Six Sigma–Black Belt Training

In the eleventh chapter of their book SIx Sigma:  The Breakthrough Management Strategy Revolutionizing the World’s Top Corporations, the authors Mikel Harry, Ph.d., and Richard Schroeder discuss the role of the Black Belts, who are the project managers who run Six Sigma projects.

In the section of this chapter that discusses what training people need to become black belts, the authors emphasize the need for them to follow the Plan-Train-Apply-Review training cycle.

  • Plan–the potential Black Belts meet with the Deployment Champions and Project Champions to discuss which projects the training will be applied to
  • Train–the Black Belts learn the Six Sigma philosophy, the theory behind Six Sigma, and then the various breakthrough tools (statistics, quantitative benchmarking, process-control techniques, Design of Experiments) that form a scientific and repeatable process that can be used to solve an industrial or commercial problem
  • Apply–The Black Belts use the knowledge gained in the Train period to the projects identified by the Champions
  • Review–The Black Belts review the results gained by application of the knowledge gained in the Train period to the projects identified by the Champions

This cycle is repeated, as Black Belts receive new projects to work on, and deepen their understanding by teaching others in successive cycles (other potential Black Belts or Green Belts).

In this way, the learning is a constantly evolving process.

One of the comments the authors make that was very intriguing was that, as project managers of a Six Sigma project, learning leadership skills should be part of the Black Belt certification program, but isn’t.   The Train and Apply parts of the training cycle above contain the bulk of the Black Belt certification program.   You learn the theory and take a test, but you also must have a project which demonstrates the knowledge you have just learned.

However, if you consider the plan and review sections of the training cycle outlined above, you will see that there are plenty of opportunities outside of the formal Black Belt certification program to exercise leadership.   It should be the Champions’ job to make sure that these opportunities are taken advantage of.

The next posts after Thanksgiving will discuss the topics of “how many Black Belts does an organization need” and whether the company should train their own or hire from the outside.


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