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Is Black Belt a temporary position?

Six Sigma – iSixSigma Forums Old Forums General Is Black Belt a temporary position?

This topic contains 20 replies, has 11 voices, and was last updated by  SS_GB 14 years, 2 months ago.

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  • #40256

    SS GB
    Member

    Hey, I am a certified Six Sigma Green Belt from manufacturing background and really want to make my career in this field. But my recent search left me cold feet. I see more & more opportunities in the software field & banking sector. There are very few for the manufacturing sector, at the same time I got to know that a Six Sigma Black Belt is a temporary position in an organisation, a Black belt serve a job for 18 to 24 months then he/she moves on. I really look forward to this field as a career because it does excite me. It puts up a challenge in front of me to improve a process for long term and prove the results statistically, I love it. I have done very well in my projects till date. But at the same time, I am at the point of deciding a career path and I do not want to land up in trouble. I need real help from all you people, who are veterans in this field. Would really appriciate your response to the concern …

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    #124418

    “Ken”
    Participant

    If you’re willing to travel/move out of the US, there’s plenty of jobs supporting BBs. We’re no longer a manufacturing driven culture. Too costly!Ken

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    #124419

    Jeff
    Participant

    Then, the question may be:  how does a BB from the manufacturing area transfer to other businesses where six sigma is growing (e.g., health care).

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    #124420

    AB
    Participant

    I previously worked as a Six Sigma professional for a major financial services organization.  I really enjoyed the challenges and rewards that came with leading six sigma projects. Unfortunately my career as a six sigma practitioner was cut short by a company-wide downsizing initiative.  I will add that I wasn’t alone as many of my six sigma colleagues were let go too. These were very skilled and experienced people who had a significant impact on reducing costs and generating addtiional revenue and introducing standardized processes. If it’s job security that concerns you, try and work your way into a broader role within an organization so your not labeled as only a six sigma” professional. Doing this might enable you to couple your six sigma expertise with a functional role within an organization.  Too often companies hire six sigma talent as permanent staff, have them train longer-term mangers and employees and then lay them off.  
     
     

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    #124421

    AT
    Participant

    My take on this. it depends on the company,its size and the infrastructure it has. If it is well established company with Six sigma program well established with Cnampion, MBB,BB and GB in place. The program will survive. If you are the only one/one of few then it is a good idea to diversify into other related areas like Quality assurance, Manufacturing Engineering, Supplier Quality etc. The bottom line is that the company should see the real dollars coming in and not the paper transaction of the money, then the survival of the program has a real chance,
    regards

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    #124427

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    SS-GB,
    I am probably going to get myself into trouble on this response but I am going to give you what I believe to be true.
    The barrier to moving around from industry to industry is the people in the industry probably not your skill set. This market has been carved up by people trying to differentiate themselves and so they create special programs (typically by reducing the Manufacturing BB curriculum and adding some soft tools – if there is a gap it is small). It is crap. In the mining environment we have schools, hospitals, generate drinking water, supply housing, feed (approximately 22,000 people 3 meals daily), treat sewage, etc. I do not bring in a different consultant for each type of problem. The same guy that ran the stuff in the hospital ran the stuff in IT that ran the explosive project underground.
    Our biggest project that we have deliverd was by a BB that had never worked in that type of operation before and now we have the GM’s and VP’s on the SSSC requesting Belts with no prior knowledge. Deming addressed this 30+ years ago when he talked about the barrier to improvement the “We’re different” mentality. If you are a good problem solver you will do well no matter where you go. You need to have the confidence in your ability to believe you will figure out what ever is placed in front of you
    You do not need to be a BB to do Six Sigma projects. Just because you have completed the 18-24 months as a BB doesn’t mean you stop doing projects. In our system a BB that returns to the general population still owes 2 projects a year just like any other GB. Even if the system doesn’t demand it why would you stop working on the every day projects using the methodology?
    If you want to do it full time and your company doesn’t do that join a consulting firm. If you have a family (particularly if you have young children) think this trough very carefully. Finding a full time position in another company is probably a better option.
    Just my opinion.
    Good luck
     

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    #124434

    “Ken”
    Participant

    Network…

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    #124435

    “Ken”
    Participant

    AB,
    Interesting comment.  I figured the financial industry, being fairly new at SS, would not have achieved maturity and cut-throat tactics the other industries have.  Coming from the Healthcare, Pharma, BioPham industries I’ve begun to see the same tactics.  Hiring a BB or MBB, having them train the staff, then laying-off the BB or MBB after everyone gets trained. 
    What companies haven’t figured out is that the full-time improvement folks are the ones that sustain the improvement focus in the company.  So, it’s not long after these folks are laid off that the company begins a reversion back to olds ways of doing business.  I call this “corporate entropy.”  Many companies have not realized that ongoing business improvement is needed to assure long-term competitive standing.  Hmmm!
    Ken

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    #124440

    Darth
    Participant

    Ken, guess you haven’t followed some of the threads about Bank of America. And it ain’t over yet, especially with the new acquisition. The millions have to come from somewhere. Also heard through the grapevine that there has been another major reorg with some of the SS groups.

