6 skills you must have to be a successful #BlackBelt!

Over the years with the changes in industry dynamics, the rudiments of a Black Belt have also witnessed a sea change. As against being a pure play technical expert on LSS methodologies, responsible for leading LSS projects and creating a LSS culture, they are expected to be donning the consultant hat that bring about recommendations based on statistical analysis, trends and present a continuous improvement roadmap for the customers. They are required to act as facilitators for the operating teams to envision growth strategies and gear up their operations for efficiency and effectiveness in the times to come.

With the evolution of Black Belt role, the approach to BB hiring and skill development also needs a change to make them business ready for dealing with the challenges they will be set up for. Alongside left brain skills around technical expertise, the future BB’s would have to be expected to be a heady mix of right brain skills on creativity and out of the box thinking.

Some key traits that would define a successful black belt in the future are :

  1. Strong Technical skills : A BB should be an expert on Lean Six Sigma (LSS) methodologies – be technically sound to the hilt, a keen student of the game along with the ability to use real life examples of using the problem solving approach, in doing projects, mentoring projects and teaching LSS. They should believe in the power of LSS and be extremely passionate about it…and most importantly get certified – that’s how they earn their credibility and a seat on the table. Data is everywhere and the biggest skill a BB should possess is the ability to connect the dots and give meaningful insights for “data backed decision making”.
  2. Business Acumen and Understanding of Domain: A BB should have an understanding of how business makes money for identifying big impact projects that will make the business profitable. Having an understanding of the domain will ensure the BB is able to link improvements to the organization’s strategic goals and create required urgency for change within the business. This skill will also help the BB to do effective external breathing, understanding of best in class performance levers and replicate those practices for improvement.
  3. Customer Advocacy: The BB should have an innate ability to understand customer requirements and convert them to measurable metrics for improving Customer satisfaction. There are times when customers are not aware of what they want, the BB should be able to show them problems in their business and a suggested approach like a consultant would.
  4. Collaboration and Networking: To achieve results in turnkey cross-functional projects, BBs should have strong connects with teams and understand who can be leveraged when as per the project requirement. Working in a matrix environment with people from different walks of life, becomes a key trait for a BB. He/she should pick up the phone or hop across to the floor as emails rarely work. They need to understand what levers to press, to get stuff done; they should build relationships/credibility with Ops, with customers and help them win. A successful BB would be able to get issues as well as improvements from the SMEs teams and facilitate improvements through them instead of executing alone on each one.
  5. Communication & Presentation: Black Belts need to be excellent oral and written communicators, which are essential for the many roles they fill: change agents, trainers, coaches, and mentors. Black Belts should be able to speak intelligibly to all types of audiences, simplifying complex concepts so that it is easily understandable to anybody within the organizational hierarchy. BBs should also have great presentation skills as they are often required to engage in convincing story telling for projects they have driven……a good narrative makes a whole lot of difference to the perception created for the work done.
  6. Project & Stakeholder Management: It is important for a BB to understand who the important stakeholders in a project are and how to manage them. In addition, the BB must be well verse with basics of managing projects effectively, getting a right team, setting them up for success, governance, timely communication for driving the project etc.

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