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Webinar: 5 Ways to Ensure Green Belts Apply Their New Skills After Certification (Leadership) -

Investing time, money and effort into Green Belt Training & Certification is a great way to educate employees on continuous improvement concepts, tools and application. But what about after certification? Most Green Belts suffer from the waste of non-utilized talent. In this 1-hour leadership webinar, we’ll discuss how organizations can better utilize and engage certified Green Belts and their talents.

Webinar Recording: 5 Ways to Ensure Green Belts Apply Their New Skills After Certification

Webinar Presentation: 5 Ways to Ensure Green Belts Apply Their New Skills After Certification

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Webinar Level

  • Leadership

Date & Time

  • Date: Monday, August 21, 2017
  • Time: 11:00 AM – 12:00 PM PDT


  • Setting the stage for Green Belts upfront
  • Why it’s important to integrate Certified Green Belts into the CI community
  • 5 things you can do to engage Green Belts


Tracy O’Rourke, Managing Partner & Executive Advisor

Tracy is a Managing Partner & Executive Advisor at For almost 20 years, she’s helped leading organizations like Washington State, Cisco and GE build problem-solving muscles with Lean Six Sigma to achieve their goals.

Q&As From the Webinar

Webinar Transcript

Elisabeth Swan: Hi, there. Welcome to’s webinar. We’re happy to have you join us today. This webinar series is for you, our learner community. Lean and Six Sigma are the go-to methods for process improvement. And these webinars are part of our efforts to make it easy for you to use the tools and concepts of Lean Six Sigma.

My name is Elisabeth Swan. I will be your moderator today. This webinar is “5 Ways to Ensure Green Belts Apply Their New Skills After Certification.” And our presenter will be Tracy O’Rourke.

Our Expert: Tracy

Tracy O’Rourke: Hello everyone!

Elisabeth Swan: Hi, Tracy. Tracy and I are part of the core team here at Let me give you a little bit of a background on Tracy. For over 10 years, Tracy has been involved with Lean and Six Sigma process improvement. Tracy got her start with GE as a Black Belt in 1998. Since then, Tracy has been a Lean Six Sigma consultant for, oh Tracy, it has been decades.

Tracy O’Rourke: I know. I’m afraid to admit.

Elisabeth Swan: She helps organizations in industries from healthcare to financial services to manufacturing, state governments, and more. Tracy has been with since its inception. And we’re on a mission to provide effective training that is practical, accessible, and enjoyable.

And Tracy, lucky girl, lives in San Diego, California with her husband and her two sons. She is an avid biker and a hiker and a Gaelic Football player. Tracy does it all.

Tracy O’Rourke: I try.

How to Interact

Elisabeth Swan: Yeah. So during the presentation, you all are going to be in listen-only mode but there will be a question and answer period following the presentation so feel free to ask questions at any time by entering them into question area. We’ll also ask you to participate in some polls. If we don’t answer all your questions during the webinar, we will definitely post answers afterward and you will be able to see those and download this webinar on our website. So you will absolutely have access to this webinar if that’s one of your questions.

Let’s Interact!

So our first interactive session with you is to find out where you are from. We have hundreds of attendees from all over the world. So, let’s see how early or late you people are up to attend this webinar or how many people are not watching the solar eclipse right now to attend the webinar, depending on where you are.

Tracy O’Rourke: Eclipse Monday.

Elisabeth Swan: Yeah, Eclipse Monday. So please click on Ask a Question. We got some practice for you. And we want you to type in where you are dialing in from. So do that right now so we can get a look.

Let’s see.

Tracy O’Rourke: I’ll just say while we’re waiting for that, Elisabeth, I am in San Diego, California and the eclipse was supposed to happen at 10:23AM this morning Pacific Time. And unfortunately, I didn’t see much difference out there so that’s the news update on that.

Elisabeth Swan: Very cool. So let’s see. We’ve got calling in today, we have Luis, hopefully you can see the presentation. OK. We’ve got in Oregon, Janelle. We’ve got Robert in Santa Monica, Amad in Canada, Nicola, Kingstown, Jamaica. We’ve got Vina in New York. And we’ve got Michelle in Oklahoma. Let’s see. Romania, Christian. Welcome. Abdul Rahman in Saudi Arabia, welcome. West in Pensacola. Wow! We got a good spread today. Thank you guys for joining us.

