7 Job Benefits of Six Sigma Yellow Belt Training
Six Sigma Yellow Belt Key Advantages
Six Sigma Yellow Belt training delivers foundational instruction in the key principles of quality management. Yellow Belts become experts in a wide range of basic process improvement tools and especially in the rigorous and adaptable methodology of "Define, Measure, Analyse, Improve, Control". This systematic approach to tackling entrenched business problems takes Deming's PDCA (Plan, Do, Check, Act) cycle and raises it to a new level of effectiveness.
So what are the key benefits of Six Sigma Yellow Belt training?
1. You are training the people who really make a difference in the business. The cult of the CEO in Western businesses has reached the stage where totemic multi million dollar pay awards are made to senior executives while entry level workers are often paid the minimum wage. Notionally this reflects the greater impact that that the CEO's decisions make on the company. Yet it is surely the mind-set and attitude of the ground-level employees who make the product, or interact with the customer, that determines the company’s ultimate reputation for quality. A Six Sigma program that only trains managers and executives will surely fail.
2. Yellow Belts become the quality leaders. The famous Japanese concept of the quality circle that revolutionised management thinking in the 1980s was effective because all production workers were involved in improving systems and processes. Quality was no longer a "top-down" exhortation from management. Workers helped to design "kanban",or "signalling" mechanisms, to successfully regulate their own work flow.
3. Workers realise that the company is a system, and start thinking of work flows rather than discrete jobs. Deming's famous theory of profound knowledge stresses the vital importance of this systemic view of the firm, an insight that may not be immediately obvious at the coal face. Lean ideas by definition start with the customer's requirements and production should proceed at a beat, or "takt time", that meets this demand. Takt time is formally defined as net time available to work, divided by customer demand. Viewing the process in this way allows bottlenecks to be identified and eliminated in line with Goldratt's theory of constraints.
4. Simple tools applied on a daily basis beat sophisticated ideas that are rarely applied. A person who walks five miles every day will cover a far greater distance in a year than someone who spends two hours driving a Porsche. Many advanced Six Sigma management programs place undue weight on hypothesis testing, designed experiments and analysis of variance – techniques that are unnecessary in the vast majority of non-engineering environments. Yellow Belt training delivers basic, robust tools such as Ishikawa diagrams (fishbones) and process mapping that can be flexibly applied in a variety of contexts.
5. Yellow Belt training delivers the visual factory. These are graphical and intuitive method of monitoring process performance.Tools such as Yamazumi or load balancing charts, which graphically illustrate a process through representing different process steps in colours (green,yellow or red) are valuable here. Another classic device is the Shewhart control chart, whereby upper and lower control limits are clearly defined by reference to standard deviation from the mean.Breaches are immediately visible and obvious and corrective action can be swiftly taken.
6. Six Sigma Yellow Belt Training is a complement to the daily work flow of the trainees. Whereas Black Belts should be rotated away from their normal work duties to focus exclusively on quality improvement projects, Yellow Belts apply their new skills on their everyday work flow. Simple insights such as Pareto analysis can however reveal a new perspective on daily tasks and reveal substantial opportunities for improvement. This is often achieved through simple "poka-yoke" fixes which mistake-proof the process.
7. Training delivers “profound knowledge”. W. Edwards Deming, the father of Western quality management, famously opined that “There is no substitute for knowledge”, subtly reworking Edison’s mantra that “There is no substitute for hard work”.Knowledge is more important than effort per se because it leads to focused and improved action. Deming’s famous manifesto for the lean revolution consisted of fourteen points and the penultimate one reads: “Institute a vigorous program of education and self-improvement”. Six Sigma Yellow Belt training, if part of a coherent and sustained process, fulfils this mission.
There is no substitute for knowledge - W. Edwards Deming.
Six Sigma Yellow Belt Training
How To Deliver a Yellow Belt Training Program
The quality and nature of Six Sigma Yellow Belt training programs varies considerably. Ensure that you engage a reputable organisation with significant experience in quality and process improvement. It is also useful to receive training that is targeted towards your industry. If you run a city hospital, then lean flow technologies can be applied effectively but examples drawn from (say) aircraft engineering will leave the audience cold.
Teaching and acquiring the hard skills is the easy part. It is a common feature of any training course that a course generates initial enthusiasm, energy and focus, which wanes within 30 days. A successful program requires ongoing commitment and involvement. Hence Yellow Belt certification should not be awarded without the following:
- Successful completion of at least one process improvement project using the DMAIC methodology. This should address a real business need and not be “invented” to meet the requirements of certification. Equally, an existing project or closed project should not be retrospectively “squeezed” into a Six Sigma template.
- Passing a multiple choice exam on the DMAIC methodology and on core quality principles. At Yellow Belt level this can be an open book exam, since the core skill being tested is not factual recall but the ability to understand and apply quality concepts in the workplace.
- Assignment of a line manager as Project Champion, and of a Black Belt or Green Belt as a mentor and consultant. The buy-in of operating management is critical to support any Yellow Belt deployment program and individual efforts will flounder without that support. Equally, more experienced Six Sigma practitioners should always be on hand to assist the Yellow Belt and offer technical guidance and tips on use of statistical software.
Cultural change is usually the hardest change of all. Organisations are social constructs and tend to ossify as self-referential bureaucracies whose only purpose is to perpetuate themselves and preserve the status quo. It is essential for all Yellow Belts to stay close to the voice of the customer at all times. The good news is that, because Yellow Belts are in the front line of the business and often interact directly with customers, they will often be the most perceptive to changing trends and customer demands.
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