The Black Belt’s ability to maximize team members’ contributions is critical to the success of the Six Sigma project. Many factors must be addressed.

Assuring Basic Team Member Needs

During World War II Abraham Maslow (1908-1970) developed his famous hierarchy of needs study. He showed an individual needs hierarchy ranging from the most basic, to social, then esteem needs that he concluded needed to be met before a person can reach self actualization (all that one can become).

Applying Maslow’s hierarchy of needs to Six Sigma allows us to develop a prioritized list of needs necessary to address in order to optimize individual and team performance. The following list is the author’s derivation for how Maslow’s hierarchy of needs applies to Six Sigma team performance:

Physiological, Security, and Social Needs:

  • To feel ones pay is an appropriate exchange for efforts rendered
  • A general feeling of acceptance
  • To be allowed social interaction with others in the workplace
  • To possess good health and be well rested
  • To be able to work in a safe working environment

Esteem Needs:

  • To feel part of related programs, projects, or teams
  • To be recognized by management
  • To be given proper job related training or thorough direction
  • To be empowered to make decisions regarding ones work
  • To be given roles, job duties, a title, and or some authority over ones work
  • To be given goals, objectives, and or mutually well-understood expectations
  • To be given access to needed information
  • To be given resources as needed

Self-Actualization Needs:

  • To be given a challenge
  • To be given slack time to foster innate creativity
  • To be trained in tools and techniques that promote the application of thought, skills, education, and experience
  • To be uniquely experienced or appropriately skilled in adaptive learning techniques

Team Level Effectiveness Measurements

Team level personnel performance metrics should be established to reflect corporate or higher-level objectives and be coupled with cause-and-effect control factors that affect desired end results. Kaplan outlines three such core employee measurements as follows:

Employee Satisfaction:

  • Involvement in team decisions
  • Recognition for contributions
  • Access to sufficient information needed to help the team
  • Encouragement to be creative and intuitive
  • Amount of support received from other staff
  • Overall company satisfaction

Employee Retention:

  • Percentage of staff turnover (both permanent and requested moves to other teams)

Employee Performance:

  • Skills match for team needs
  • Morale
  • Innovation and creativity applied
  • The type of process being improved (internal or external)
  • The value of the need (affect on profit and or customer satisfaction)

Aggregate team member measurements should be in the form of revenue per employee or per project. These figures should include the return after employee compensation or the ratio of output produced to employee compensation.

Member Level Effectiveness Measurements

Member level effectiveness metrics can be important to address yet are often out of the scope of what the Black Belt needs to address in maintaining and or optimizing team performance.

Jack Welch (Past GE CEO) outlines potential-and-performance metrics that separate employees into categories of A (top 20 percent), B (middle 70 percent), and C (bottom 10 percent) type employees. He uses a normal distribution curve to show how the B employees are the “vital 70 percent” that need to receive the most support. He warns that without comprehensive metrics, some employees will appear to fit into category A yet really be category C employees.

Jack Welch also points out how variation is our enemy when it comes to process variation yet our friend when it comes to developing a work force. He distinguishes between the different types of people based on what he calls the four E’s and one P. They are:

  • Energy level
  • Ability to Energize others around common goals (opposing Enervation with C employees)
  • Possess the Edge to make yes-and-no decisions
  • Able to Execute and deliver on promises

Having Passion in their work

Team Member Rewards

All human based objectives should be coupled to rewards of some sort. Gain sharing is one common method of distributing rewards to all team members when the team achieves a common goal. When using gain sharing, Kaplan suggests that management should measure high level gain sharing activity such as via the percentage of all projects with gain sharing, the percentage of projects in which potential gains were achieved, and the percent of individual team incentives linked to project success.


The Black Belt’s skills in maintaining and assisting team members toward self-actualization, and in monitoring and addressing key individual performance factors is critical to overall team success. With a well-maintained team comes team synergy, which results in happier, healthier, and more productive employees.


  • Kaplan, Robert and Norton, David. The Balanced Scorecard. Harvard Business School Press. Boston, Massachusetts. 1996.
  • Welch, Jack and Byrne, John. Jack: Straight from the Gut. Warner Books, Inc. New York, NY. 2001.
  • Wortman, Bill. The Quality Engineer Primer. Quality Council of Indiana. West Terre Haute, IN. 1997. 5th Edition. pp. X-5.
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