Absolutely key to the more complex and difficult Lean Six Sigma (LSS) projects are the Black Belts. Black Belts tend to be in the LSS space on a full-time basis and usually hold a management level position within their organisation. Black belts are fully trained and have all the appropriate methodological and technical knowledge needed to run a successful LSS project.
Not everyone is well suited to be a Black Belt; however, the very best Black Belts are those who have the aptitude for problem solving and for learning. LSS Black Belts must be able to lead, inspire and motivate a team; else their improvement projects are likely to fail (if they even get to a Black belt position in the first place).
The ideal Black Belt candidate should:
– be able to excite senior management about the need for improvement and change.
– have an instinctive sense when identifying the right projects.
– be able to appropriately assess the likelihood of success for each project they undertake.
– be good at enlisting sponsors for their improvement and change activities.
– be able to manage a team of mixed personalities and skills.
– be able to guide, manage and motivate their team to success.
– be able to resolve conflict and achieve consensus.
– be able to plan and run efficient meetings and brainstorming sessions.
– be confident and effective when speaking in public.
– be able to design and create an efficient stakeholder communication plan and get cooperation from stakeholders.
– be aware of how to get hold of the voice and opinions of the organisation’s customers, including those that customers have not been able vocalise.
– know how to prioritise all the different customer demands and requirements.
Selecting your Black Belts
It is one thing to know what skills a good Black Belt should have; it is entirely another to be able to choose candidates to undergo the Black Belt training. If you are in the position of choosing someone, or a few people, for Black Belt training, then you should most certainly take your time when doing so.
Ideally, it is better to choose people who have been with your company for a few years to be your Black Belts. In this way you know how reliable they are and you also know they have in-depth knowledge of how your company functions and the different personalities and egos to contend with.
You should also have seen, over the years they have worked for you, demonstrations of their dedication and loyalty to your business as well as their creativity and assertiveness, all of which are essential for the best Black Belts. As with most jobs roles, an ideal candidate for a Black Belt should also have very good organisational skills and be able to motivate themselves, as well as others.
It’s a good idea to make sure you choose candidates for the Black Belt training who are well-liked within the organisation, not least because they are going to be in charge of a team of peers but also because a lot of the projects they undertake will involve a lot of organisational change. You will therefore need them to inspire this change within the organisation, which is never easy because generally, people hate change; but it is much more palatable when it is introduced by someone who is well-liked.
James writes for Sigma Pro. When not writing, he can often be found practicing his karate moves.