Six Sigma–Should Companies Train Black Belts or Hire from Outside?

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 previous of this chapter the authors discussed, the training people need to become black belts, and how many belts a company needs.

But let’s say you have figured out your company, using the simple calculation given in the last post, has $10 million in annual revenues, and therefore needs 10 Black Belts, and 1 Master Black Belt.

Where do you get them?   Do you train them yourselves or do you hire from the outside?   That is the subject of this post.

The authors recommend that, if you are a large company and you need to get Black Belts from outside the company, that you consider setting up a training program for Black Belts within the company.   Here’s why:   hiring an Black Belt from outside is risky because the person will be conducting Six Sigma projects while simultaneously trying to familiarize him or herself with the company’s culture and history.

Someone who is already familiar with the company’s culture and history will then only need to concentrate on one thing:   completing Six Sigma projects.    The authors also recommend utilizing this person exclusively for Black Belt projects in order to get the maximum return on the investment of training that person.

But Master Black Belts can get involved in training as well as doing their job of selecting and supervising Six Sigma projects, forming a nucleus of a Six Sigma Project Management Office.   This last statement does not come directly from the authors, but is my interpretation of what I have read in their earlier chapters.

Just as the investment in Black Belts will yield benefits from the company, investment in the training of Black Belts will also yield benefits to the company.   In order to make sure any changes from Six Sigma projects are permanent, the company’s culture also needs to permanently change.    And that should be the goal of any company, no matter how large or small it is.

So far, the discussion in the book has focused on manufacturing, but some of the most impressive growth in Six Sigma projects comes from service industries, including health care.   How Six Sigma is applied in those types of industries is the subject of the 12th chapter, which I will go through next week.


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