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Concerned about BB knowledge base

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  • #35145

    Josh
    Participant

    I have been doing phone screenings for BB positions for a large company and I’m a bit surprised by some of what I have heard from CERTIFIED BBs.
    I am all for individuals who lead projects and achieve results but I also believe that a SS practitioner must have a certain level of technical knowledge. In that arena, the results have concerned me.
    Here is a sample:
    a) What test one may use to verify that a process shift is statistically significant?
    b) What test one may use to verify that process variability has been reduced after improvement plans were applied?
    c) What does the Central Limit Theorem say about the distribution of sampling means?
    d) How do you compute a Z-score?
    e) Name a statistical distribution OTHER THAN the normal distribution.
    Roughly 80 to 90% of the BBs interviewed could not correctly answer these questions. Most of the BBs interviewed are currently employed in service organizations. Manufacturing BB were slightly better.
    Is this a cause of concern about basic SS technical knowledge? Am I demanding too much?
    Josh

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    #97959

    Helper
    Participant

    Hello Josh,
    No I don’t think you are asking too much, but I would not be too disappointed either.  Your questions are valid and, by their own right, each black belt should know these answers off hand.  A statistcian could appreciate them a little more. 
    Many Black Belts have leveraged their basic understanding of statistics into their software applications so they don’t think about their efforts in statistical terms.  The sofware can handle that.
    Send them some data output, graphs and control charts and ask them to interpret them.  Then follow up with some related real world questions around some process related problems.
    If I can help, let me know  [email protected]

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    #97983

    Ken Feldman
    Participant

    Here are some questions I use to interview MBBs.  Do you think they should be able to answer them?  Do you think an experienced, practicing MBB who is being hired to instruct GB’s, BB’s and MBB’s should be able to rattle off the answers?  Would you feel better about your BBs if I told you that most of the MBBs can’t answer these questions.
    1.  Tell me about the Central Limit Theorem
    2.  In Hypothesis Testing, when would you use Mood’s Median Test instead of Anova?
    3.  What is the difference between r-square and r-square adjusted?
    4.  How would you calculate the main effect of a factor in a DOE?
    5.  Do the p, np, c and u control charts also use the average plus/minus 3 estimated std. deviations like the xbar/r chart?
    6.  Simply, what are degrees of freedom?

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    #97986

    Reigle Stewart
    Participant

    Josh:You should be gravely concerned, and rightfully so. If the
    sample questions you present are even remotely
    representative of all those that you ask, I am shocked that
    80% to 90% of the so called “certified” Black Belts cannot
    answer them correctly. These types of questions are
    “basic” for BBs. But then again, its is not surprising given
    all the “polluted and corrupted” BB curriculum that is out
    there. There is no “certification of the certification
    process.” Many consultancies offer so called
    “certifications,” but when looked at closely, they really are
    passing out a “certfication of attendence.”Respectfully,Reigle Stewart

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    #97988

    Reigle Stewart
    Participant

    Darth:Granted this is a severe problem, but what do you see the
    solution to be?Reigle Stewart

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    #97999

    Mikel
    Member

    Reigle,
    I agree with you completely. Not only are they certificates of attendance, its attendance to a watered down body of knowledge.
    Look around this page and you will see what represents 90% of those certifying BB’s.

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    #98028

    KBailey
    Participant

    Clearly, I don’t qualify for your position.
    I went through the training. After completing a couple projects, I got about 80% on a certification test, which included questions (many requiring problem-solving) on normal, binomial, and poisson distributions; t-test and f-test; DOE, and Lean, among other things.
    I happen to work in an organization made up of hundreds of small, relativerly independent units scattered around the country. The previous managment philosophy had said that each location could operate however they felt was best. When that didn’t get the desired results, senior management didn’t really know what had to change. When management decided on a changes, the changes were usually unsuccessful because of cultural resistance. We’ve also had high executive turnover.
    We’ve had to spend so much time and effort just trying to educate people about the basics of what we’re doing and why it’s important, and to get business processes under control, that we haven’t had a lot of time or need for the intensive statistical analysis. My skills in that area have faded. When I need to know t-test or f-test, I open up SPC Excel to refresh my memory.
    If only there was a need for Black Belts to have political and communication skills… if only there was a demand for Black Belts able to explain and demonstrate Six Sigma and Lean concepts to audiences ranging from MBA CEOs to high school grad/GDE entry-level employees… if only someone valued the ability to apply the BOK to processes ranging from manufacturing, to consumer services, to billing, to sales and marketing, to safety training, to high-level strategic planning, as much as they value the ability to spit out an answer SPC Excel or Minitab can give you… maybe then there’d be room in some organization for someone like me to get back into the Six Sigma work I enjoyed so much.
    And Josh, I do think it’s reasonable to expect a certain level of technical knowledge. However, we should also keep in mind that being able to do something is not the same as being able to spit out the answer in an interview.

