Should you have a Master Black Belt in your Lean Six Sigma transformation?

The role of Master Black Belts (MBBs) is a point of controversy, confusion and even frustration. The lack of a common standard on their role, the proliferation of different organizations offering MBB certifications and the late response of the ASQ to put together a Body of Knowlege (BoK) for MBB did not help. 

The role of Master Black Belt according to ASQ
The ASQ MBB Body of Knowledge reflects a positive evolution of the Master Black Belt role. The statistical and probabilistic acumen, characteristic of Six Sigma practitioners, have been complemented by a significant doses of project management and mentoring concepts. It cautions MBBs from becoming just statistician experts to actually embrace the role of agents for meaning change at all levels of the organization.

ASQ have done an outstanding work. The topics included in the ASQ MBB body of knowledge provide a great guide to Six Sigma practitioners to understand the role that MBBs:
  • Enterprise-wide planning and deployment (25%)
  • Cross-functional competencies (15%)
  • Project management (15%)
  • Training design and delivery (10%) 
  • Mentoring responsibilities (10%)
  • Advanced measurement methods and tools (25%)
In addition, the percentage of questions, values in parenthesis, set by ASQ for each topic gives a clear direction on the relative time that MBBs might spend their role when helping organizations. with 75% dedicated to alignment, planning and mentoring. Even further, the level of mastering of each topic, as presented by ASQ using Bloom's taxonomy, ensure that topics included in the body of knowledge are treated well aligned with the expected role of MBBs. 

Beyond Six Sigma Training and Project Management 
However, the ASQ MBB BoK has its limitations. The highest level of mastering in Bloom's taxanomy, "create", is mainly assigned to project and training management topics shown below: 
  • Pipeline management
  • Leadership for deployment 
  • Executive and mid-level management engagement (project engagement)
  • Project status communication 
  • Project management infrastructure
  • Training plans
  • Training effectiveness evaluation
  • Project reviews (Mentoring champions, change agents and executives)
  • Mentoring belts and non-belt employees
While a solid foundation for training and project management for any Six Sigma MBB practitioner are clearly necessary, the role of any MBB must refocus on becoming a transformational leadership role. The success and failures of the Six Sigma efforts in Motorola, Xerox and GE should be review to strengthen the role of Master Black Belts towards the success of their organizations.Why Motorola failed despite its Six Sigma successes and brilliant Master Black Belts? More analysis is needed but it is evident that Six Sigma project and training management expertise can't create sustainable adaptive organizations.

To Be or Not To Be: The MBB question for your organization
Should you include a Master Black Belt in your Lean Six Sigma deployment? It depends of many factors. For instance, "Belt" titles bring positive and, unfortunately, negative memories to cost cutting projects that meant firing people in some instances. In either case, you need to account for the connotation that MBB could mean in your organization; However, regardless whether you call it MBB or not, the transformational role is necessary to ensure Lean Six Sigma efforts last beyond the initial euphoria 


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