Lean Six Sigma is a powerful methodology, but it cannot sustain an entire organization on its own. Organizations that have a robust operational excellence mindset tend to think of Lean Six Sigma as an entire ecosystem, one in which each person inside the organization needs to have the right skills to ensure they add value to the ecosystem.
Pull back for a wide view of the organization and you will see that everyone should have a general awareness of Lean Six Sigma. This is accomplished with simplicity through Lean Six Sigma White Belt training. Then you look a bit closer and you will see individuals who are solving simple problems that are not overly cumbersome. These people can be active contributors when they have the skills of a Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt. Closer yet you will see that as complexity grows, highly skilled Lean Six Sigma Green Belts may be using small teams to accomplish projects. These will still be projects accomplished in 3-6 months, but here you will see the concept of small teams introduced and they will use Subject Matter Experts and maybe Yellow Belts to help them add value. Now we look even closer and we see that as projects or problems become even more complex and challenging, Lean Six Sigma Black Belts are taking on projects that are longer in length and operating with larger teams that include both Green Belts and Yellow Belts.
Guidance for all these contributors is provided by a Master Black Belt. These people will have greatly varied skills and have vast experience in operational excellence. They are experts at guiding, coaching and training and will provide assistance to project leaders on all levels. Then you will see the various Champions and Sponsors for all of these projects and in a healthy ecosystem, even this level (who are often left out of six sigma training) will have the skills and training needed for them to function effectively in their role.
So how do you sustain a healthy Lean Six Sigma ecosystem? By providing the right skills and training to the right people. A common mistake is to choose to train only 1 person, then ask them to train the rest of their team. Are you asking this person to be a six sigma trainer or to solve a problem? If there’s a problem, why not provide the rest of their team the necessary skills to support their project leader and they can solve the problem together. How about those who will be impacted by the change? Why not give them a sense of the methodology being used and help them feel confident in the process.
Every organization that I’ve worked with that has high success with operational excellence not only possesses this mindset, but they tend and cultivate the Lean Six Sigma ecosystem and may even expand the skills and training for some of the key Black Belts and Green Belts by introducing them to alternate methodologies such as Design for Six Sigma or expand their knowledge in Change Management. What they endeavor to do is equip people at all levels to solve problems within their organization. It is important to note however that a Lean Six Sigma ecosystem is not a sprint to the end of training. Instead it’s something that grows and evolves naturally and six sigma training occurs to help solve problems as they arise, resulting in a multi-phase approach that is more like a marathon.
Maybe your organization can start by training 5 Black Belts who have identified projects which will ensure you have an ROI (Return on Investment), and to help expedite this process train their team members involved in the projects at the adequate level. You will find your organization has better sustainability of solutions as comprehensive six sigma training ultimately aids to the success of the selected project leaders.