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    #98032

    Rog
    Member

    Hi all,
    Not sure who to post htis to but here is my 2c’s worth. If you had asked me those questions shortly after training I would probably have got most of them right without refernce to any text. If you had asked me about the formation of Martensite just after I graduated in Metallurgy I am sure I could have told you about that to. Ask me now and I’d draw a blank. Why…because I don’t use that knowledge in my day to day working/social life because it is not necessary for me to do so.
    I have worked as a black belt for several years and rarely, because of the type of industry I am in have I had to go into great detail when data mining. Have I achieved results…yes…Am I a certified black belt…yes. Can I answer your questions…no. Could I quickly re-learn that information if it was required to achieve success in your company…yes.
    There is much more to recruiting a sucessful employee than assessing technical knowledge. I would want to know if they would fit in with my team, I would want them to be a good communicator. There is probably a short list of other key abilities I would want too. The question that you need to ask yourself is ‘Am I asking the right questions’?  In SS terms …are the data that you are making judgements on critical inputs that affect your output?
    The ‘standard’ (whatever that is) of qualifications varies the world over. The fact is that it is the student who knows how to apply the knowledge who will bring you value. Not the student who just knows it.
    Rog
     

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    #98034

    Rog
    Member

    should have added…I got 3 out of 5 right. That’s 60% and probably would have got a C or a B  for high schools exams. I got the highest degree level pass possible. My last employers only wanted to know if I had a degree. Because  – I guess it shows one is capable of some dedicated learning and able to deal with complex issues. They were much more interested in what I was like as a person and my record of achievements with previous employers. Because- I guess that it shows the ability to apply skills and bring value to an organisation. There is a lot more to concluding a successfull SS project than just knowing some statistics.

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    #98038

    KLF
    Participant

    Josh,
    I think some answers have missed your point. You made it clear that you valued other skills but had some minumum requirement for TECHNICAL skills. To that point, I think that you technical skills expectations are very reasonable?
    No doubt we can solve a lot of problems with soft tools (process mapping, C&E matrices, etc). However, a Black Belt must be a Six Sigma expert and as such one must understand the uses of statistical tools. Applying Minitab blindly will lead to the wrong conclusions. I have personally seen beautiful graphs on analyses with FLAWED assumptions.
    A little knowledge can be dangeorus.
    My 2c.
    KLF

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    #98040

    SSNewby
    Member

    Rog,
     
    I think you are zeroing in on the target, if I could try to adjust the XY coordinates on your scope just a bit (as in elevation and windage), it seems to me that the best Black Belt is a composite of many skills and abilities.  They include project management and leadership in a matrix management environment, process knowledge, statistical application, passion for the job, effective communication, and the drive and enthusiasm to be a good change agent.  All of which combined garners the confidence and respect of the organization, which is needed to effectively do the job as a Black Belt.   Statistics is a needed tool and is essential to Six Sigma analytics, but a trained Black Belt can and will frequently use a rote mechanical application of Minitab, Statgraphics, SPSS, textbooks, etc., to get the job done.   I have noticed that some of the best statisticians were the least effective Black Belts if they did not have the other skills.
     
    When I look at my bookcase I see many textbooks on industrial engineering and operations research – the reason I keep the textbooks is for reference.  Could I readily answer detailed questions about a Markov analysis?   Probably not.  Would I know when it’s appropriate to use one and how to quickly come up to speed to perform one correctly?  Yes.  
     
    My point is, it’s better (agreeing with Rog) to have a multidimensional means of assessing a Black Belt’s overall ability and capacity to be an organizational fit than simply using a one-dimensional set of statistical questions for assessment of competency.
     
