Successful Six Sigma teams need people with a range of skills. You need a leader, people who understand and can apply Six Sigma principles, and people who will carry out the ‘grunt work.’
Typically speaking, a Six Sigma team will include at least the following members:
- Black Belt: This expert has a deep understanding of Six Sigma principles. Thus, they will organize and plan out a project.
- Green Belt: These people understand Six Sigma principles but have not mastered every aspect of Six Sigma. They can support a Black Belt in applying them to a project but will not lead the project.
- Supporting staff: Might be a Yellow Belt, or likewise, an individual willing to learn on the job about Six Sigma principles and practices.
Member Roles on Six Sigma Teams
There are a lot of potential roles in a Six Sigma team. Some of these are essential, full-time roles, while others will come and go at various stages in a project, as needed.
- Team Leader: Responsible for getting the team to go. Sometimes, a facilitator. Sometimes, the project manager is needed.
- Facilitator: Usually a Black Belt or Master Black Belt. Coaches the team in Six Sigma practices.
- Scribe: Records the team activities.
- Sponsor: A business leader who sponsors the Six Sigma project. Will tend to set project objectives and obtain resources for the team. Occasionally, a liaison between the team and senior management.
- Champion: Executive who sponsors a specific Six Sigma project. Ensures that resources are available. Resolves any cross-functional team issues. (Sometimes, this is the same as the sponsor, but different companies will use different titles.)
- Six Sigma Leader: Executive who’s by and largely responsible for the Six Sigma culture in the company.
- Process Owner: A person responsible for the business process targeted by a Six Sigma project.
- Team member: A person who will work on a project. Usually has specific relevant skills.
- Gatekeeper: Audits the deliverables and checks them against requirements.
- Management: Provides resources as well as motivation.
Also, see Six Sigma Roles and Responsibilities.
Time Allocation Across Six Sigma Belt Levels in DMAIC Projects
The time commitment of each Six Sigma belt level on a DMAIC project varies and is influenced by the specific roles and responsibilities assigned to Yellow, Green, and Black Belts. This variability can be attributed to factors such as project size, estimated completion time frame, and the size of the team engaged in the project.
Yellow Belts typically participate in a DMAIC project on a part-time basis, usually under a Black or Green Belt. Professionals at this level often collaborate on a DMAIC project to gain practical experience implementing Six Sigma methodologies.
Within the Six Sigma framework, Green Belt professionals dedicate as much as 50% of their work time to a DMAIC project. While they don’t typically engage in Six Sigma tasks full-time, their performance expectations surpass those of Yellow Belt professionals. However, this expectation may vary depending on the organization they are working for.(ref. What Are the Duties of a Six Sigma Professional? )
Individuals who attain the Black Belt level usually dedicate their entire work time to a DMAIC project within the Six Sigma framework. In this advanced role, black belt professionals commonly take the lead in guiding project teams and offering mentorship to Green belt professionals, contributing to the continuous improvement efforts of the organization (ref. Six Sigma Belts)
Master Black Belt
Master Black Belts are highly experienced and skilled individuals who provide coaching and mentoring to Black Belts and Green Belts. Furthermore, Master Black Belts conduct classroom sessions, and their performance is evaluated based on the number of high-caliber individuals they develop. They often play a crucial role in guiding the overall Six Sigma strategy within an organization.
Champions are senior leaders who sponsor and support Six Sigma initiatives within an organization. While not coaches in the traditional sense, they play a crucial role in providing the necessary resources and support to meet organizational goals.
Process owners are responsible for the overall performance of a specific process. Furthermore, Process owners work with Black Belts to improve the process. In some organizations, process owners may also serve as Six Sigma champions.
Executives, including the CEO and other top leaders, play a coaching role by providing guidance, support, and commitment to the Six Sigma initiative. The executive team receives basic training on Six Sigma tools and methodologies.
Subject Matter Experts (SMEs)
SMEs are individuals with specialized knowledge in specific areas. While not dedicated coaches, they may provide guidance and expertise related to the technical aspects of processes being improved.
Types of Six Sigma Teams
There are many different types of Six Sigma teams. The type of team you need will depend on the sort of project you need to complete. Some teams will straddle more than one of the definitions below. For example, many Six Sigma teams are cellular and self-directed.
- Ad hoc: Pulled together for a single, short-term project. Team member skills align closely with project needs.
