As a Black Belt (BB), I’ve observed on many occasions how crucial it is to position Lean Six Sigma (LSS) trainees and candidates for success at the start of their journey. When LSS capability is not effectively created from the getgo, the organization wastes time and resources, and may miss key market opportunities when planned productivity and performance improvements do not materialize. In some cases, the LSS program implodes all together. For organizations building LSS programs, insufficient engagement and coaching by the LSS experts (i.e., Black Belts) are primary reasons for the failure of LSS projects to generate savings and improvement in an organization.
One of the keys to successful LSS programs is organic growth of LSS concepts and expertise within the organization. Black Belt (BB) projects are designed to address complex problems and deliver high-value returns, but BB improvement activities are only one part of a good LSS program. BB project success is directly reliant on the capability of the team members, and those members’ training. Additionally, identification of potential improvement opportunities is greatly increased when performers understand the basic concepts of how operational performance affects key metrics like cost, quality, and speed. Therefore, a successful LSS program will pollinate all facets of the organization with LSS training.
One of the most common means of training is through encouraging participation in Yellow Belt or Green belt programs. However, often I find that this critical piece of LSS capability-building gets insufficient attention.
Celerity was recently engaged to help a client better identify and complete suitable projects by improving its LSS certification program. Through our investigation of the client’s LSS certification process, one root cause was common to all the poor effects: coaching. There was no BB assigned to coach the belt candidates through the creation of their project charter. In fact, there was not even a required review of the charter by a BB prior to the belt candidate presenting their final results. The charter is arguably the most fundamental part of the LSS project execution, as it:
- Defines the problem to be solved
- Defines the Y-metric
- Sets expectations
- Protects the project from “garbage in, garbage out”
- Positions the project for success (or failure)
To make matters worse, in an effort to make certification more accessible, the client had also removed all but the final tollgate review; the onus was on the belt candidate to seek advice and coaching. The tollgate reviews serve a clear purpose of ensuring the belt candidates and their projects stay on course and are part of a process that facilitates quality results. Without coaching on the charter, and without consistent coaching through the course of their projects, it should have come as no surprise that these belt candidates (i.e., trainees) were failing to consistently deliver results or complete coherent, relevant projects.
Some of the biggest killers to LSS capability building are sometimes caused by the LSS experts themselves. Insufficient BB coaching drives a host of problems:
- Poor engagement
- Misaligned project objectives
- Frustration by candidates
- Rework of projects
- Underwhelming results
With a robust LSS program that includes sufficient coaching, your organization’s capabilities will be more attune to key market opportunities and internal improvement. Check out Celerity’s Business Transformation Services to read more about our expertise in business process management, project and program management, and IT risk management.