Problem Solving

Six Sigma Champions & Master Black Belts

Tony Jacowski asked:

The responsibility of developing a Six Sigma company successfully rests as much on Champions & Master Black Belts as it does on Black Belts and Green Belts. But the importance of their roles in the implementation can’t be understated, as the necessary contribution from them is substantial. A Champion is a leader bestowed with authority and the huge responsibility of overseeing the smooth and complete implementation of Six Sigma.

If someone were to explain the role of champions in one breath, it would be that of removing roadblocks. Roadblocks can be sticky issues that Black Belts alone can’t handle. Champions are looked up to for diffusing cross-territorial issues between black belts and upper management in the company through pacifying and mediation. They relieve black belts to focus on the problems on hand.

A Champion’s Role Can Be Summarized Into Four Areas:

These four points underline the position and character of champions in a Six Sigma organization.

1. Their familiarity with the entire business and operational areas but without the interfering in the day-to-day operations with the black belts. This provides them with an opportunity to focus on potential improvements.

2. Project selection, which usually comes under a microscope following reports to top management – this sometimes causes career-limiting fears in champions. Driving out this fear takes effort at both the ends with top managers being ‘educated’ by Six Sigma providers/consultants. The project selection element is crucial and alignment of interests with the needs of management has to be explained in the proper perspective beforehand.

3. Deployment of the program. The importance of this point arises because of the need for financial decision making. The Six Sigma provider, whether he is interested in the success of implementation or primarily concerned in improving financials, is pivotal to the success of the program. Even before the results begin to align with expectations of upper management, it can come under fire.

4. The accountability question; failures are most often attributed to champions. It is often said that “there are no such things as unsuccessful Black Belts, just unsuccessful champions”. This should highlight the importance of their unenviable position.

Master Black Belts

There are no universal definitions or training manual for Master Black Belts until they differentiate themselves from Black Belts by exhibiting extraordinary abilities and a high degree of propensity for problem solving. They are often devoted to working hard and are self-starters & self-reliant. They could, with some additional Six Sigma training intended to broaden the Black Belts’ skills, be prepared for assuming a position where they are able to achieve higher goals and face bigger challenges. The strategy of the mass Six Sigma training of Black Belts will not succeed even if a small percentage of them were to pass Six Sigma training unless they demonstrate that they are able to solve complex problems well. The ease with which they handle crises must indicate their affinity to take on more responsibilities as a fundamental qualification.

Implementation of Six Sigma is more than just having the skills and knowledge of implementation tools. It is the exuberance and the fire to excel that counts in addition to the all-important drive for quality.

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