When I first got into Six Sigma, I was helping a team of Black Belts pull their notes and ideas together to create a Green Belt course. This was my job to develop training for my company, and I often jumped in knowing nothing and came out an expert and ready to teach. This time was my first time creating training for someone else to teach, and the first of later several Six Sigma courses I would be called to create. I knew nothing about it, but I was there to do the job of organizing what THEY knew and make it something that could be understood and absorbed by the “average Joe”.
The main concern for me is that this was so “conceptual” rather than tactile, and so many variables! That scared the beejeezus out of me, to be honest. How could someone walk into something with only a vague idea of a problem and walk out with an answer? That was the beginning of a wonderful friendship with those Black Belts and me. Here’s what I learned from the experience, and how they won me over. I hope it may lay to rest any concerns you may have in the back of your mind.
No PMP required
Six Sigma Green Belts and Black Belts need NOT be Project Managers. While you see plenty of people that have both certifications, know that it is not at all necessary. The disciplines are very different even though some of the tools used might be interchangeable from time to time. The disciplines of a PM don’t even come into play until the Six Sigma project leader gets to the Improve stage, anyway.
Do not fear the unknown
That’s the best part of a Six Sigma project. It’s like a big puzzle or a mystery to unravel. Instead of getting worked up about what you don’t know about the topic, get yourself excited about what your team is about to learn. Think of it this way: there is a problem or a question out there and nobody knows exactly why or how and your team will be making all of those discoveries and come up with a solution. It’s like Scooby Doo and the Mystery Machine, but are you Shaggy or Thelma?
As a Green Belt or Black Belt project leader, you are likely to know nothing of the problem at hand. Do NOT let this intimidate you, for you are not there because you have all of the answers. You are furnished with a team of experts on the topic, and your role as the project leader is to facilitate them through a process of discovery and ultimately the solution. You are not the star of the show, but merely the conductor of an orchestra of talent.
Knowing these specifics (that nobody has the answer yet and I had a team of experts to do the heavy lifting) put me more at ease at the thought of taking that giant step to becoming a certified Green Belt so long ago.
Value in any profession
Being a certified Lean Six Sigma Green Belt or Black Belt means that you are a leader and a problem solver. Can you think of a profession that couldn’t do with a little bit of either of those qualities? Even though Six Sigma started in manufacturing, it’s concepts and practices can be carried into just about any area of business to some degree.
I spent much of my career designing and facilitating training programs, but I also served on many quality teams and facilitated project when they needed me. As a Green Belt, I was to be 20% dedicated to Lean Six Sigma projects. It kept my own skills sharp, and in my career, facilitating a team to learn was similar enough to facilitate a team to discover and solve mysteries. It was simply a different flavor, and I got the satisfaction of making a positive “hard-dollar” difference to the company once in a while.
Here are some of the qualities an employer sees in someone certified in Six Sigma:
- They understand the value of Six Sigma in an organization.
- You work effectively as part of a team.
- They can ramp up quickly to be an active project contributor in their area of expertise.
- Their understanding of quality and process helps them to identify potential flaws or failures.
(even if the employer doesn’t have a quality program, this talent is still quite valuable)
- Ability to successfully lead a group.
- Abstract thinker, who considers different perspectives and approaches to a problem.
- Digs down to identify the root cause of a problem instead of applying only superficial fixes.
- Seeks measurable results for measurable problems.
- Ability to follow a methodology to ensure the highest quality of results instead of taking short-cuts.
- Looks into a process before insisting additional costs.
- Makes sure all actions and tasks provide some kind of value.
- Addresses any task in the most efficient way possible.
- Primary job focus on quality, cost savings, and improved efficiencies.
- Professional and documented problem solver.
- Distinguished leadership abilities.
- Able to show you in hard dollars what your investment in them gets you.
- Grooms and cultivates the next generation of problem solvers.
Notice that none of these necessarily had to do with leading projects? The skills you learn as a Six Sigma professional carry over to many different applications, and the fun part is that once you’re aware of them and apply them a couple of times, you find yourself turning to them more and more.
Perfect example: In one company I worked for, I never did run a Six Sigma project, but I was often called upon to lead brainstorming sessions because I got the best results. I was so well known, that leaders throughout the organization would call on my VP to specifically request me. So many compared these exercises to “herding cats“. The reason I was successful with these is that I used Six Sigma tools with the group to get them focused and contributing in a productive way with FULL participation. You can learn these same tools in the Improve phase of the Green Belt training. As a Yellow Belt, you may even have participated in a couple of sessions, and be inspired to suggest them yourself.
I have taken my lessons in process analysis into every job I ever had, never afraid to challenge the status quo. I am eager to gain a full understanding and quick to ask questions of value as well. Just because something has “always been done this way” means that it’s the best way to do it. I recognize and appreciate that.
My Black Belt mentor and I have become lifelong friends for about 15 years now. We worked together in a couple of companies and had regular lunches together. We couldn’t stand in any line (queue) for lunch without analyzing their process behind the counter. Whenever together, we were constantly analyzing the world around us…for kicks! Little did I know that my husband and I would one day open a restaurant. I cannot tell you how valuable my process knowledge was in designing the flow in the kitchen! Actually measuring was a little over the top, but when my staff realized that I could calculate the degree of their success, they warmed up to my crazy ways.
I developed a sense of fearlessness when it came to the unknown. I learned to trust my experts and not get overwhelmed. I was recently asked “how are you always so chill going into these new things?”. I attribute it to the many different projects I’ve been with no prior experience, that I learned to put trust in my resources, people, and the process I was about to embark on. I follow this same approach to everything I do, and yes, I’m pretty fearless these days because of it.
Other things I can tell you about being a Certified Green Belt is that even though I never held an official Lean Six Sigma position because I stopped and got comfortable as a Green Belt, my certification got me more than one (or ten) interview. How do I know? They told me! A disciplined problem solver is a value to any organization, and it shows that you are not only a problem solver, but you have the resolve to take something like this on and see it through to completion and that applies to projects as well as just getting your official certification. That is something to be recognized, for many start the course of learning but never finish to certify. Sorry, but that and a bag of chips makes a bag lunch but doesn’t offer much thereafter. That’s exactly why I am writing this blog entry to alleviate any apprehension you have about sinking your teeth into this kind of training.
Write your own story
So you’ve been thinking of getting certified and wondering if it’s really worthwhile. If I’ve not said it enough here already, I say GO FOR IT. The Forge makes getting the certification achievable. We’ve seen so many people “waitlisted” from their company’s Green Belt program that have to wait another year to be considered again. We at The Forge are your solution to that roadblock. Enroll today and get started right away!