Tracy O’Rourke: OK.

Elisabeth Swan: I’m going to pass it over to you.

Who Is

Tracy O’Rourke: Great. So before I get started, I’ll just say that at, our goal is to make it easy for everyone everywhere to build their problem-solving muscles and we’ve tried to provide the most practical, easy to understand and enjoyable Lean and Six Sigma training and resources available. We believe in simplifying complex concepts and believe that complexity just confuses people. We want people to be effective, and that means providing effective training that’s practical, accessible, and you can actually enjoy yourself because we take you to the Bahamas for dreamy, relaxing training on our Bahama Bistro.

So hopefully, you’ve seen that already in some of our training. And we get a lot of people saying they really like the training because it is practical, effective and fun.

We’ve Helped People From…

And there are some people that agree with us. As you can see, these are just some of the organizations that have come to for their training material and Green Belt and Belt training. So we’ve got lots of different diverse industries, healthcare, financial services, manufacturing, state government. And why is that? Because organizations never run out of problems to solve and every organization needs really good problem-solvers.

Today’s Agenda

And that’s actually a great segue into our discussion today which is really about how we make Green Belts as effective as possible. Often, I guess the problem we see when we help organizations and we’ve heard this from other organizations is, you get your Green Belt and you got your certified Green Belts and then they’re not really being leveraged very well in organizations after the certification.

So this program is really around how to ensure Green Belts apply their new skills after certification because we want to make sure that it’s an investment. Organizations are spending money and investing in their Green Belts to get them certified and trained.

And so, what are we really using them for? So, we’re going to briefly talk about the definition of a Green Belt just briefly on that. We are also going to talk about the three areas that you can really involve new Green Belts or on-going Green Belts which is selection of projects, Green Belt projects going forward, and involvement of picking those projects, lean community involvement or continuous improvement community involvements. So either of those, that’s an area.

And finally, we’ll talk a little bit about peer mentorship. And hopefully, the goal would be that you walk away from this webinar with some really good ideas into how to leverage Green Belts more effectively than just getting them trained and having them submit a Green Belt project for certification. And how do you make sure that they are staying engaged as the years and the decades come through? So let’s talk a little bit about some of these.

Green Belt

So first, we’re going to talk just briefly about what a Green Belt is. And again, very simply, Green Belt is a level in the belt level training, so it’s White Belt, Yellow Belt, Green Belt, Black Belt. But most organizations that are doing process improvement or Lean Six Sigma have some sort of Green Belt or a Black Belt level.

And the Green Belt is where the most of the active projects will occur because guess what? Green Belt is really anyone in the organization who has been trained in process improvement. They can lead projects but they typically have a regular, full-time position within the organization. And so, they are in a position to be able to really make an impact on some of the processes that they work in.

So, Green Belt can be a financial investment for an organization. And so often, when you actually spend the money and your time and money to get Green Belt certified, you want to see a return on investment. A lot of organizations do.

Poll #1:

So we already have our first poll, which is why do you guys think organization certify Green Belts? What is the reasoning behind that? And I’ll just what some of these are. Is it because – and I’m going to launch the poll in just a moment. But is it to really just hand out Green Belt certifications in the organization? Is it because someone discovers that they needed a growth plan for one of their individual employees? Or is it to build an organization of problem-solvers, or all of the above?

So let’s see which one it is. Go ahead and place your vote to see why is it that organizations certify Green Belts? What do you see, Elisabeth? Do you see organizations just handing them out, rubbing stamping Green Belts?

Elisabeth Swan: I’m seeing a mix, Tracy. I’m seeing sometimes one person is – actually, it happens often. A Green Belt themselves or someone who wants to become a Green Belt gets their manager to sponsor them. So I see that occasionally happen. But usually, it’s because it’s part of a program to build problem-solvers.

Tracy O’Rourke: Yes. So let’s go ahead and close the poll and let’s see what it says. What are the results?

