When Hiring a Black Belt, What Skills Do You Look for?

Six Sigma – iSixSigma Forums General Forums Implementation When Hiring a Black Belt, What Skills Do You Look for?

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    Hi all!

    I’m a hiring manager and understand that six sigma has many benefits. I’m a believer. :)

    I want to hire a six sigma black belt.

    From those of you who have worked with many black belts in the past, what skills do you look for in the person that make them successful?

    Assume they have been six sigma trained at the black belt level, but may or may not have completed one or more projects, please.



    Chris Seider

    ability to listen, work with people, and not scared to get data are 3 quick attributes but you can’t find that on a piece of paper.


    Andrew Parr

    Persistence, pragmatism and what they now call “Emotional Intelligence”.


    Mike Carnell

    Jessica Chris and Andrew gave you good answers of course. The tool training is one aspect but it isn’t the most important aspect (not meaning that is what they were saying). There has been so much of the analysis incorporated into software that a persons ability to analyze something has been elevated as long as they can use the software. You do need to very cautious about getting someone who believes the tools and steps are carved in stone. There is a wonderful article about the DMAIC process being a thought process not a tool list on this very website. Do not get locked into a tool zombie. Get people who think. If you ask them a question about what they think and all they can do is quote something they are not thinking. At least not original thought.

    There is no way the Six Sigma methodology will not work. They are tools so it isn’t like you get some place where the calculation for standard deviation stops working. People are what make it work and that is people that can drive change. We have done Predictive Index work on 4 continents (North and South America, Africa & Australia) and we have a profile that is not exclusive but it is 100% successful (the PI people hate it when I say this stuff). Here it is:

    High A – confidence comes from within, they believe they will be successful just because it is them doing it

    B drive doesn’t matter so Low B is task oriented doesn’t talk a lot or High B very social, won’t shut. Neither has an effect. As you may be able to tell I am a Low B.

    Low C Impatient

    Average to Low D is average to low sensitivity to criticism (this has a huge effect on how hard they will drive change i.e. risk aversion)

    If you actually do use the Predictive Index you have to watch for a D that is higher on the scale than the A (the scale is measured in Sigma). That is a huge flag that you have a seriously risk averse person on your hands. Our first wave of training in Africa was 24 people with 17 having the profile above. We had 7 with a different profile primarily on risk aversion but they were miners who worked underground. Risk aversion is what keeps them alive so you teach them to recognize when there is enough analysis and it is time to move on.

    If you get the right profile, trained in the methodology and the right profile you will be good to go. When you look at the large deployments like GE, Allied Signal, etc you see the early waves being very successful and the results drops off in wave 3 or 4. That is because early on people who get selected to participate have the profile I mentioned. They tend to be leaders (even the ones that don’t like to talk). Once you are out of the first couple waves you are into softer profiles and the success rate declines.

    Best of luck with your decision. This decision will be the largest influence on how successful you Six Sigma initiative will be.

    Just my opinion.



    @Mike Carnell: Good advice.

    : As Mike cautions, be wary of someone who is a religious devotee of a specific methodology. I like to see if the person is flexible enough to seek out new/different tools to help them solve their issues. For example, many BBs slavishly look to the lowest Cpk value or highest DPMO levels. Having studied Theory of Constraints (TOC) I learned long ago that there is one item in the system that is currently holding it back from better performance. Find that singular issue and improve it (using Lean, SS, SMED, whatever it calls for to bring about improvement). Once you have improved that, look for the next constraint and move to that. A BB who talks like that is one you should not let get away. Good luck.


    Mike Carnell

    @MBBinWI Merry Christmas and wishing you and your entire family a very Happy and prosperous New Year.

    Very good to see you posting again.


    Shamshul othman

    If you the budget better go for an MBB, cause they are better prepared not just to develop your staffs but to produce monetary benefits and transform the organization as well, therefore the return will be tremendous



    My thoughts (that happen to confirm others’ responses)–don’t hire for specific hard skills–especially at the manager level.

    OG Black Belts were high potential folks, chosen by their companies for further development and training–try to find one of those (rather than self-nominated BB’s or those that have taken Six Sigma training while a student). There is nothing wrong with self-nominated or college trained BB’s, but they have not necessarily shown the skills (hard and soft) to be a good manager.

    If I were in your situation, I would look for a good manager with a technical education & consider sending them to BB training… (although an isolated BB is not always the best way to go).

    Good Luck!

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