One of the most common questions I am asked is “Who is the right person to go through Black Belt training (or any other continuous improvement leader program)?” Sometimes it comes from corporations that are looking to find the right employees to train, and other times it comes from individuals who are interested in the training but aren’t sure if it is a good fit for them. In working with thousands of individuals, I have found that the best candidates tend to have a universal skill set.
There are a few basic qualities any good candidate will have and it begins with knowing they are actually interested in continuous improvement. If you are tasking an intense course to someone who has little interest in the topic, you will find that neither the company nor the student will gain much from the experience. A person who has an interest in continuous improvement will do far better than one who does not. Then you need to do an honest evaluation of the candidate’s ability to manage their daily work schedule in conjunction with the educational process. In today’s environment, you cannot simply put a job on hold to allow someone to devote weeks or months to training. The leadership skillset a good candidate needs is to manage their time effectively. The last basic need is for the candidate to be up to the challenge. This is not about the level of difficulty of the program, but rather knowing if they are willing to take on something new and navigate through some areas that may be foreign to them. Most good candidates will possess these basic traits.
Beyond the basics, you will want to evaluate if the person has a mindset that is compatible with being a good Black Belt candidate. This will take some honest reflection, but is a very important trait in good Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and continuous improvement leaders – quite simply, are they willing to roll up their sleeves and get the work done. Many people who have spent years advancing their careers feel they are finally in a place where work can be delegated to others, and while this is certainly a valid and respected place to be in, people with this mindset may not make the best Black Belt candidates. A good project leader does indeed have a team, but they understand that as the project leader they need to be an active contributor and they understand and enjoy working alongside other team members.
Continuous Improvement Focus
The other mindset a good candidate will have is one that embodies continuous improvement. These are people who look at things and wonder if there is a better way of doing this. When someone brings up a new or different approach, these people are intrigued and want to investigate. You will never hear them say “We already tried to do something like this and it didn’t work,” or “Trying to improve that will just end up being a waste of our time.” The continuous improvement mindset will understand that a continuous improvement methodology is what makes it a possibility to be successful. A methodology gives you a sense of the different tactics, techniques and concepts that make it a reality to solve problems and this is what can give us the tools to have a breakthrough this time.
It is important to note that there are a vast number of attributes that great employees have, and a successful company will contain a good mixture of people with different qualities, so this is not a hiring criteria. Instead this is a way to find those people in your organization that have characteristics and traits that will make them successful as continuous improvement project leaders, whether it be as a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt, Lean Six Sigma Green Belt, Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt, Lean Professional or Change Manager.