When the Green Belt becomes Leadership’s New Toy
I remember when I was a kid getting a cool new toy for Christmas. It was called a Big Trak, a robot that looked like a lunar vehicle. Everyone had a Big Trak!
I was excited to rip open the packaging and play with it. It came with detailed instructions on how to program the Big Trak to perform over 100 different commands, but I was too excited to read the instruction (which were quickly lost in the chaos of Christmas and never seen again).
I learned a couple of commands by trial and error (there was no access to Internet or YouTube back then). The few commands I knew where how to go forwards, backwards and turn right. The few commands were great at first. I could use it to trip my Dad when he was walking down the hallway or chase my dog down the hallway. It took me a few weeks and I finally got frustrated with the Big Trak’s limited functionality. Eventually, I stopped playing with it.
This was unfortunate because I could have found so much more value in this awesome tool I had at my disposal. Because I didn’t take the time to understand all that could be programmed into the Big Trak, within a month it was just another toy in the toy box.
This is exactly what happens to the newly trained Lean Six Sigma Green Belts in most organizations. The Green Belt becomes Leadership’s New Toy.
Because leaders do not understand how to effectively deploy continuous improvement utilizing (and optimizing) the Green Belt, they fail to get the return on investment that they expected. Eventually, we start pointing fingers … the methodology is blamed (“Lean Six Sigma doesn’t work in our environment”), the Green Belt is blamed, the timing is blamed … but the true blames lie with leadership.
Because we opened the new toy without “reading the directions” (or not understanding how to effectively utilize the Green Belt), we eventually ended up with just another toy in the toy box.
Hopefully you are saying to yourself “I don’t want to be this kind of leader! How do I avoid making these mistakes?”
The answers simple: before you build “the House of Lean Six Sigma” you must first build a strong foundation.
“What is the foundation, you ask?”
The foundation is made up of the following seven (7) element:
- Building the Plan. Before you start building the house, including the foundation, you must first have a detailed plan of the Continuous Improvement deployment over the next 12-36 months.
- Formal buy-in of the company leadership (not lip-service). This is the “cornerstone” of the foundation. If the leadership is not engaged and responsible, the efforts will fail.
- Someone (or a team of people) must own and manage CI
- The company (as a whole) must have a concrete understanding of site / departmental / organizational KPI’s
- Trained and Bought-in “Champions” to be the project managers and cheerleaders at the site / department level.
- A project hopper should exist, so everyone can have the opportunity to identify problems. These problems are then prioritized to their effect on site / departmental / organizational KPI’s. Thisa ensures that the next project that is delivered to the Belt is the next most important project to the success of the company.
- Training the Masses to be the “Subject Matter Experts”. If we don’t let them know why we are doing this; how it will affect them, and what their role is … they will be inherently fearful.
All these tasks must be complete before a Green Belt or Black Belt can make sustainable change.
You want more detail on how to build the foundation, Read our article, “How to Build the Foundation for Lean and Six Sigma” (https://sixsigmadsi.com/how-to-build-the-infrastructure-for-lean-and-six-sigma/)