- Cellular: A permanent core of team members with broad skill sets.
- Self-directed: Operates with minimal input from management. Typically decides practices and activities for itself. Often seen in Agile methodologies like Lean.
- Cross-functional: Members from several different departments, usually with very different skills and knowledge sets.
- Parallel teams: Two teams working with the same objective. Alternatively, one team backs up another.
- Virtual teams: Virtual teams are groups of individuals collaborating on projects or tasks from different geographic locations, utilizing communication technology to overcome physical distance. Since most major organizations have a global presence, these virtual teams rely on tools such as video conferencing, email, and online collaboration platforms to facilitate communication and coordination.
See Types of Six Sigma Teams for more information on team types.
Dynamics and Mechanics on Six Sigma Teams
Team dynamics and mechanics are important considerations. Some questions that every team will have to answer are:
- Communication: How will we communicate between ourselves? How about people outside the team?
- Meetings: What sort of meetings will we have? How often? Who will be invited to each type of meeting?
- Decisions: Who will be making decisions about the project? How will they be made?
- Facilitation: How will we work out issues between team members? How will we handle inter-team issues? Who will be responsible for identifying process problems?
- Task distribution: Who decides who does what?
- Training: Who’ll be handling team training needs? Who will identify which member needs what training?
- Motivation: How will the team stay motivated? What will keep the team inspired? Where will we find a boost when needed?
Some teams will need to sort out these answers for themselves. Others will have most of them answered by company policies or existing frameworks.
Teams typically go through several stages of development. One widely recognized model is Tuckman’s stages of group development, which consists of the following phases:
- Forming: Team members get to know each other and look for roles within the team.
- Storming: The team gets used to each other and starts to disagree and have conflicts.
- Norming: Team members accept their roles and begin to feel like a cohesive team.
- Performing: The team can reach a consensus and act on that consensus as a group.
- Transforming: The team is breaking up because the project is nearly or completely ended.
The most challenging management responsibility is how to both sustain and increase internal motivation in the organization. Team motivation is the driving force that energizes and inspires a group of individuals to work collaboratively toward shared goals. It involves fostering a positive work environment, recognizing and rewarding achievements, providing opportunities for personal and professional growth, and promoting open communication.
High and Low Performing Six Sigma Teams
There are some key indicators of team performance. We see them repeatedly in Six Sigma teams that are performing well – and those that aren’t. Let’s look at a few:
- Interdependency: There are two parts to this. Working together on tasks and using each other’s specialty skills to finish tasks more quickly.
- Mechanics: Team mechanics need to be clearly defined. Then, they need to be followed.
- Communication: Passing data is hugely important in any project. The team needs to know who to inform about each development and, for that matter, who is responsible.
- Conflict: Resolving disagreements between members in a healthy way.
- Support: Having the support of managers is key. They can provide needed resources and encouragement.
To summarize, poorly performing teams tend to:
- Have members act independently of each other.
- Lack of defined team mechanics or failure to follow those laid out mechanics.
- Struggle to communicate with each other. Conversely, they don’t communicate well with other teams.
- Fail to resolve conflict by following procedures.
- Not having support from management for their practices and decisions.
Whereas highly performing teams tend to:
- Work together, using each others’ skills.
- Have well-defined team mechanics they follow.
- Communicate well between members and teams.
- Follow conflict resolution procedures to solve issues.
- Have all the resources they need.
Choosing Team Members
The team members you choose to staff a Six Sigma team will depend on the project. However, there are a few key attributes that are common to all:
- Listening: The ability to actively listen to and ingest facts with the absence of bias.
- Critical thinking: Can distinguish between fact and opinion and will consider information objectively.
- Team player: It might seem obvious, but the best team members work well with others. However, they can also act independently. They’re willing to join in meetings and perform rote tasks.
Six Sigma Black Belt Certification Six Sigma Teams Questions:
(A) agree on key dates associated with completing major project phases
(B) achieve consensus and ownership of the process
(C) determine solutions
(D) determine how often it should meet
B: Identify the objective. I didn’t like this question as I’ve seen the sponsor be the one who identifies the objective first in practice, but I can understand that logically the problem should be selected from what is most important to the whole company, then the appropriate sponsor who can allocate the right resources and offer help be chosen to fit that objective.