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  • #34335

    Pepperoni
    Participant

    Hello:
    This may seem like a vague question, but here goes. I’ve been given the chance to become a Black Belt for one of the processes in our company. I have a MBA, but confess to not being very strong on my knowledge of statistics. I understand basic 6-S concepts such as the DMAIC model, COPIS, FMEA, Fishbone / RCA, etc.
    Are most Black Belts required to be Stat. Gurus, or does a comprehensive understanding of the business compensate?
     
    Vague question, I know, but being an important decision in my career, I’d appreciate any feedback.
    Thanks…
     
    P.C.

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    #94419

    Statman
    Member

    Yes, the MBA will be a big limiting factor.  But with the right instructors, you should still survive.
     
    Maybe

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    #94441

    DaveG
    Participant

    A comprehensive understanding of the business is vastly more important than statistical knowledge, which can be delegated to experts.  Statistics are an extremely powerful tool in gaining profound process knowledge and guiding decisions.  Unfortunately, the 6S community considers statistical methods to be natural law with absolute predictive powers, but there is no empirical proof that processes act “statistically” at a subatomic level (although Nature herself does).  There are times when statistics can actually prevent you from getting to the root of a problem.  If your hypothesis fails a statistical test, reject the hypothesis – for example the magical Cpk value of 1.33.  Nonsense!  Statistics are just one aspect of a problem, along with culture, stakeholder perception, empowerment, risk, history, and any other important dimension.  Go forward with confidence and enjoy it!

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    #94443

    Herodotous
    Participant

    I echo the opinion of DaveG.  Statistics, even though a major component of 6S, is only part of it.  Your indepth knowledge of operations will definetely compensate for your lack of experience or expertise with statistics.  Your MBA will not be an obstacle as someone suggested.  Go for it!

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    #94444

    Statman
    Member

    You have confused statisical methods with statistical thinking. 
    Sad that some have only grasped the nuts and bolts about statistics and have not made the connection between statistical thinking and a “comprehensive understanding of the business dynamics”
    After all the teachings of Deming, Juran, Crosby etc.

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    #94445

    Statman
    Member

    I’m sorry, but which MBA courses provide “indepth knowledge of operations”?
    How does one achieve this “indepth knowledge of operations” without an ability to think statistically about operations?

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    #94446

    Krueger
    Participant

    Statman wrote: “You have confused statisical methods with statistical thinking. Sad that some have only grasped the nuts and bolts about statistics and have not made the connection between statistical thinking and a “comprehensive understanding of the business dynamics”After all the teachings of Deming, Juran, Crosby etc.”
    One thing I have a problem with is the tendency for BBs to place too much of an emphasis on p-values. There is still a strong tendency for black belts to equate stars in tables with importance of results. “Oh, the p-value was less than .001–that’s a really big effect.” Well, significance (in the statistical sense), is really as much a function of sample size and experimental design as it is a function of strength of relationship. With low power, you may be overlooking a really useful relationship; with excessive power, you may be finding microscopic effects with no real practical value. A reasonable way to handle this sort of thing is to cast results in terms of effect sizes–that way the size of the effect is presented in terms that make quantitative sense. Remember that a p-value merely indicates the probability of a particular set of data being generated by the null model–it has little to say about size of a deviation from that model (especially in the tails of the distribution, where large changes in effect size cause only small changes in p-values).

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    #94449

    DaveG
    Participant

    Statman,
    I didn’t confuse the two:  Pepperoni’s post described his grasp of methods as [not] strong and asked if he need to be a guru (read:  nuts and bolts expert).  My Operations Management studies included statistical thinking – hopefully the MBA community teaches it too (although I’m not optimistic considering the staggering lack of awareness of  basic process management concepts I’ve seen throughout industry).
    I completely agree with you about statistical thinking;  in my reply to Pepperoni carefully, I made your point implicitly – but your explicit expression is stronger.
    Let’s raise a new hypothesis:  statistical thinking is required to maximize the benefit (and minimize the losses) of applying statistical methods.  Posters are invited to fail to reject :-), reject, or modify this hypothesis with examples.

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    #94451

    Herodotous
    Participant

    I don’t know which MBA courses provide indepth knowledge of operations.  But who cares?  That was not the questions presented by Pepperoni.  He wrote:
    “Are most Black Belts required to be Stat. Gurus, or does a comprehensive understanding of the business compensate?
    So the assumption is that he ALREADY has a comprehensive (indepth?) knowledge of the business.  Does he need to become an “stats guru?”  I don’t think so.  However, some basic knowledge in statistics will help him obtain a better understanding of the data through “statistical thinking.”  He can start by reading Dr. Rumsey’s “Statistics for Dummies” to get a good idea about the subject.

