What is Six Sigma Black Belt

  • Thread starter George Trybulski
  • Start date

George Trybulski

Hey Mark, the new deal I hear going around is the 6 Sigma "black belt". I think other people would like some info on it !

Don Winton

Found this interesting and thought I would share:

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Date: Tue, 28 Mar 2000 16:46:42 +0100
From: John Seddon
Subject: Re:comments on six sigma

A 2 cent contribution to a debate I have not followed... but someone just gave me an eminent fellow's comments on six sigma and I thought they should be shared with those who may have an interest. I cannot tell you who wrote this as I do not have his permission to cite it but here are some selected comments:

"Some companies have realised after several years application of six sigma that their customers are not seeing the benefits and are becoming irritated by the constant publicity. Right from the start of six sigma training the 'bottom line' financial gain from projects is the key project driver. Customer focus is of secondary importance; in the real world the first question the black belts have to answer is "How much will this project save?" "

"Six sigma programmes call for "the best people" to be trained as black belts. The training concentrates on advanced statistical methods that demand a relatively high degree of mathematical ability. The programme is very intensive, one black belt likened it to 'drinking through a fire hose'. There are two issues with this:

* quality improvement is made to seem difficult and the prerogative of the expert.

* Most quality improvement requires first rate application of the more basic approaches. Most black belts when interviewed will readily admit that over 90% improvements are achieved with about 20% of the content of the training. This is very wasteful.

"Where six sigma programs are being effective they tend to be in companies with very directive cultures..... some 'master' black belts are reporting spending as much as 60% of their time on collecting and reporting project data. The bigger drawback, however, is that the moment the management stop driving, all improvement stops"

So (Seddon muses) is six sigma just another fad designed to sell tons of training?

With best wishes


John Seddon

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I am in the middle of Six Sigma Black Belt training; drinking from a fire hose is an apt methphor (simile?).

As a CQE who teaches exam prep classes, the statistics has not been a problem for me. However, many in the class are struggling. Spend a day on paired t-tests for the first time and you will be reeling also.

As for my facility's preception, I am now know as the 'king of the boondoggles" because I go off the headquarters for a week at a time. My associates know, as do I, that this is the simply the most recent program of the moment. I can only hope management never hears about eunuchism.

Don Winton

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Date: Fri, 7 Apr 2000 21:03:35 +1000
From: "John McConnell"
Subject: Simple Stuff - Reduce Variation

This six sigma stuff seems to have got more than a little out of control.

A long time ago, just after the earth's crust had formed, I attended a seminar in Sydney where a bunch of Motorola folks told us about six sigma.

The essence of the approach we saw was the notion that in a complex system even if every step in the process, as well as every component and item of raw material, was performing at three sigma (just meeting specifications), that first pass yield fell to nil after only a few hundred events (an event is a process step or an item of raw material). A simple factorial was used to demonstrate this. Another factorial showed that after 10,000 events a six sigma system (variation halved for every event) produced 99.99% first pass yield.

This model, it was explained, assumed perfect stability for every event. To approximate a world where stuff went wrong occasionally, the factorials were repeated where the average of each event was allowed to drift by plus or minus 1.5 sigma.

The 3 sigma system collapsed very quickly. The 6 sigma system produced 96 or 97% first pass yield after 10,000 events.

That's all it started out as. An approach that demonstrated how effective was an approach that reduced variation. It was simple yet powerful.

At the time, the approach was based on using statistical methods to find and reduce variability, with particular emphasis on zeroing in of those event= s that gave the greatest leverage. It had a strong feel of Taguchi's methods, as well as some very sexy response surfaces.

Some years later I attended another briefing on six sigma. It had become much more complex, more difficult to understand and more expensive to purchase the training. And black belts etc had emerged.

It is not my purpose to can six sigma. However, whilst I applaud any approach that has at its aim the reduction in variability, the later version seemed to miss the notion that reducing variation ought to be the job of everyone. My experience is that where leaders are determined to reduce variation, they will. As Deming was so fond of saying; "When you know why, you will find a way".

Some of you are familiar with LITTLE'S LAW. If you are not, it is recommended for study. In essence, it is:

Throughput volume =3D Work In Progress divided by Cycle Time

Study that carefully for a while. Then add the notion that as variation is reduced throughout the process, Cycle Time reduces. Then you have the option of increasing output, reducing WIP, or a little of both.

This law addresses volume rather than quality. But you don't need to be a black belt to figure out that as variation in quality reduces, so too does variation in volume.

I will close this long winded rambling with a reminder for us all:

Mr. Murray Mansfield of Melbourne has what I believe to be the only completely up to date version of Dr. Deming's famous Obligations for Top Management. After a long discussion with Murray, Dr. Deming agreed that there ought to be a fifteenth point. He took Murray's notes turned to the page containing the fourteen points and at the foot of the page wrote:

15. Have a good time!

John McConnell

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Another View

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Date: Fri, 7 Apr 2000 04:46:31 EDT
To: den.list
Subject: Re: comments on six sigma

My 2 cents on the "Six Sigma debate" going on. Before we slam something or question its motives, maybe we should first try to understand it from the inside, rather than from the outside, throwing stones, as so many did with Dr. Deming . . .Anything can be abused - or used to our advantage. As always, our motivation and values drive the effort and results.

Charles Hannabarger
Process Solutions International

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James Cupello

One way to improve everyone's understanding of "what is a BB" would be to define the
qualifications required of a BB in an industrial setting. There are mixed opinions on this. Tom Pyzdek gives some rather demanding criteria in QUALITY DIGEST pg. 22 (Feb 2000):

* technically oriented individuals
* held in high regard by peers
* active in org. change & development
* background in college-level math
* college-level work in statistical methods required
* able to master wide variety of technical tools in a short period of time
* proficient in one or more advanced statistical S/W packages

Does anyone else have a list of BB criteria they might share? PLEASE!!!

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