How Six Sigma Black Belts Can Deliver Choku-Zuki* as Internal Consultants?

*Choku-Zuki in Karate refers to straight punch

General Electric, one of the largest producers and suppliers of Lean Six Sigma talent by the turn of last century is no more an ardent advocate of this principle. GE isn’t alone; there are many other enterprises like Bank of America, Citibank which have moved on. While the demand for Six Sigma Black Belts has been steadily declining in some economies, most ticking economies have mentionable demand. Several third party certification agencies have replaced GE and other large corporations as the suppliers of Lean Six Sigma Black Belts.

Where do all these changes leave a Certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt? Black Belts have been under tremendous pressure to cope with dynamic needs of business leaders they support. Traditionally, external consultants from Big 4 and the next rung of firms were hired for delivering Quality and Productivity enhancement projects. Today, Black Belts hired on company rolls are managing these projects. So they are well positioned and duly expected to act as ‘Internal Business Consultants’.

Like a half filled glass, this is certainly an opportunity and threat. But the odds against Black Belts are so high that this glass isn’t half full but nearly empty one!

The inconvenient truth is that most Certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belts stand no competition to Operations Management Consultants from the Big 4 or firms.

The gap really isn’t about the body of knowledge (bok) or the versatility of playing with Minitab or JMP screens. It goes beyond this and requires closer examination.

While hiring an external consultant, clients look for referrals, credentials, chemistry and demeanor. A good consultant is someone, clients hate to see go when the project ends on time and is preferred choice of re-hire for the next suitable assignment.

Many black belts wouldn’t openly agree but concur in confidence that business leaders see them as ‘imposed bodies of cost’ that should be off-loaded sooner or later. As a matter of fact, Black Belt’s presence or absence hardly makes any difference to them.

I wouldn’t hold Black Belts solely responsible for this situation. CEO’s intent, Six Sigma deployment leader’s effectiveness, organizational culture and many other factors play havoc. But for now, I would like to restrict to things which are well within the control of Black Belts. After all a Black Belt is the biggest stakeholder in her own career. Let’s examine the barriers(don’ts) and levers(dos) for Black Belts to become a preferred choice of consultant (both internal and external).

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