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    #124443

    “Ken”
    Participant

    Darth,
    Nope!  I try to stay on top of the threads, but my bus keeps me away more than I would like.  I hold a mortagage with BofA, and they have treated me quite well over the years.  I seems when take-overs and reorganizations occur in both financial and manufacturing oriented firms the process is the same–cut the business improvement folks first.  It’s an American disease.  Too bad!  Lots of real good talent out on the streets these days.
    Ken

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    #124454

    Tom Boydell
    Member

    Just Excellent Answer

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    #124459

    SS_GB
    Member

    Thanks a lot, Mike
    that is good and even I truly believe this fundamental aspect. It is very true that a person with good problem solving technique and analytical thinking would deliever great results in spite of different background. I realized that too, during mentoring some projects in my organization which were not from my domain. We did come out with fabulus results and I thank the Six Sigma methodology for it, which was a real help.
    I also agree with Ken for the matter that when you do not support improvement program in long term, you basically tend to move back where you started.
    Well I am not married as yet, so I can think about crossing borders anytime, thank you all gentlemen. Have great time exploring the possibilities of impossible … cause I know that’s the way of Six Sigma.

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    #124512

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    Tom,
    Thank you.
    Regards

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    #124514

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    SS_GB,
    If you are unencumbered then you may want to seriuosly consider Ken’s advice and do something international. It may seriously change your perspective on how you live and how you work.
    Good luck.
    Regards

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    #124548

    Geckho
    Participant

    I concur.
    Furthermore, it was always my perception that having “full-time” Black Belts was, in theory, supposed to be a short-term deal.  I think that the ultimate goal was to have everyone within an organization trained in Six Sigma techniques so that they could apply them to their everyday tasks.  I think that is why so many companies have the 18-24 month Black Belt “commitment”.  By doing so, they can get people trained, get them some guaranteed project experience, and then rotate them back into the workforce.  Eventually you get everbody through, and the need for “belts” disappears.  Pretty good plan.  Only problem is that usually they bolt when it becomes apparent that they’re gonna haveta do their “old job” (*Geckho timidly raises his hand*).
    Incidently, isn’t it interesting how when the financial axe falls, the first cut seems to be the people who can most help the organization recover?  Ahh, nothing quite like the American vision…
     

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    #124552

    Dayton
    Member

    I tracked along with you pretty well, 18 – 24 month rotation, inculcating Six Sigma analytics into the way the entire organization problem solves, eventually not talking about Six Sigma because it’s just the way you do business, but I stop agreeing when it comes to the point of not having the Black Belt function on an ongoing basis.  Whether or not you call it Six Sigma and use “Belts” terminology, you will need full time problem solvers and project managers.  
     
    I am more and more convinced that Six Sigma deployments get their main traction from having the full time SSBB project leaders working project after project to conclusion and replicating solutions from plant to plant (or whatever your organizational unit distinction are) for common solutions to common problems.  
     
    Certainly you need your Green Belt foot soldiers leading the many departmental or lower scale projects, and helping Black Belts on major projects but your high dollar paradigm shifting breakthrough project solutions come from your full time dedicated well trained analytical and highly focused change agents – your Black Belts, or whatever an evolved Six Sigma organization winds up calling them.   It’s traction.
     Vinny

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    #124564

    Geckho
    Participant

    Keep in mind that I’m talking best-case, utopia kind of stuff.  As for current state, sometimes I wonder if the just the fact that we are employing “full-time problem solvers” is why we see the gains, regardless of what methods they use.  (Ok, maybe I won’t go that far, but you see what I’m getting at…)
    I just got into a rather heated discussion with a guy about this very topic.  I made the comment that Six Sigma Black Belts should be the ones optimizing processes and driving quality improvements.  He asked (and somewhat rightly so), “Isn’t that what manufacturing engineers are for?”
    My response was to ask what manufacturing engineers do in his operation. 
    “Fight fires.” 
    Big shocker there.  We both agreed that the whole thing was bass-akwards.  Why is it that manufacturing engineers typically “don’t have time” to improve processes, so we have to have “problem solvers”?  I’m sure the answer is different depending on where you go, but the result is the same: having someone seperate from the day-to-day primarily provides someone with the time to fix “stuff”…and, hey, if they happen to have some powerful statistical problem solving tools with them, all the better!
     

