: Are there areas where the employee needs more experience? What specific positions or career opportunities interest the employee? Would obtaining Green Belt certification meet these needs or would the employee perhaps want to pursue a full-time Black Belt role?
  • Sources of feedback: How can the employee receive objective feedback on development needs? (Consider using not only the supervisor and coach but also peers and business partners.)
  • Role models/mentors: After whom can the employee model behaviors? Whom can they observe, interview, read about? Who can provide additional coaching to the employee?
  • Self-improvement: Are there training courses, books or web-sites the employee can read to assist with development?
  • Supervisor/coach: What resources and/or coaching can be provided to the employee?

Best Practices for Green Belt Coaching

Best practices for coaching include:

Focus on the issue at hand and not on motivation.
Do not guess at motives.
> Do not make assumptions.
> Focus on what the employee specifically did or said.
> Ask questions and obtain additional information from the employee.

Seek employee’s ideas for improving their performance.
> Express confidence that the employee can come up with some suggestions.
> Ask questions to let the employee know their ideas need to be heard, then acknowledge the good ideas.
> Try to use parts of their ideas, even if the entire idea is not the best solution.

Keep discussions focused on the future and on solutions.
> Display confidence in the employee’s ability to solve problems.
> Use a gap-to-goal approach comparing current performance to the ideal performance, and then focus on closing the gap.



Phase II. Development and Growth

The roles of supervisor and coach are crucial in order to effectively align, motivate and develop the employee using the performance and development plan as a guide. It is imperative the supervisor and coach work together to ensure a proper balance between regular job goals and those related to the employee’s Green Belt role. Often Green Belts experience much frustration when these goals are not properly balanced. Or, more usually, the frustration often occurs because only the employee’s business-as-usual goals are documented and not those related to Green Belt activities.

The key principles to follow are:

  • Maintain or enhance self-esteem.
  • Listen and respond with empathy.
  • Ask for help and encourage involvement.
  • Share thoughts, feelings and rationale.
  • Provide support without removing responsibility.

Feedback from both the supervisor and coach should be specific, timely and balanced. Specific feedback needs to reflect what was achieved in a manner that is precise and one that can be measured. For example, “Your project achieved 125 percent of your original goal.” “During the month of December you averaged 98 percent defect-free invoices sent to our customers.” Where timeliness is concerned, feedback should not wait until the employee’s review date or the end of a project. The best supervisors and coaches give positive feedback as soon as possible after the employee’s actions warrant it. Remember, timely feedback seems the most sincere. As for balanced feedback, comments regarding any development opportunities and/or need for improvement also need to be expressed.

Phase III. Performance Review

Evaluating an employee, while the most crucial of the three phases, is probably the only phase in which the coach is rarely involved. Therefore, it is vital for the supervisor to obtain feedback from the coach prior to conducting the review.

Most performance management processes are on-going cycles that evaluate employee performance for the entire year. Consider the most common activities of a Green Belt: project selection and assignment, Green Belt training, DMAIC phase completion, Green Belt project goal achievement and Green Belt certification. The supervisor needs to make certain that activities such as these are included in the employee’s development plan. Progress on Six Sigma-related goals and the completion of these activities can be gathered during the review period.

“What gets measured gets done” is a good watch phrase when figuring how employees should be evaluated in Six Sigma. Both achieving results and embracing the values of the organization are critical if the goals and objectives of an organization are to be achieved.

There are employees who are high achievers with low performance in terms of their Six Sigma values and behaviors. Coaching will help enhance performance but the employee needs to be held accountable through the use of their existing performance planning.

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