A company’s leadership has decided to fully deploy Six Sigma and is committed to reach its destination to change the culture.

Currently, headcount includes a number of Black Belts and Green Belts. The organization has settled on a five-year plan to achieve Six Sigma, with an additional number of future Black Belts and future Green Belts scheduled for in the organization. Many of the projects are identified and ready to be assigned to teams.

The organization knows what it wants in the way of results, and it knows how to move ahead (via infrastructure, software, communication, tracking and training).

One question has yet to be answered: Does the organization want to foot the bill to train its own people as Black Belts and Green Belts by releasing them from their current duties, or should the organization just hire Black Belts from different organizations and have them lead projects?

Before making any decisions, the company leaders may want to consider some of the advantages and disadvantages of having internal or external Six Sigma practitioners in the organization.

The table below outlines some of the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Types of Black Belts


Internal Black Belts

External Black Belts

Investment Advantage: Despite the large investment, the return on that investment in terms of moral and culture change can be even larger.
Disadvantage: The investment in training is large in terms of money, time (four months for each wave) and resources.
Advantage: Investment is not as large since external Black Belts have already completed Six Sigma training.
Disadvantage: Some hiring costs are incurred to bring in external Black Belts. Also, time and resources must be allocated to make Belts familiar with company processes
Employee Loyalty Advantage: Promoting from within always enhances the feeling employees have about their company. Those chosen for Six Sigma training are likely to want to live up to the trust the company is placed in them.
Disadvantage: Existing employees are more likely to take their relationship with the company for granted, thinking that their past efforts immune them from the need to make perform at the optimum level.
Advantage: Most people who choose to take a position at a new organization usually begin their employment with a high degree of loyalty. If the company treats their new employees well, the loyalty will continue to grow.
Disadvantage: Some new Black Belts may consider themselves as “hired guns.” Their loyalty is to anyone who offers the biggest paycheck. Leaving with an unfinished project is not unheard of.
Familiarity with
Company Processes
Advantage: Since internal Black Belts are likely to be process experts, once trained in the use of the Six Sigma toolkit, they should be able to obtained results faster.
Disadvantage: Due to their experience in company processes, internal Black Belts may not find it easy to think “outside the box.”
Advantage: External Black Belts are Six Sigma experts with good leadership skill. Results can sometimes be obtained faster without in-depth process know-how. Creative “out-of-the-box” solutions also are more likely from external Black Belts.
Disadvantage: External Black Belts sometimes need to learn more about processes in order to initiate Six Sigma projects. That can lengthen project times and delay results.
Familiarity with
Company Structure
Advantage: Internal Black Belts are likely to use their knowledge of who’s who to achieve better results. They will know who the best potential Six Sigma team candidates are. They will know how best to communicate with those in
upper management as well as those at the operations level. The knowledge of the organization’s structure, equipment, policies, rules and culture can help internal Black Belts overcome hurdles and resistance.
Disadvantage: Internal Black Belts may have problems in managing resources, due to their changed role from a peer associate to project team leader. Team members can magnify the problem by failing to recognize a Belt’s role change.
Advantage: External Black Belts often find project team members and others in the company more receptive to their “outside expert” status, as opposed to a familiar fellow employee.
Disadvantage: Not knowing company personnel and structure can slow the work of external Black Belts. They are not familiar with who to talk to about certain issues and what the best way is to communicate with top managers as well as those at the operations level.
Learning Curve
in Six Sigma
Advantage: Internal Black Belts are likely to know immediately how to apply Six Sigma tools in the company processes. Thus the learning curve will be shorter.
Disadvantage: Since internal Black Belts are not experienced in using Six Sigma tools, they may not always use the best tool every time, thus wasting time and reducing productivity. They might have some trouble leading culture changes.
Advantage: The learning curve for external Black Belts should be non-existent. They should be ready to go as soon as they come aboard. Since the company culture is new to then, helping to implement changes should be easier for them.
Disadvantage: The only factor which can slow external Black Belts is the need to understand the company processes. That can slow progress on projects.
Career Development Advantage: Green Belts can have a planned career development path set for them with Black Belt training. Again, this enhances career opportunities for employees at the company.
Disadvantage: Trained Black Belts, usually the company’s best employees, are in demand by all manner of organizations and are often recruited by others after some project leadership success.
Advantage: Career development is not an issue if Black Belts are hired.
Disadvantage: Existing employees cannot aspire to become a Black Belt with the company.

In conclusion, whichever way the company decides to go on Black Belts, there are risks.

On balance, it seems better to have a program for training internal Black Belts. The main advantages are boosting moral via a promote-from-within policy, and harnessing existing human resources that are known. Besides, having a Six Sigma Black Belt training program does not foreclose on being able to hire that exceptional outside Black Belt when needed. But without a training program, no employee is likely to become a Black Belt, no matter how qualified or how valuable they could be to the company.

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