Elisabeth Swan: So you’ve got over half doing the right thing, building organizational problem-solvers. But there’s almost 40% saying it’s all of this. They want to get people certified, get them their certifications, and you want to have individual growth plans, although those are 4 and 2% so way low.

Tracy O’Rourke: Definitely. OK. Let’s go ahead and close the poll. Let’s talk a little bit about that. So, I would agree and I’m glad to see that you agree that organizations are not just trying to hand out certifications and wanting to check the box although I’m sure organizations definitely want to find ways to grow individuals. I don’t believe that’s necessarily the driver of embarking on a continuous improvement program.

And my sense is that organizations are looking to build problem-solving muscles. It’s important to train people and continue strengthening those muscles with more exercise activity and use. So there is a side benefit to making more time for process improvement because you are strengthening those problem-solving muscles.

It’s important to train people and continue strengthening those muscles with more exercise activity and use. So there is a side benefit to making more time for process improvement because you are strengthening those problem-solving muscles.

And many of us have been problem-solvers our whole life. But this is really related to process problem-solving. And again, like we said in the beginning, ultimately, we are looking to make sure that we’ve got an organization of problem-solvers. People are organization’s most valuable asset. And if we have really good problem-solvers, that will be a differentiator for many organizations. They become more agile, more flexible, more responsive to change, all of those things.

So, Green Belts training can serve as an entry way into stronger commitments and learning to apply those skills. So let’s talk about some ideas and ways to continue to keep Green Belts engaged.

Project Selection & Improvement

So first of all, this is an interesting concept. And when I was at GE Appliances, they did do this. They were basically saying, if you become a Green Belt that you should be completing Green Belt projects every year, not just the year that you certify.

And that really depends on what the organization wants to do. I see anywhere from one to three projects per year that are expected of a Green Belt. And GE did this as well. I was a Black Belt at GE and I had 35 Green Belts, and each of those were responsible for doing two projects a year. And so, I was responsible for helping them close a total of 70 projects a year, which sounds like a lot.

And so, this was something that was just expected that employees, if they sign up for a Green Belt training, ideally, you want to set up the expectation that they will be delivering projects every year. And ultimately, ideally, it’s with their direct manager that they’re identifying projects, selecting those Green Belt projects and then checking in with their direct manager for a completion.

And I think that’s really important because if it’s the direct manager that’s following up with the Green Belt then they are going to be more likely to make it a priority. And so, as a Black Belt of GE, I was not responsible necessarily for following up on the people that weren’t actually hitting that number. It was what their manager that was the one that would follow up with them, “So, what’s going on with your project? Have you completed it?”

So, not only did they require and expect Green Belts to continue with projects each year, but they were also saying that the manager would be responsible for identifying those projects and then the Black Belt would really work with those people that have already found the projects. So that was kind of an important situation or arrangement to make sure that Black Belts weren’t – they weren’t ankle biters is what I call them where they are bugging people but don’t really have the authority to bug them. We don’t want Black Belts to become ankle biters.

So the thing is is that not every problem is a process problem and not every problem is DMAIC. Green Belts and direct manager should work together to identify the right areas for Green Belts and for DMAIC application.

Lean Six Sigma Project Types

So let’s just talk a little bit about the different types of improvements, and this is actually something that’s available on our website as well on’s website about the different project types.

So again, not every project is a process-related issue. And sometimes it’s just project management skills that are coming into play. There’s new technology implementation or a system upgrade. And that’s not necessarily a DMAIC or root cause methodology application.

So, we’re really looking for ideal projects for Green Belt candidates. And here’s a list of some of the different kinds of projects. Sometimes you find a quick win. It’s a simple solution. You’ve seen this problem before. It’s a known issue. You even know the root cause and you’re like, “Oh yeah, let’s just do this.” And you implement the solution and it’s fixed.

Then there is the process improvement one and this is the one, the pink column that we’re really looking for in terms of opportunity. It’s incremental reduction of defects or lead time of a process.

