Every year, there’s a slew of new business fads designed to revolutionize your business, reinvent your brand and revitalize your workforce.
You’ve heard about them. You’ve read about them. And you’ve watched them all fade away.
Six Sigma is kind of like that. Except without the whole “failure to deliver” part. The truth is, this methodology has been around for just about 40 years, and the people who take the time to study it can create real, significant, positive change in their organizations.
We’re talking about actual people creating actual business outcomes. It’s not about models. It’s not about catchy acronyms.
It’s about real, tangible results.
The Green Belt
Six Sigma certification comes in four levels – Yellow Belt, Green Belt, Black Belt, and Master Black Belt. Yellow Belt training covers basic literacy, but the real changemakers start showing up in Green Belt certifications.
Those individuals in the Green Belt category are able to use tools and practical knowledge to help create process improvement in their organizations. In most industries (and, very likely, your industry), Green Belts can create positive outcomes using five specific curricular categories:
- Define – create a business case for a desired change, and assemble the teams capable of developing that change
- Measure – calculate performance standards, set goals, and prepare reports to ensure all new processes contribute to an organization’s overall effectiveness
- Analyze – identify root causes of process redundancy, and communicate those findings to organizational leaders via data-driven reporting tools
- Improve – implement and sustain process improvements, and measure their effectiveness by setting control standards and monitoring progress
- Control – make adjustments to new processes to ensure all goals are being met (and all effort is aligned with what the business is trying to achieve)
It doesn’t matter if you’re in software, manufacturing, supply chain, retail or politics. Those five areas — when navigated by a Green, Black, or Master Black Belt — are capable of total organizational transformation.
Two Real-Life Green Belts
Hayley is a Strategist. Alex is an Optimization Manager. They work in the marketing function for a company of about 1,000 people.
And they’re both Six Sigma Green Belts. Each of them completed the Six Sigma Green Belt course through Villanova University’s Six Sigma program, and they both use the principles of Six Sigma in their day-to-day work.
“We’re utilizing aspects of a Kaizen approach,” Hayley said in an interview about Six Sigma’s application.
This approach includes tools and techniques familiar to most Green Belts, including…
Hayley’s favorite tool?
“The Fishbone Diagram,” she said. “It provides an easily digestible visual that identifies a problem and all the factors that contribute to the problem. You’ll want to ask, ‘Why does this problem occur?’ Once you have those answers, ask again, ‘Now why do those things occur?’ Continuing asking why… it helps you drill down the initiation causes of the problem at their root, and therefore creates the ‘bones’ of the diagram.”
And Alex’s go-to technique?
“The Five Whys,” he said. “Why? I’m glad you asked. I think we should always approach life as skeptics. When I first learned about this tool, I was in love with how it encouraged a childlike inquisitiveness. So, your website isn’t performing as well as the industry average? Why? Because, through interviews, you find that the information on the page isn’t enough to differentiate from competitors? Why? Because you haven’t sat down and adequately researched what the competitors offered and highlighted what makes your program unique? It’s a fun game. My wife hates it.”
These techniques come standard with most Green Belt certifications, and they provide immediate real-world application in any organization. So far, Hayley has used it to improve customer relationship management processes, and Alex has used it to scale his team and implement a number of huge initiatives in the company – and at home.
“I find myself optimizing everything,” Alex said. “My wife even rolled her eyes at me when she found me optimizing the arrangement of our kitchen to be the most efficient (but now she is pleasantly happy with how the glasses are right next to the fridge, and the plates are right above the dishwasher).”
It’s not just a methodology. It’s a way of thinking. A strategy for problem-solving and pinpoint solutions.
“Anyone can identify problems,” Hayley said. “But the solution drivers are the ones that keep businesses moving forward.”
If they had to describe Six Sigma in five words or less?
“Efficient, solution-driven, and team-oriented,” Hayley said, using only four of the allotted five words.
Alex simplified it even further. “Value-generating,” he said.
From Green Belt to Black Belt
Green Belts are capable of creating meaningful change in an organization, but the mid-tier curriculum doesn’t scratch the surface of Six Sigma’s potential.
Soon, Alex has plans to pursue his Black Belt.
“I know that it is a huge commitment,” he said, “but I think the knowledge and efficiency that Black Belts enjoy is worth its weight in gold.”
If a Black Belt certification helps him create more process-oriented solutions for his organization, then Alex’s peers and supervisors will most definitely agree.
You may also enjoy: Interview With a Six Sigma Black Belt