Core Competencies of a Six Sigma Black Belt

Competencies and Work Activity

Competency-based performance is a concept that is used widely within the world of business. One comprehensive definition of “competency” is: A cluster of related knowledge, skills, and attitudes that affects a major part of one’s job (a role or responsibility), that correlates with performance on the job, that can be measured against well-accepted standards, and that can be improved via training and development. (Training magazine: July, 1996).

Yet another perspective would be to say that a competency is the capability to apply or use a set of related knowledge, skills, and abilities required to successfully perform critical tasks in a defined work environment or context.  In the case of Black Belt, the core competencies are as follows:

  •       Determine how often something happens or is observed
  •       Determine if two or more things are different from each other
  •       Determine if there is a relationship between two or more things
  •       Determine when and/or how something must be adjusted
  •       Determine if there is a pattern in something across time
  •       Determine the best operating conditions for something
  •       Determine which things cause other things to happen

Identifying Core Competencies

As one might suspect, competencies are gained through a variety of channels – life experience; formal education; apprenticeship; on-the-job experience; as well as training and development programs.  Of course, all of these channels come together and contribute to a Black Belt’s competence.  In this sense, competencies represent the “glue” that bonds the work activities of a Black Belt to the bottom line of a business.  Therefore, the training of a Black Belt should be designed around the work activities, core competencies and application skills that best support an organization’s business goals and objectives.

Exhibit 1.0. Technical Skill Set for a Black Belt

The technical skills of a Black Belt can be formed by linking a verb to a appropriate noun (see Exhibit 1.0).  This forms 132 verb-noun pairs that defines the skill set of a Black Belt.  As one might expect, the listed skills are essential to a Black Belt’s purpose and mission.

For example, consider the verb called “specify” and the noun called “tolerances.”  Linking the two reveals the skill called “specify tolerances.”  This says that a Black Belts must be able to “specify tolerances” when (for example) determining the best operating conditions for something, like a process or service.  In this way, the core competencies of a Black Belt (see bullet list above) and the related verb-noun pairs (skills) were functionally connected in a meaningful and purposeful way.  In turn, this revealed the full scope and depth of what a Black Belt must be able to do on the job.

Using the Black Belt skill matrix as a framework, each intersect was independently assessed and weighted using a criterion-based rating system.  In this way, the development team was able to prioritize the matrix and meaningfully rank the 132 verb-noun pairs.  Again, each verb-noun pair constitutes a Black Belt skill.  The final ranking of each skill has not been published for proprietary reasons (i.e., exclusive usage by the Six Sigma Management Institute).  Thus, the Six Sigma Management Institute was able to create the LSS Body-of-Knowledge (BOK) and Black Belt Training and Certification Program.

The program development process described in this treatise was also used to develop the managerial competencies and skills commonly required of a Black Belt.

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Dr. Mikel J. Harry Biography & Professional Vita

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About Mikel Harry

Dr. Harry has been widely recognized in many of today's notable publications as the Co-Creator of Six Sigma and the world's leading authority within this field. His book entitled Six Sigma: The Breakthrough Management Strategy Revolutionizing the World’s Top Corporations has been on the best seller list of the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, Business Week, and He has been a consultant to many of the world’s top senior executives, such as Jack Welch, former CEO and Chairman of General Electric Corporation. Dr. Harry has also been a featured guest on popular television programs, such as the premier NBC show "Power Lunch." He is often quoted in newspapers like USA Today and interviewed by the media, such as The Economic Times. In addition, Dr. Harry has received many distinguished awards in recognition of his contributions to industry and society. At the present time, Dr. Harry is Chairman of the Six Sigma Management Institute and CEO of The Great Discovery, LLC.
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