And typically, we don’t really know what the root cause is. You might have a very good hypothesis of what the problem is but that’s the whole point is you go into this, you apply the methodology to see if that root cause or that hypothesis is true and then you actually can work through analyzing the process. So that’s the one we’re really looking for.

Sometimes it’s a complete redesign or the process doesn’t exist. So those are the two that follow it, the orange and green or the third and fourth starting from the left.

And finally, infrastructure implementation, you have no measures and you’re trying to determine some of these measures. And so, it’s not necessarily a DMAIC or root cause application. It’s really about establishing how you’re going to quantify that it’s better.

So that is in a nutshell very quickly the different kinds of types of projects. So you can see that sometimes leaders actually need help with figuring out what is a good Green Belt project. So involving the Green Belt and having a discussion with the leader and the Green Belt on what projects would be good is always can be very beneficial.

Unfortunately, I’ve seen sometimes managers hand Green Belt solutions to implement, so they’re not really leveraging the skills at all for that. Ultimately, we want to make sure that we’re identifying projects.

Another idea for this identification of projects is if you have a problem board. So problem boards, a lot of organizations have these now. It’s a great way to discuss problems or get problems out from employees and they will have problems that they’re working on a board like this. And sometimes you can find a good Green Belt project on one of these problem boards. So those are also good places to look.

But ultimately, what we’re trying to do is this is the first way to ensure Green Belts use their skills, expect projects every year, not just the project to get certified. And that is really important. It’s probably the number one way to leverage their skills. And I’m finding people are doing that more and more.

Culture Building & Involvement

1. Green Belts Should Help Build a Culture of Continuous Improvement

Another way to engage Green Belts is to involve them in culture-building and involvement in the culture. So having a purposeful culture is a really important component that I often think people in organizations don’t spend enough time thinking about. How do you develop a purposeful continuous improvement culture? What are some of the things that we could be doing as an organization to make our organization and culture more around process and fixing processes?

So, it’s being mindful and intentional about that. Often, it could be defending the culture you want versus allowing the culture to be whatever manifests.

So, there was a book called “Boundaries for Leaders that I’ve read. And in that book, it said, “Culture is created by what is tolerated or allowed and what is promoted.” So what you allow and tolerate, what people get away with and what you promote, those are two really important things to think about in your culture. So they could be very interesting questions that leadership and even employees ask themselves. What do we actually allow?

“Culture is created by what is tolerated or allowed and what is promoted.”

And an example might be, sometimes we don’t even realize what’s happening but sometimes we allow disrespect in the organization. And if we allow the disrespect in the organization then the culture becomes disrespectful.

On the other hand, if you promote certain behaviors like rewarding or reinforcing behaviors you want to see, so for example showcasing process improvement and Green Belt efforts. It can help shape the culture a great deal.

So, how do we make sure that we’re keeping that continuous improvement community and culture alive and active? Involving Green Belts in participation of that, building it, sustaining continuous improvement culture is really integral.

Lean Tour Participation

2. Green Belts Should Participate in Lean Tour Facilitation

So there are two things that you can do to involve Green Belts and culture-building. One of them is that Green Belts can participate in a Lean tour. So, a Lean tour or it could be a continuous improvement tour, whatever you decide to do. But a Lean tour is basically an hour to an hour and a half visit from people that are interested in learning more about Lean culture and how your organization is implementing Lean.

So often, tours are a best practice in industry especially in the Lean world. And ultimately, it’s really to share your story. You don’t have to wait until you’ve achieved perfection. Quite frankly, everyone is on the journey in different places and sharing where you are in the journey and the lessons learned is what people really are looking for because a lot of times they can really pick up some really good insights into some of these tours.

And in my experience, Lean tours have provided a great source of inspiration for those that attend. They get to really see and feel what a Lean culture feels like. They get to see some of the daily management systems. They get to see some of the kanbans that have been implemented. So they get to see not only tools but they also get to see some of the culture.

So if you’re doing a tour, then you should involve Green Belts in facilitating or presenting during the tour. And if you’re not doing a tour, you should really consider doing one.

