Many Belts are asked to teach others about Six Sigma. To make the best use of the time allotted, Belts must conduct high-impact training. This means leaving a lasting impression and ensuring that the students fully understand what they have learned.

By Zhou Hongjun

Many Black Belts and Master Black Belts are asked to teach others in their organization about Six Sigma. To make the best use of the time allotted for these educational sessions, Belts must conduct high-impact training. This means presenting the subject in a way that leaves a lasting impression and ensuring that the students fully understand what they have learned.

Methods of Teaching

The level of impact a training program has on its participants depends on the teaching methods used by the trainer. Typically, trainers use one of two methods:

  • Unilateral communication – This is when trainers conduct sessions only through lectures. During each session, the trainers keep talking while the trainees listen passively, with little interaction involved.
  • Bilateral communication – The trainer uses various techniques to get the trainees involved in the sessions, helping them learn by using their hands, eyes and brains.

Here is an example, showing the difference between the two methods. A basic part of any Six Sigma training involves teaching the participants about the different roles that exist in a deployment. Those roles are:

  • Champions: Lead the culture change; identify financial, project and training related goals; mentor Black Belts
  • Process owners: Assist Champion with potential project identification, implement the team solution and assist with culture change at the local level
  • Team members: Assist Black Belts with data collection and tool application; provide invaluable process expertise to Six Sigma team
  • Yellow Belts: Play an emerging support role and recieve basic tools training
  • Green Belts: Be Six Sigma team members; implement smaller-scope projects with direct impact on daily, non-Six Sigma duties; assist Black Belts with team activities and tool application
  • Black Belts: Be full-time facilitators and leaders of Six Sigma project teams; execute four to six projects a year; mentor Green Belts
  • Master Black Belts: Instruct and mentor Black Belts and Green Belts; provide deployment assistance to core team and Champions
  • Financial representative: Track savings after projects close; assist Champions with original forecasts for potential projects

Using the unilateral method, a trainer would simply list every responsibility a participant could bear in a presentation slide and read the roles aloud one by one (Figure 1). Sounds simple and easy, right? That is exactly what I did before. However, this method often has a low impact on trainees, who are likely to forget the roles and responsibilities quickly.

Figure 1: Six Sigma Roles and Responsibilities in Presentation Slide

An instructor using the bilateral method would approach this lesson in a very different way. First, the trainees would be divided into five- to six-member teams, each of which would be given 12 long nails. They would be told that they need to find a way to lift 11 nails with only one nail and without any other tools in five minutes or less. After five minutes, every team would share their solution with the group.

After the groups share their ideas, the instructor demonstrates the solution shown in Figure 2.

Figure 2: Building the Nail Tower

Based on this solution, the instructor asks: “How can we match the roles in a Six Sigma deployment with the nail positions?” The teams are given five minutes to discuss the question and check the role descriptions in the training material.

Here is one example description from a team (illustrated in Figure 3):

  • Nail 1 represents the Champion and process owners because it serves as the prop that makes the whole structure possible. These people provide support in project selection by linking the project with a business focus and can offer strong leadership in order to remove any barriers that may keep the project from going smoothly. Without support from the Champion and process owners, projects can rarely carry on.
  • Nail 2 represents the Master Black Belts and Black Belts, who provide technical support and lead projects.
  • Nail 3 is the finance representative, who supports projects by forecasting financial savings and providing validation.
  • The other nails are Green Belts, Yellow Belts and other team members. Without them the whole structure can’t be balanced.

Figure 3: Nails Representing Six Sigma Roles

Teams may come up with other representations. This is fine, as long as it helps them gain a proper understanding of the responsibilities of each role.

Lessons That Count

Ideally, trainers should provide memorable lessons. Although developing training sessions based on bilateral communication can be more challenging for instructors than teaching unilaterally, it is ultimately more rewarding for everyone involved.

About the Author: Zhou Hongjun is a Master Black Belt candidate with Hitachi Global Storage Products Co. Ltd. and has six years of experience in Lean Six Sigma deployment and project mentoring. Hongjun can be reached at [email protected].

About the Author