Ask anyone who is currently certifying as a Lean Six Sigma Green or Black Belt and they will tell you the help and support of their Master Black Belt (MBB) has been invaluable. However, ask what the role of MBB entails outside supporting them and they’re likely to be unsure.
Many people are unaware about what an MBB actually does, and this can impact not only their career aspirations, but also play a part in how Lean Six Sigma is tackled in their company. If you don’t know what an MBB does, how do you know whether the role would be helpful at your organisation or if it’s something you’d like to progress to following your certification?
The most important aspect of an MBB’s role is versatility; with anyone performing the role finding that they must wear many different hats but maintain a high level of competence, quality and skill in all areas. Broadly speaking they break down as five different roles. Let’s explore them in more detail.
This role is the one people are most familiar with, as anyone who has completed open or in-house training is likely to have had a Master Black Belt deliver their training. A major part of the MBB role is to teach other people the skills and methodologies necessary to become a Yellow, Green or Black Belt.
While it may seem straight forward, training others requires an exceptionally high working knowledge of the theory of Lean Six Sigma, as well as enough experience to illustrate to others how to put the theory into practice. It’s also essential to have an understanding and patient approach to teaching in order to get the most out of students.
Following training, an MBB will be expected to coach a newly-minted Belt through their projects and act as a mentor for others. The MBB should be a fountain of knowledge and experience when it comes to the Lean Six Sigma methodology, toolkit and, most importantly, mind-set.
Coaching anyone requires a sensitive, flexible and empathetic outlook. Good coaches listen carefully and provide the advice and support that the individual requires, rather than sticking to a cookie-cutter approach. A Master Black Belt must be able to coach people of all levels and abilities, from factory floor to senior management and get the best out of them.
Business and process pro
As a methodology for business improvement, it is essential that Lean Six Sigma is targeted at the area with the biggest need within a company.
For this reason, MBBs must have an excellent understanding of business and finance, ideally based in a background in this sector. A good MBB will be able to walk into a business and identify the key areas for improvement to deliver the best impact on the business, and which tools they should use to achieve these.
With so many projects running within a large deployment, it is essential that Master Black Belts are excellent organisers.
A large-scale Lean Six Sigma programme can involve hundreds of projects, with a Green and Black Belt attached to each. All of these projects and people need to be effectively managed to ensure that they are as effective as possible and deliver the outcomes that are expected.
MBBs need to stay on top of this, and continue with their other responsibilities of training and coaching. It can be a big ask for all but the most organised of people.
Lastly, the very best MBBs strive for excellence and inspire others to do the same. It is important to be charismatic, gregarious and likeable. Most MBBs lead business improvement, but have limited management authority over those they are asking to make changes. Personality, charm and intelligence can often be the only tools MBBs have to influence others, so they are absolutely essential.
The role of an MBB is tough, but it comes with huge rewards. Imagine knowing you are responsible for millions of pounds worth of annual savings at your company? Consider the thrill of knowing your efficiency measures resulted in a significantly increased output without increasing the bottom line. MBBs can have a huge impact on the success and profitability of a company and is a hugely gratifying task.
Furthermore, according to IT Jobs Watch, the average Master Black Belt in the UK can expect a take-home salary of around £72,500, compared to £55,000 for the average Black Belt (figures correct of December 2014). This steep jump in pay reflects the complexity and challenges of the role.
If you think you’re up to the task, we offer a market-leading Master Black Belt training course that can help you make the jump from Black Belt to MBB with all of the technical and softer skills you need. Get in touch with one of our advisers today for more information.