Levers for Six Sigma Black Belt to be Good Internal Consultants

This article is part of series on “How Six Sigma Black Belts Can Deliver Choku-Zuki* as Internal Consultants”?” Six Sigma Black Belt

The levers Six Sigma Black Beltfor Six Sigma Black Belts to be good internal consultants are as follows:

Focus on Output, not Input – In any consulting engagement, a good business consultant will focus on the output that the client wants and then work around to gather necessary inputs. Traditionally, Black Belts start with the inputs and hit a road block. For example, to solve a business problem, they need a project, a champion, training for green belts, formal sign-off on charter, 3-4 month duration, Minitab software license and power point presentation, six sigma templates, data, tollgate reviews and so on. Start with the desired output and then decide the inputs.

Embracing Irrationality 

This world is irrational. As a result, business leaders, business models, employees, policies, etc. all irrational. You and I are irrational too. Black Belts will have to embrace this irrationality, make necessary assumptions and proceed. Let’s say, you wanted 20 days of data to be collected for a project. After 20 days, you realize only 3 days of data has been collected. Would you complaint to your business leader about this delay and wait for another 17 days data; or just proceed with 3 days data? Think about it.

Unearthing business model

Unearthing business model Gaining a detailed understanding the business of employer should be in the first 90 days plan for any Black Belt. Here is a cheat sheet to gain this understanding:

  • How does the business make money? And where does it lose money?
  • What are the customer segments? And what are unique needs of each segment?
  • Who are the competitors and what’s different about them?
  • What are the company’s breakthrough strategies?
  • What are the measures of efficiency and effectiveness for the business at various levels?
  • What are key drivers of cost? What are the industry benchmarks?
  • And so on

Business leaders want their advisors to understand their business model. So this is pre-requisite to seal a deal if you are an external consultant.

Most Black Belts have very good understanding of the business processes, but fail to focus on the business model.

Understand the dynamics of internal and external environment

Business environment constantly changes, both internal and external. Internal environment includes people, process, technology, processes, cost structure, vendors, etc., while external environment includes customers, competitors, economy, regulation, pricing models, etc. Firstly to sense these changes(by reading industry reports, journals, competitor launches, etc) and then to understand how such changes impact the organization can provide vital insights for black belts to be able to proactively identify, prioritize and drive strategic initiatives.

Demonstrating your business knowledge proficiency

In the early days of my career as Black Belt, I acquired deep knowledge of businesses I supported. But the business leader and his teams weren’t accepting me. I took this up seriously and cleared a business proficiency certification offered by industry regulator. The business leader was extremely delighted to hear this news. He was convinced that I’m genuinely interested in his business line. He became my promoter and strong proponent of Six Sigma. Believe me, it works. Explicitly demonstrating your proficiency in the business of interest makes absolute sense. Every industry line has certifications/accreditations, find what’s appropriate and acquire them.


As children we all liked stories and as adults, we still like them. Else, why would Hollywood be so famous? Best business consultants (and business Leaders) are great story tellers. Successful Black Belts will need to develop a natural flair to share examples, analogies and metaphors in the form of stories. Story-telling isn’t easy when your audiences are busy business executives. But practice makes it perfect and natural. And reading keeps your stories contemporary. Over doing this, can earn you the title of ‘Blabber-mouth’, so tread carefully.

Provide options, not a fait accompli 

On several occasions Black Belts face resistance, when it comes to change. In such scenarios, Black Belt either over react or withdraw into their cocoons. Instead give alternate options and get small ‘yeses’ every day. Slowly move the discussions from ‘Ifs’ to ‘Hows’ and you will be surprised to see how domino effect works!

Adapting to Personas 

People have different personas. What works well for one wouldn’t work for another. When it comes to our Boss or our Spouse, we all understand this perfectly well. But same logic doesn’t work for business leaders. Broadly people can be grouped under 8 personas – Driver, Collaborative, Friend, Skeptic, Stabilizer, Change Agent, Analytical and Innovator. Map business leaders into these 8 groups and build relationships accordingly. After all, ‘Familiarity breeds better alignment’.

Cross Industry Best Practices 

 Clients expect an external consultant to bring in a wealth of knowledge about the best practices of other industries that would be relevant to them. As internal consultants, business leaders would expect the same from Black Belts.

To summarize, Black Belts have a substantial role to play in positioning themselves as an internal business consultants. The years to come will test their abilities to adapt and evolve into a larger role or move-on to line responsibilities.

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