My business is 3 years old – should I get a lean six sigma black belt?

Nik LemmensLean, Six SigmaLeave a Comment

lean six sigma black belt

Many business owners worry about whether they’re ready for the lean six sigma treatment.

Almost always lean six sigma can help your business, but whether you should run before you can walk is another matter.

If you think you’re there, or pretty close, then it is definitely worth considering.

Remember that a lean six sigma black belt is a highly sought-after qualification – it’s demanding and shows real in-depth knowledge of the six sigma methodology and, critically, how to apply this in the real world.

Should I get a lean six sigma black belt?

First of all, do you even need a lean six sigma black belt?

There are various belt certifications that represent different levels of expertise. Master Black Belts or Black Belts are really only designed for those in top management positions, like a CEO or SME owner. Meanwhile, green and yellow belts are more appropriate for anyone in a lower management position.

Assuming you are in a top management role (like owning your own business) the question about whether or not you’re ready for the black belt is to a large degree a matter of knowing what the expectations are of such a status.

In the film, the Karate Kid was stuck waxing the motor for a long time before he got let loose in the ring. Similarly, with six sigma, you need to learn the basics first.

For example, you should be able to explain six sigma philosophies and principles. You’ll need to know your lean, quality, process/continuous improvement, and describe how these could impact your organisation. Becoming acquainted with the essentials of lean six sigma thinking is a necessary step before going black belt.

Understanding organisational structure and pinpoint blockages; being able to define benchmarking; appreciating the value of financial and other performance metrics – these are some other aspects to know.

Lean six sigma black belts have to know their team and how to manage them. So, you’ll have to show that you know the components and techniques used in managing teams, such as time management, planning tools, team formation, evaluation and rewards. The black belt means you know how to overcome significant team challenges, such as problems with the overriding group dynamic, or duplication of effort.

And of course you’ll need to understand all the various measurement systems, probability concepts and gap analysis tools. You’ll be au fait with the seven wastes of lean, what a SIPOC is, process mapping tools and even defining what a multivariate tool is.

Going back to the original question about whether you’re ready after three years – the answer should definitely be a yes. Three years is more than enough time to get through the traumatic birth and nasty teething issues of creating your own business. By now you have a living, breathing little monster that you need to get a grip on or it risks running amok. You should have learned how to solve problems, but it’s unlikely you’ll be perfect at it. A lean six sigma black belt should go an awful long way to ensure you have the right knowledge and skills to move forward confidently.

Image from Alex published under Creative Commons

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