    My lunchtime 2 cents worth. 
     SSNewby

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    #98054

    Ken Feldman
    Participant

    Agree with all that a successful BB/MBB is more than technical knowledge.  The questions I posted are used as an initial screening.  It is our expectation that a self professed, experienced MBB applying for a senior Instructor position should be able to handle those basic technical questions.  Someone who is clueless, as has been the case in many calls, is not going to convince me that they are an experienced and knowledgeable MBB no matter how many projects they claim to have completed.  If the role of the MBB is to be the top of the SS foodchain and internal consultant yet can’t answer basic questions in Hypothesis Testing, Control Charts and DOE, I wonder what they have been doing.  That is why the questions are pretty general and not requiring total recall of some arcane fact.  And frankly, many of the posts on this Forum only reinforce the concern about BB/MBBs foundational knowledge.

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    #98059

    Mikel
    Member

    Amen, well said.

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    #98064

    KBailey
    Participant

    OK, Darth and Josh, here’s a question for you.
    What would you suggest to someone who had worked as a Black Belt and clearly has the ability to grasp the statistical concepts you’re looking for, but who simply hasn’t had the opportunity to apply them on the job due to the nature of the business. Perhaps there’s something else going on. Let’s say – and this is purely hypothetical (wink) – the company was sold to a buyer who isn’t interested in continuing Six Sigma, so this Black Belt has been working on special projects doing data mining, analysis, budgeting, etc., and hasn’t had the opportunity to apply the Six Sigma BOK or to take part in training to keep the SS knowledge and skills current. This person wants to get back to doing Six Sigma projects, to refresh the knowledge and skills, and to further develop them toward eventually becoming an MBB.
    Are you saying that such a person should not even be considered for a BB position? What would you suggest to such a person? Instead of applying for a BB position, should they ask for a position on the line operating a stamper, or posting payments in A/R, and then try to participate as a Green Belt on a project or two?
    I don’t know about the people you guys have dealt with, but I happen to know an extremely intelligent, multi-talented, high-performing individual for whom the situation I described is not so hypothetical.

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    #98072

    Rog
    Member

    Dr Vader (as I believe you like to be addressed)
    Josh’s original post was regarding the selection of BB’s. Skilled but still project delivery based practicitioners. Shuld an MBB be able to answer all of those questions…absolutely. There is a big difference between a scientist and a proffesor. The MBB in this case is the professor who should possess to hand that kind of  in depth knowledge. They should be spending at least some of their time training new belts and therefore should have frequent exposure to all of the tools and the theory behind them. The belt needs to take those tools and apply them.
    It’s the difference between an expert and a seasoned professional. If an MBB can’t answer those questions then why/how are they any more qualified than a BB. The screening shuld fit the job and the jobs are different….aren’t they?
    Rog

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    #98073

    Ken Feldman
    Participant

    It is a shame that your current situation prevents you from utlilizing and practicing your BB skills. As an analogy, what if a doctor, lawyer, accountant or even a car mechanic (probably more lucrative than the other three if you are my mechanic) were out of the field for a number of years and got rusty.  Would you hire them on the premise that it was like riding a bike, just get back on and it will come back?  Not me.  I would recommend that they get some refresher training and utlilize the skills a bit and then reapply.  As an advanced scuba diver who has, unfortunately, been unable to get in much diving the same thing applies.  The skills and reflexes have gone cold.  The only way to get back into diving is to take a refresher course with an instructor and then do a few dives under supervision.  At that point I would be comfortable with my renewed skills and have sufficient confidence in my ability to use those skills.  A change of environment might not be a bad alternative if you have options.  As some posters have shown, being a good BB/MBB might be mutually exclusive from the traits of intelligence, multi-talent and high performance :-).  Good luck.

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    #98075

    Ken Feldman
    Participant

    Please just call me Darth.  Stanley started the Dr. Vader thing.  I agree that many MBBs are little more than BBs with gray hair.  In fact, we have unfortunately, run across MBBs who had less skills and knowledge than most of our GBs.  There have been occassions where the title of MBB was given to a job rather than an individual.  My son is called an Industrial Engineer because that is the job title.  But he is only a junior.  He has no degrees in IE nor any true IE experience.  We have MBBs who are likely in the same boat.  As long as there is no recognized and agreed upon accreditation we must be vigilant in our hiring practices to keep out the hacks.