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    #124572

    Dayton
    Member

    Actually I see the benefits of Six Sigma rather simplistically.    I see it as:
     

    Full time problem solvers trained not just in statistics but in which tool to pickup when
     

    DMAIC followed requires you to define the problem through the eyes of the customer, measure current state conditions and then analyze the data BEFORE you see a condition of failure and automatically say “I know what that is!!!” and leap in there and “fix” it, which is what we have been trained to do and were rewarded for over the years
     

    Keeping the focus on making data driven decisions
     

    And recognizing that you progress by making one advancement at a time and unyieldingly pressing the pursuit of continuous improvement
     
    It’s not rocket science, it’s just methodical problem solving using the right tools, the right way at the right time in a logical stepwise process – and doing it over and over again. 
     Vinny

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    #124590

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    Vinny,
    Actually we are tracking – I just wasn’t very clear. When a full time BB rotates out of a full time BB position then someone else rotates in. You never give up the full time BB. There may be times when you want to adjust the numbers of full time positions but there does need to be that full time role.
    The BB’s that rotate back into the general population don’t stop being a belt either. They operate as a Green Belt. In some organizations they are actually become an area champion so there is a full time resource to help identify projects (working with Process Owners because project identification is still their responsibility), assisting the Benefits Capture Manager with benefits tracking, mentoring GB’s (although it is still the primary responsibility of the active BB’s and MBB’s).
    You are correct the traction for whatever reason seems to come from the big splash around BB projects. The long term sustainability of the program is in the hands of an army of GB’s that are actually addressing the issues that affect them on a day to day basis.
    Just my opinion.
    Regards

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    #124592

    Mike Carnell
    Participant

    Geckho,
    Part of the reason you need the full time BB role is because the Manufacturing Engineers are fighting fires. Two issues there: 1. that is how it has always been 2. generally the recognition and reward system is built around whoever is saving the day (we reinforce the behavior and therefore institutionalize the behavior). Is there a person with a nickname that is always used to do something? We had a guy at one facility they called Hammer because he always made the deadline. He was famous (internally) for his feats in the firefighting world.
    Picture a chart of a defect level of a production line. It will bounce up and down. That bouncing is the effect of two things running in various states of control (lack of stability for those that like that terminology). The internal process is fuctuating (measurement systems, people, machines and people/machine interactions) and the other is the supply base in various states of control. That is the fire fight where most of your manufacturing engineers are living.
    If we take away those assignable causes the process will still not go to zero. There are three factors that affect it – 1. process (the inherent capability of every process – same group as above) 2. Supply base (the inherent capability of each supplier) and 3. design (the inherent capability of the design). If we pool those capabilities they create this line of demarcation that (stealing a term from Lean) that is your Entitlement. If you had absolute stability in the assignable causes the defect level would still be at the sum of the last three I mentioned.
    A good Black Belt project is below the entitlement line. They are addressing the chronic problems that have become institutionalized. You have heard the cute little saying from the Lean guys about dropping the water in the river and exposing the rocks – that is what would happen if the firefight went away. You would drop to the level of the entitlement and the rocks that you would expose would be the inherent capability of the process, material and design.
    There are people who are good at living in the firefighting world. They like it there and the organization rewards them well for that behavior. Dealing with the world below the entitlement is a different mentality. First it has been institutionalized so getting someone in management to believe it is an issue is a problem – if you don’t believe this talk to the accounting department about eliminating trial balances – you can even take a college class in this form of rework. If you can get their attention then there is the issue about lack of data. It has become part of the process and so there is no reason to take data on it any longer.
    There was an instance where Barbara Wheat was doing a Workplace Organization Workshop and found a reamer on a production line. When she told the woman who used it that it was used for rework the woman replied “I have reamed this one hole on every part for the last nine years. It isn’t rework that is how you build this product. I have data.” Hard to argue with. It became a BB project (it was in the cronic catagory – below the entitlement line) the problem was created 9 years earlier when a tool was repaired and the firefighting solution was to get the lady a reamer (so much for carpel tunnel syndrome). In the words of Will Smith “this is where you live Albert.” That is why you need both.
    Just my opinion.
    Good luck.

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    #124594

    SS_GB
    Member

    Thanks Mike,
    I am very serious about the whole discussion and am determined to follow the suggestions. This may not sound good but you can suggest me if you have anything for me at talkto_me76@yahoo.com
    thanks for everything,

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