The Non-Technical Side of Six Sigma / Black Belt

Bridging Technical Skills and Non-Technical Skills

Those of you who know me will recall that I often propose that;

 … “for superior performance to be sustained over time,

there has to be BOTH a technical and non-technical skill match between the person,

and their work, their manager, their team and their overall organizational culture”.

Once the technical skill requirements are satisfied, it is in fact the non-technical capabilities of staff, managers and leaders that enable above-average performance to be achieved and sustained. Because of this importance of non-technical skills to performance, CAES has over the years taken various steps to develop an aptitude for non-technical skill assessment and development.  I believe that it differentiates us in all of the services that we offer, and lately we have acquired a number of new clients who agree.

 An applied example

I was recently approached by a local Canadian organization, Ci2, to collaborate and assist in the Master Black Belt certification of a local high-tech organization’s Director of Global Quality. Acting as both consultants and trainers, Ci2 helps their clients to identify and resolve their performance issues via technical performance enhancement / improvement using “Lean” and “Six Sigma” tools and methodology. They offer various classroom-based learning programs and courses, but what attracted me the most was their incorporation of practical client-specific cost-saving “projects” into some of their developmental programs and their certification process. After some initial exploratory discussions, it became quite evident that there was a logical fit between our respective capabilities, their technical and our non-technical, and also our similar approaches to providing practical client services.  

Any training and development program will only be effective and sustained 

when the content is directly and practically applied in the participant’s workplace.

In this specific situation, Ci2’s focus was on training organizational personnel in Lean Six Sigma methodology, as well as Master Black Belt certification for the Director of Global Quality to enable him to subsequently provide similar training to other organizational members. My part was to complement Ci2’s knowledge transfer, and technical skill development, with our non-technical skill assessment and performance enhancement services.

Adapting CAES’s role

As with all of our services, our initial role is to first assess and evaluate the participant(s) non-technical capabilities to ensure that the organization’s desired performance levels will be achieved and sustained. We then develop a personalized learning plan via which we help the participant to elevate their relevant non-technical skills through the practical application of developmental activities in their specific work environment. Regarding this particular Black Belt certification process, the learning plan has involved placing additional focus on the assessment and development of non-technical skills related to:

  • Creative problem identification and problem solving
  • Overall strategy development
  • Developing innovation strategies and processes
  • Process improvement / continuous improvement
  • Leadership and Management
  • Change management
  • Building and managing effective teams
  • Interpersonal relationship development, and
  • Effective communications; influencing, motivating, teaching, mentoring and coaching.

As a result, in addition to meeting Ci2’s technical requirements, the participant’s Master Black Belt certification will require them to prove suitable capability in all of the above listed CAES non-technical categories.

 Everything Always Starts from the Top

Like all of our clients, this organization’s upper management sees the value of, and is committed to, honest performance evaluation and technical and non-technical skill enhancement. Despite their organization already being very successful in their sector, suitably profitable and having noteworthy quality systems in place, they are determined to keep moving forward. High performers always do. By first defining clear future profitability objectives, via both specific revenue generation expectations and cost reduction programs, they then identified the performance results that will be required at the individual, managerial and organizational levels. Doing so has enabled them to then identify the appropriate programs, and collaborative partners (Ci2 and CAES), to help them.  

When management is able to define a future vision and then commits to it, moving forward becomes increasingly easier.

Limited vision = less action and lower results.