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Six Sigma Candidate Profiles
By Roland Lee

Six Sigma is no longer the new kid on the block in the plethora of improvement philosophies to hit British industry in recent years. But the difficulties in recruiting Six Sigma staff continue to give management teams across the country a great deal to worry about and recruitment consultants a great deal of work.

If you are looking to implement Six Sigma or develop your current structure within your organisation, there are a few simple rules which will help narrow the field when looking for suitable candidates both from within your own business and in the wider world according to Roland Lee, green belt trained Six Sigma recruitment specialist at Jonathan Lee Recruitment.

Black Belt Characteristics
Black Belts (BBs) and Master Black Belts (MBBs) share a common name but differ quite markedly in their characteristics.

Master Black Belts will ideally be expert in policy and strategy deployment and be able to confidently manage the implementation or development of a Six Sigma programme. They require certain statistical skills and a problem solving approach to matters in general. Their role involves the co-ordination and monitoring of all project activity and they are hence regarded as having an in-depth knowledge of the entire Six Sigma philosophy and practical application. Developing and delivering training programmes is also an essential part of their function.

To achieve this, a competent MBB must have good organisational skills combined with excellent project management abilities.

Black Belts, whilst also capable numerically and analytically, also need the ability to get things done and to build a team to achieve set goals. Their experience in solving quality and process problems is vital to push Six Sigma projects through an organisation with enthusiasm and drive.

Furthermore, Black Belts cannot be Yes men. Part of their role is to take issue with more senior managers where relevant, but to do this without arrogance or frustration and with an open mindedness which will enable them to learn from others who have something to offer; the support of MBBs as well as Champions is important in this area. A diplomat at heart, the most sought after Black Belt will not be an empire builder but will build a team which will succeed as a unit.

Black Belts and Master Black Belts are best as full time Six Sigma operatives, whereas Green Belt trained team members have functional roles with a significant amount of their time working on projects (eg. 20% or 1 day a week average).

It is ideal that all employees are taken to Green Belt level, but this may not be a realistic goal. However, everyone should have at least the basic training known as white or yellow belt (names are immaterial - the structured improvement and savings are the important aspects). Some small projects or sub-projects of larger activities can be led by good Green Belts.

Within any Six Sigma organisation, there has to be at least one board level sponsor who understands – and more importantly believes in - the philosophy, but for whom it is only a part of their role. These sponsors play a critical role; strength of character is supremely important as they need to be able to open doors across functions for the active BB, MBB or Champion. The titles of champion and sponsor are sometimes switched but again, the name is not important, it is these two roles that enable projects to break through functional and seniority barriers.

Senior managers who have some degree of training and who are currently responsible for implementing Six Sigma in the majority of situations are often referred to as champions; they are not necessarily technical experts in Six Sigma. Like Black Belts, these champions are team builders - enablers and co-ordinators who enthuse others. Ultimately, their role will be in maintaining and improving the success of their chosen Six Sigma projects.

It is important that Champions are functional managers responsible for the main area in which the project is focused. Whilst Champions should, ideally, be Black Belt trained, this is sometimes unrealistic. More importantly, they must possess the associated character traits.

Whilst it would be simplistic to say that Six Sigma roles can be so easily defined, these basic guidelines will provide some direction for those seeking to establish a Six Sigma team for their organisation. The real trick is finding the ideal (or nearest possible) individuals to fill each of these roles; the better this selection and recruiting activity, the more successful the Six Sigma program will be.

To set up the sourcing of both internal and external people into these roles is not easy and is time consuming; but if it is ignored, unplanned or poorly structured the notion will be reinforced that Six Sigma is another fad.

Roland says “I have seen Six Sigma work well, reasonably and poorly; a few companies failed to get it to work at all or even gave up. There are other essential factors, but putting the best possible people in the enabling roles will be one of the single most important aspects. Hence, investing time and resource here is a major advantage to gaining bottom line results.”


Anyone wanting more detailed advice on any Six Sigma aspect should call Roland Lee at Jonathan Lee Recruitment who will be happy to discuss specific problems and help point you in the right direction. Or visit www.jonlee.co.uk/6sigma for more general information and some useful Six Sigma links.





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