Rethinking Green Belt: Micro Training

Listen-up. We’re going to try the Fishbone play…












A couple of previous posts on the Green Belt role (It’s Time to Rethink the Green Belt Role and Systemic vs. Atomic) introduced the idea that it is time to consider the intent and design of the Green Belt role.

I am currently advising an organization on how they might go about the “Green Belt” role and the nature of the discussion illustrates my thinking on this aspect of process excellence efforts.

From projects to application embedded in the job

For all the discussion and good intentions in the Lean Six Sigma/Process Excellence community to have people in an organization apply the tools and methods “on the job,” it is interesting how often the ways organizations go about engaging employees in process excellence runs counter to this intent. For example, many process excellence deployments focus on application through projects, either a Green Belt project or participation on a larger “Black Belt” project. Even when the activity is small, such as a small “kaizen” event, the mode is outside of the daily work of the person and their colleagues.

There is nothing inherently wrong with project-centric application but as discussed in the post “Systemic vs. Atomic” the result is often small, often disconnected islands of activity or “rearranging deck chairs”-type project work. Sometimes projects are not even attempted since even the most motivated and well-meaning employee often gets pulled by the demands of their day job.

Instead of continuing to try to get employees to learn and use process excellence tools and concepts on projects whether large or small, I am advising organizations to consider an approach based on a process involving these elements:

  • Analysis, position by position, of current job responsibilities, accountabilities, work products, outcomes, and tasks with a focus on the first level of unit management (manager, supervisor, lead etc.);
  • Future state (desired) responsibilities, accountabilities, work products, outcomes, and tasks if known and materially different due to top-down actions;
  • Workplace factor analysis such as physical location of the people in the role, time constraints (such as limitations due to collective bargaining agreements), room for work group meetings;
  • Fundamental kills required for the role such as language, reading and math;
  • Generation of tools and concepts most likely, given the job content, to aid in process management and the ability to receive and act upon process and procedural changes in their work along with core concepts of the debrief cycle (after action review), small work group dynamics, and active listening;
  • Design of methods of delivery that best fit into the workplace set-up as well as considers the levels of current skills.

As one can see from the above, the focus of this work is less upon project-oriented improvement and much more on the skills, mindsets, and tools to run and maintain a process and to understand and effectively execute changes in a process. There is provision for incremental, small process improvement, but these are day-to-day adjustments through quick debrief cycles and in situ actions rather than formalized projects.

5 Minute Training

One of the stretch objectives I am working with an organization to achieve to moving towards the delivery of the “Green Belt” through numerous micro sessions of as little as 5 minutes in length each day, twice per day. These very short interventions are designed to better fit into the shift structure of this particular organization. It combines both the idea of the debrief (how did things go) with a dance card of relevant tools or concepts the first-level manager can pass on to their work group for application and trial. Although the initial trigger for this format was a unionized, factory environment, there is also scope to apply this concept to other kinds of work such as sales, IT departments (such as Help Desks), contact centres etc.

One of the collateral benefits of this approach has been to greatly enhance the quality and consistency of small work group management techniques, such as the discipline of the group huddle before and at the end of the day for both debriefing, knowledge exchange, and sharing of observations and lessons learned.

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