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 is the expert who has a deep understanding of Six Sigma principles. They can organize and plan out a project.
- Green Belt: These people understand Six Sigma principles. They can support a Black Belt in applying them to a project.
- Supporting staff: Might be a Yellow Belt, or be willing to learn on the job about Six Sigma principles and practices.
Six Sigma Team Member Roles
There are a lot of potential roles in a Six Sigma team. Some of these are essential, full-time roles. 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.
- Facilitator: Usually a Black Belt or Master Black Belt. Coaches the team in Six Sigma practices.
- Scribe: Records the team activities.
- Sponsor: Business leader who sponsors the Six Sigma project. Will tend to set project objectives and obtain resources for the team. Often 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. Different companies use different titles.)
- Six Sigma Leader: Executive who’s responsible for Six Sigma culture in the company.
- Process Owner: Person responsible for the business process targeted by a Six Sigma project.
- Team member: Person who will work on a project. Usually has specific skills that are relevant.
- Gatekeeper: Audits the deliverables. Checks them against requirements.
- Management: Provides resources and motivation.
Also see Six Sigma Roles and Responsibilities.
Types of Six Sigma Team
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, a lot of Six Sigma teams are both 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 a number of different departments. Usually with very different skills and knowledge sets.
- Parallel teams: Two teams working with the same objective. Alternatively, one team backing up another.
See Types of Six Sigma Teams for more information on team types.
Six Sigma Team Dynamics and Mechanics
Team dynamics and mechanics are an important consideration. Some questions that every team will have to answer are:
- Communication: How will we communicate between ourselves? How about to 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.
High and Low Performing Six Sigma Teams
There are some key indicators of team performance. We see them over and over again 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 making use of each others’ 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 for it.
- Conflict: Resolving disagreements between members in a healthy way.
- Support: Having the support of managers is key. They can provide needed resources and encouragement.
So to summarize, poorly performing teams tend to:
- Have members acting independently of each other.
- Lack defined team mechanics. Or, fail to follow those that are laid out.
- Struggle to communicate with each other. Conversely, don’t talk well to other teams.
- Fail to resolve conflict by following procedures.
- Not have 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. Also follow them.
- Communicate well between members and teams.
- Follow conflict resolution procedures to solve issues.
- Have all the resources they need.
Choosing Six Sigma Team Members
The type of people that you choose will largely depend on the type of team and project. However, there are a few key attributes that are common to all:
- Listening: Will take time to understand what other team members are saying.
- Critical thinking: Can distinguish between fact and opinion. 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 Team Video
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
Question: Typically, which of the following activities is done earliest in the formation of a project team? (Taken from ASQ sample Black Belt exam.)
(A) Select the team
(B) Identify the objective
(C) Identify the sponsor
(D) Allocate the resources
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.