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    #98078

    Mikel
    Member

    MBB at GE once meant you spent two weeks of hell in Croatonville with Dr. Harry. No real skills, no real tools, and no experience. I agree that a MBB should be able to answer simple and complex tool questions off the top of their heads. The ones I respect can. A good MBB ought to be able to formulate a strategy to solve a problem given a value stream map and good data. A MBB ought to be able to take on an entire system and break the improvement into a series of GB and BB projects that can be accomplished with focus in an average of 3 months or less.
    Not many can.
    I’ll stop the Dr. Vader if you stop the Stanley.

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    #98079

    KBailey
    Participant

    I appreciate your suggestion about renewing the skills.
    I wouldn’t hire them with the expectation they could immediately work entirely independently and unsupervised. If I believe in a long-term approach of hiring and developing the very best people, I would consider hiring a competent mechanic, doctor, lawyer, accountant, or mechanic whose certification had lapsed, on a probationary basis, at a lower pay rate than I would offer for current certification. I might very well give them a chance to prove themselves and earn a permanent, higher-paying position, even as they refresh the knowledge and skills they need in order for me to be confident they can operate with little or no supervision.
    Where your suggestion really seems to break down, IMHO, is that unlike the other fields, Black Belts are so typically developed on the job, by their employers. We’ve seen numerous posts questioning the practical value of SS programs offered by some academic institutions. Don’t BBs typically get their BB experience by working as BBs, during and following their training, even before they get certified? Or is it different in your organization? Do you send BB candidates to school, but start calling them BBs only after they pass the test, do the work and obtain certification?
    If it were me, I’d want to put that talented person through my internal training program, anyway, to make sure they’re truly speaking the same language as the rest of us. Of course I would consider whether they’d been out of the field for 5-10 years and truly needed to relearn everything before they could be trusted to touch the car, or if they’d only been out a year or so and could quickly get back into the swing of things.
    However, nobody gets fired for playing it safe in hiring decisions. (I wonder if that’s just because they don’t measure and track the talent they turned away… Sorry, I just had a fascinating idea for a Six Sigma project on a hiring process.)

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    #98083

    Ken Feldman
    Participant

    Based on my experiences and some of the previous posts, Personnel/HR sure could use a project or two.
    Our organization’s perspective is a little unique.  We did such a quick rampup that we had to bring in lots of folks from the outside.  As noted in previous posts, that wasn’t always the best thing for either us or the Associate (BB/MBB).  But we wanted to get off the ground quickly so we needed experience and knowledge from the start.  We are now training and developing BB/MBBs through an internal program and yes, we need to develop them over time and on the job.  So, would I hire a maybe, untested BB/MBB from the outside, not my decision but my opinion is probably not.  Would I develop an intelligent, hardworking and high performing insider, absolutely and we have some fine ones who will develop the skill sets over time and under guidance.  Although on occassion we have put through new outside BB/MBB hires through our certification process to better align them with what and how we are doing things.

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    #98086

    KBailey
    Participant

    In that rampup, it makes total sense.
    Hiring is always risky. Some people are really good at… selling higher expectations than they can deliver, to put it politely, so we want some “objective” standards for evaluation. Just because there’s an occasional diamond in the rough, doesn’t mean you’re going to run out and buy the rough for your fiance, hoping to get a diamond.

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    #98121

    Rog
    Member

    Guys,
    I’ve really enjoyed this discussion. Maybe not much data but sometimes it’s nice to here views rather than conclusions and data.
     From my experience and what I’ve read on this forum one of the consequences of a Six Sigma boom is a large number of rapid and flawed implementations. Any lasting change takes time to stabilize and reveal it’s true value. I hope the Six Sigma community will be critical about some of the messages that are pushed during training and also take a look at how SS fits in with other new and existing initiatives.
    From what I have learned from various contributions from all of you I have at least managed to reach a solution to how to best fit ‘improvements’ with various tools and ‘requirements’ of the business in which I work. Again based on views rather than data but from a very educated and critical forum.
    Thanks

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    #143852

    Tierradentro
    Participant

    Hey Josh
    I teach SS within my organisation; and simply SS must be a passion for the individual. It has so much scope and depth, it scares me when I hear VPs saying that they taught SS to 200 people in 2hrs !
    Its a constant learning curve, and if you don’t use/practice/review it – you simply loose it – see it all the time
    BBs should have improved statistical knowledge

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