One of the keys to successful deployment of Six Sigma are Green Belts and Black Belts who are well-trained and equipped to overcome any hurdles in the execution of projects. While Master Black Belts, Champions and sponsors may decide the overall strategy of an organization’s Six Sigma initiative, it is the Green Belts and Black Belts who are in the trenches. They lead and execute the projects which are the very core of any Six Sigma deployment. And at the same time they serve as vehicles for spreading Six Sigma culture throughout the organization.
So it can be said that Six Sigma, the powerful business process improvement methodology practiced by many of the largest and best organizations, depends to a significant degree on the quality of training provided to its project leaders. Since the benefits of Six Sigma run into the billions of dollars every year and the figure continues to grow, a lot of money is riding on training. Thus, how training is carried out should be of concern to every Six Sigma company.
An effective training methodology includes three broad phases:
- Pre-training preparation
- Delivery of training
- Feedback, analysis and improvements
Once the need for training is identified, the first step is to collect customer expectations. One of the most effective ways to do this is through discussions with key stakeholders. This is the voice of the customer (VOC) – in this case, the trainees and the deployment leaders. It provides vital input for developing and customizing the training program. Also helpful is knowing the business of the customer since this allows creation of relevant examples within the training material.
Conducting training is a team activity and it is important to know the participants, fellow trainers and goals for the training well in advance in order to prepare for success. The trainers should plan the training strategy together, deciding milestones for each day to monitor progress and tune the pace of training. Dividing the curriculum between trainers, and including games and exercises to review information between major training topics, help keep everyone engaged.
Delivery of Training
Successful Six Sigma training requires a focus on both content and delivery.
Content – The purpose of Six Sigma training is to develop Green Belts and Black Belts who are proficient in applying the methodology and its associated analytical tools. Six Sigma is a very structured methodology with distinct phases executed in a serial fashion – Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control (DMAIC). The Six Sigma trainer must clearly articulate these phases demonstrating the logical flow from one to the next. A training format that illustrates practical application of the methodology through exercises at the end of each phase has proven successful for many organizations. Participants can accelerate their learning through hands-on application of the methodology in execution of a Six Sigma project from their business. This allows participants to better understand how the process directly benefits their organization.
Delivery – Delivering training requires careful consideration of content and style. Trainers must know the material and understand it thoroughly. Knowing the audience assists in determining the most appropriate delivery style for the organization and the participants. The trainer’s individual style also is important. This is an aspect of training that is generally missed; however, it is often as important as the content delivered. The trainer must energize the audience and keep them captivated throughout the training. Maintaining eye contact with all participants and memorizing the participants’ names during the introduction session creates an informal and open learning environment.
One of the benefits of the pre-training preparation activities is the identification of relevant examples from the participant’s industry or actual work environment. Proper examples help make difficult concepts easier to understand and hold the interest of the audience.
A good technique to gauge success throughout the training is to ask the participants questions and encourage them to stay involved in the training process. This provides direct feedback and indicates whether the participants are grasping the subject matter. This also helps the trainer determine the optimum pace of the training and tune the delivery strategy to ensure success.
Feedback, Analysis and Improvement
One of the most important activities for a training program is to collect participant feedback at the end of training. In order to increase the comfort level for participants, keep the feedback form crisp and allow participants to provide feedback anonymously. Analyze the feedback to identify improvement opportunities as well as positive aspects to reinforce for the next training cycle. At the end of the training program, revisit the initial VOC gathered from the stakeholders and assess whether all goals were met. Meet with the stakeholders and incorporate their feedback into the improvement process too.
No training program is perfect. But trainers who follow the uncomplicated three-step process can expect to achieve success.