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    #94452

    John J. McDonough
    Participant

    Pepperoni
    As you read through the responses so far, it should be evident that not being a stat guru is an asset, rather than a liability.  You are not going to be misled into believing that some score or line on a chart is more important than meaningful business results, and you are not going to be afraid to consult with the statisticians when you have a hard question to answer.
    Some of the respondents went on about “statistical thinking”, which, because of our popular press, I tend to equate with muddled thinking, but I think the point was to follow the data.
    Six Sigma is not so much about statistics as it is about making data based decisions.  The statistics help you understand, in a quantitative way, just how much stock you can put in a particular piece of data.  From this perspective, you need at least a high level understanding, but no reason not to rely on the experts for the details.  More important is a clear grasp of the desired business result, and the ability to take a disciplined, data driven approach to achieving the business result.
    –McD

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    #94453

    John J. McDonough
    Participant

    Pepperoni
    As you read through the responses so far, it should be evident that not being a stat guru is an asset, rather than a liability.  You are not going to be misled into believing that some score or line on a chart is more important than meaningful business results, and you are not going to be afraid to consult with the statisticians when you have a hard question to answer.
    Some of the respondents went on about “statistical thinking”, which, because of our popular press, I tend to equate with muddled thinking, but I think the point was to follow the data.
    Six Sigma is not so much about statistics as it is about making data based decisions.  The statistics help you understand, in a quantitative way, just how much stock you can put in a particular piece of data.  From this perspective, you need at least a high level understanding, but no reason not to rely on the experts for the details.  More important is a clear grasp of the desired business result, and the ability to take a disciplined, data driven approach to achieving the business result.
    –McD

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    #94454

    Statman
    Member

    You said:
     
    “Your in-depth knowledge of operations will definitely compensate for your lack of experience or expertise with statistics. “  (Emphases mine)
     
    So I would guess that you feel statistical thinking plays no role in understanding the dynamics of business and operations provided you can compensate with other “in-depth knowledge”.
     
    Why should he waist his time reading this book or for that matter become a BB.  In your opinion, it sounds like the lack of the statistical thinking dimension doesn’t matter.
     
    Maybe he should find out what the role and responsibilities of a BB are before he asks idiotic questions

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    #94458

    Damodaran
    Member

    I think both things are important a knowlege of the business and statistical thinking as many have pointed out. Six Sigma forces decisions to tend to the rational.
    Having both an MBA and a good understanding of statistics can only help. If your company is going to make you a BB make sure they get you up to speed with the stats as well. I am assuming you will need to go through training and certification.
    Sincerely,
    Sanjay

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    #94460

    Herodotous
    Participant

    Statman — I can only assume with a high degree of probability that, based on your handle, that is your life!  I don’t know how you could be interpreting what I am saying to mean that statistics do not play an important role in business.  However, going back to the original question, which IMHO, is NOT idiotic, do you need to be a guru in statistics?  NO YOU DON’T.  And that is my final answer.
    Your understanding of his question is, to say the least, very shortsighted!!  BTW, I am a BB.

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    #94461

    Statman
    Member

    John,
     
    I hope that your comments about statistical thinking are in jest.  Equating statistical thinking to muddled thinking is the reason the “popular press” can get away with the gross misstatements about our world.  Many things can go wrong if we can not think statistically.  Just as a writer can arrange words into convincing arguments or incoherent nonsense, data can be manipulated to be compelling, misleading, or simply irrelevant.   The inability to think statistically can lead to overestimating the likelihood of rare events and underestimating common events, overestimation of the strength of evidence from small samples, and responding too strongly to how data is presented rather than to the strength of the evidence it contains. 
     
    Statistical thinking has often been confused with statistical methodology however, knowing the mechanics of applying a statistical method is not the same as thinking statistically.  In fact, the confusion between statistical thinking and statistical methods may be at the root of why most people avoid the topic in the first place.  Most introductory statistics courses and Six Sigma training focus heavily on the formulas and methods and avoid a detailed discussion of statistical thinking leaving the students with bewilderment on when and where they would ever apply what they have learned.  I think that the common belief has been that if you teach the methods, the statistical thinking will follow.  However, I believe that the opposite is true. The more one thinks statistically, the more likely one will seek out the methods for interpretation and analysis of data.  In addition, just because someone has used a particular statistical method, it doesn’t follow that they have thought about the problem from a statistical point of view.
     
    There have been several attempts to define statistical thinking.   The American Society of Quality defines statistical thinking as a philosophy of learning and action based on three fundamental principles; all work occurs in a system of interconnected processes, variation exists in all processes, understanding and reducing variation are the keys to success.  This definition is fine from a process improvement view, but it does not take into account variation and quantitative data in a scientific context.  One of the best definitions I have read is “Statistical thinking concerns the relation of quantitative data to a real-world problem, often in the presence of variability and uncertainty.  It attempts to make precise and explicit what the data has to say about the problem.” There is a very close tie between statistical thinking and scientific method. Rarely is scientific research presented in the form of absolutes.  One of my favorite quotes relating to statistical thinking is “if mathematics is the language of science than statistical thinking is the language of scientific method”.
     
