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Anyone with more than a passing understanding of Lean Six Sigma will be aware that Black Belt is the top qualification for practical application. While a certain percentage of people will go on to become Master Black Belts and coach other people in Lean Six Sigma, for most, the summit of their journey is to certify as a Black Belt.
So what makes a good Black Belt? Do you have the right characteristics? And what will it mean for your career?
What makes a good Black Belt?
There is no one size fits all template for a Black Belt, however there is more to Lean Six Sigma than data and statistics. Anyone considering Black Belt training therefore needs to be comfortable not just with standard mathematics and figures, but must also be able to influence and charm those they are working with.
We commonly talk about the equation E = Q x A. This simply means that the effectiveness of any new process relies on a combination of a high level of quality and a high level of acceptance within an organisation. Acceptance and quality are of equal importance. It doesn’t really matter how great your new and improved process is if no one in your organisation is prepared to adopt it.
An effective Black Belt will be able to lead others, making them passionate and inspired. They’ll be an excellent project manager and good communicator. They must have an aptitude (or the potential) to tackle data and statistics, as well as being a good problem solver. Finally, they should have a clear grasp of business and finance.
It is important to have a ‘balanced’ Black Belt: Someone who can address both sides of the effectiveness equation with equal measure.
Do I have the right character?
This is a challenging question to answer, as we generally think that you can work with your personal characteristics to make any role work for you – as long as you are readily aware of your own strengths and weaknesses.
That said, Lean Six Sigma Black Belts do require a degree of charisma and here’s why. They do not normally have line management responsibility and so if they want someone to do something for them, they have to illustrate why it is important. They have to convince people. Appeal to them. Get them on their side.
Often, they must do all this while fighting against current cultures and practices.
It’s also essential to be calm under pressure, level headed and well organised. Projects are long, complicated tasks that can have a number of people and elements involved and need to be delivered within a certain timeframe. Your character needs to be a complement to this type of environment.
What will it mean for my career?
Taking Black Belt training and then becoming certified can open a lot of doors. It marks you out not only as someone who has a deep understanding of business improvement and project management, but someone who has used those skills to deliver tangible, measurable success.
Instead of being able to describe the work you’ve done; you’ll be able to show people. The project work you complete will illustrate the financial benefits that you personally delivered to the company.
And that is quite powerful.
The average Lean Six Sigma Black Belt in the UK earned £55,000 in 2014, with many earning over £100,000 depending on their role and experience. Furthermore, our own research on our past delegates revealed that 55% of people say that taking a Black Belt course led to a significant improvement to their career.
Rushmi Laidlaw, who took a Fast Track Black Belt course in 2012, won the British Quality Foundation’s 2014 Lean Six Sigma Award at the 2014 UK Excellence Awards. She credits her training with 100% Effective as the reason she was able to secure the job she wanted in 2013 and then go on to make the changes that saw her win this award.
Ultimately, Lean Six Sigma Black Belt training is not for everyone. But, if you take the training, it’s not just your business that could be transformed – it’ll be your career and professional outlook too.