    Why is it so rare to see statistical thinking employed in critical decision making and choice of actions?  We have all heard the desire that we “make data based decisions” yet we can all think of critical decisions that have lacked the basic rigor of statistical thinking with data.  I mentioned earlier that one of the problems is how statistics is taught. But I think the larger issue is how science is taught in general as well as our view of knowledge. Knowledge is often confused with fact.  However, knowledge has two often over looked components that are not considered part of fact.  They are the supporting raw data and a measure of uncertainty that the raw data supports the knowledge.  Knowledge will often change when new data is surfaced that raise the uncertainty.  Statistical thinking is about measuring the uncertainty between the raw data and the knowledge.  In an ideal world we would use our knowledge to make decisions.  In reality, there are many other influences that affect our decision-making.  What often happens is information –not knowledge is filtered through a sea of preconceptions, misconceptions, inattention, short-term memory, politics, pressures, fears, and lack of time to reach a decision.  The only basis that minimizes these influences is when knowledge, supported by data, is presented with a measure of uncertainty.
     
    That’s statistical thinking.
     
     
    Cheers,
     
    Statman

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    #94463

    Rog
    Member

    Pepperoni
    I’ve been a black belt for a while now and have found that in most of my projects a good understanding of the process, ability to communicate effectively at many levels, critical and logical approach have far outweighed the need for me to use detailed statistical methods.
    As far as ‘statistical thinking’ is required I would encompass that in terms of being able to quantify problems, validate data and analyse it in terms of scale of effect, interelationships and risks/uncertainties.
    Six Sigma tools & statistical methods are all of great value and you will find being a BB an excellent complement to your MBA. I freely admit to not being a statistical expert but have not found that it has limited my ability to deliver succesful project results. You may well find that there are many practical problems to consider in just getting the data that you need even before you can use any statistics. You may well have to employ some ‘statistical thinking’ before hand in order to identify the data that you actually need.
    Is it a good move for your career…probably.

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    #94464

    Praveen Gupta
    Participant

    Hello Statman:
    I love the topic of Statistial Thinking. I believe it is more fundamental and valuable than any training in Statistics. Because most of the statistics training is based on the tenents of statistical thinking.  I have simplified the definition of statistical thinking for me as follows:
    Statistical Thinking means thinking in terms of Random and Assignable situations and responding accordingly.
    With the knowledge of applicable variation (random or assignable) and its source, one can address any unwanted variation appropriately without over reacting. In making decisions, one needs to know if the situation at hand is random or assignable. I have understood some probability with it. Random events are the one that can happen normally, about 95% of the time, and Assignable, or the special events can happen about 5% of the time. In Deming terms Common incidents and Special incidents.
    So, knowing whatever is happening, is by chance or for some reason, makes us interpret the situation correctly and allows us to take corrective actions accordingly.
    So, knowing what is norm or what is exceptional is statistical thinking too, in my opinion.
    Regards,
    Praveen

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    #94466

    DaveG
    Participant

    As posts go, this one is a home run!

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    #94471

    Statman
    Member

    Thank you Dave.
    Statman

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    #94489

    Sorour
    Participant

    Pepperoni,
    You’ll do fine.  Best place to start would to read “Understanding Variation: The Key to Managing Chaos”, by Don Wheeler of spcpress.com
    It’s a great introduction to statistics that I’ve recommended to a number of MBA’s and other business folks over the years.  It uses just a few basic tools to reveal more information from monthly reports, and does not get bogged down in the tools or the math.  It’s not a very big book either.
    Enjoy!

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    #94501

    Mikel
    Member

    I agree 100% with Dave.
    Just remember that you are handicapped if you think the MBA or BB certification has anything to do with anything other that advancing your thought processes. The FedEx commercial about MBA’s captures how many of the workers view those with MBA’s and BB’s. Especially those MBA’s and BB’s that think those titles are more important than results and long term working relationships.

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    #94503

    DaveG
    Participant

    Thanks, Stan.
    Is that the commercial where the consultants say “Oh, we don’t actually do that”?

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    #94504

    Anna O’Connell
    Participant

    I have an MBA degree, and I partially agree with Statman.  Almost all MBA courses give you AT BEST some tools that you can use to eventually gain “in depth knowledge of business processes”.  The MBA, like the BS degree in most technical disciplines, says you have mastered certain types of analysis.  It doesn’t say that you’ve ever successfully analysed anything as complex as a real process, with significant pyhsical, political, cultural and organizational interactions.  It says you’ve done well enough with (simplified for clarity!) case write ups, textbook problems and simulations. 
    The map is very definately NOT the territory.  This is as true for statistical models as it is for financial, value stream, data flow or cultural ones.
    Anna O’C

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    #94508

    M.R.
    Participant

    As an MBB for quite some time now I would say this:
    A blackbelt is a person knowledgable in the methodology known as Six Sigma. They should understand the application of tools such as DOE, Statistical Hypothesis Testing, SPC, SIPOC (COPIS), etc, however, they need not be experts in the mathematics behind those tools. A BB should also understand the impact of human behavior in process improvement as most changes to processes involve at some level human involvement. I would not say in my experience that a BB should know their industry inside and out. I have personnally hired BB’s that are some of my best, from outside the industry.
    In any case, being offered a postion as a Blackbelt is a very good thing. If you enjoy working with people, leading highly visible process improvement projects, and learning a little more about statistics than they taught you in that MBA program then sign the dotted line and hold on tight – It’s a wild ride but very fulfilling.
     
    MR

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