So there is an agency, it’s a government agency in King County that’s located in Downtown Seattle and they do a tour on the last Monday of each month to share what they’ve been doing in government to become more of a continuous improvement culture. And I think what’s really exciting about that is Nordstrom has visited them, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has visited and Costco and Amazon have visited. Public sector organization and that was really exciting for them because they’re like, “They’re coming to us to see how we’re doing these things.”

“They’re coming to us to see how we’re doing these things.”

So, involving Green Belts in presenting during the tour, maybe there are stop. Maybe they can show them what the board is working on or if they’re using any visual management or if they want to share what their project was and how it’s better. Those are all great ways to do it and culturally, they can answer Q&A as well. So that’s definitely one way to involve Green Belts in the culture-building aspect.

3. Green Belts Should Be Involved in Creating Community Events

Another way to involve Green Belts is to get them involved in creating community events. So, brainstorming what kinds of continuous improvement communities, events, that we want to have throughout the year can be really helpful. They always have some great insights into some of the things that they want to see.

Also, helping to conduct gallery walks. So gallery walks if you’re not familiar with those is basically posting. They could be visual boards or presentations of some kind and people can walk through and see the gallery of projects. And often the person who did the project is there talking about their project with anyone that’s interested in learning more.

And those are always fun ways to create some discussion and getting some exposure to some of the work that has been done because I do hear that sometimes is people say, “Oh, I didn’t hear about any of these process improvements before.” And that’s too bad because this is really good work happening in the organization.

And how do we make sure we communicate it in a fun and effective way? I’ve heard people say, “Oh, we put a newsletter.” Nobody reads the newsletter.

So, those are the things we want to think about is how do we create some activity and engagement and excitement. And speaking of that, another way to do it is Green Belt celebration ceremonies. So often, Green Belts have to go through training of some kind. They take an exam and then they often will apply their skills in a project and then there are some celebration of where you showcase the projects and the Green Belts get their Green Belt certificates.

And here’s a picture of one that was done in government. They went through the Lean Six Sigma program, the Green Belt program for And that’s Jim and his boss brought him balloons, isn’t that nice?

And so, it was really fun. It was a really fun event. They had about 10 stations and each of these stations had the project on this board that you see. And it was really fun. And one of the employees actually made them those Green Belts. So hanging over his shoulder is a handmade Green Belt from another employee. Isn’t that nice?

So you can really make it exciting and meaningful. And if we’re thoughtful and purposeful about it, it could be a really rewarding way to involve Green Belts. I like to say that you can make Green Belts the official continuous improvement ambassadors even or CIA for your organization.

So as a recap, the first way to ensure Green Belts use their skills is expect projects every year. The second way would be to ensure Green Belt use their skills as a continuous improvement ambassador. Involve them in culture building. And we gave you two specific ways to do that, Lean tour and community events.

Peer Mentorship

4. Green Belts Should Participate as a Peer Coach

The third way to involve a Green Belt is what I call peer mentorship. And this would be peer to peer, meaning new Green Belts, mentoring new Green Belts. I don’t see this being leveraged as well as it could but often when Green Belts go through training, they are learning all kinds of awesome tools, project charters, SIPOC, fishbone diagrams.

And during this development, they’re building their own project charters. They are building their own SIPOC for their projects. And often, you can put together a group review session and you can have the Green Belts talk about what’s working well for these tools.

So, they’ve already been introduced potentially to giving feedback for other Green Belts and we often promote the Plus/Delta format which I’ll share in just a second. But why not allow Green Belts to give good feedback to their peers on some of these tools? It builds skill for the Green Belts. The new Green Belts learn from the older Green Belts or the more – the alumni Green Belts if you will. And the alumni Green Belts are keeping their skills fresh and up-to-date because they’re actually providing feedback which is also a skill they need to develop anyway.


So, they are learning how to look at a project charter and then give feedback to their peer about what’s really working on that charter and what could be changed. So again, this is what we call the Plus/Delta format.

So often, you can have a Green Belt practice this model so giving feedback, and I always follow this mode because I just think it’s a simple, easy way to give feedback. Always start with the positive and then focus on what could be the deltas, what you would like to see changed or what you would recommend changing.

So for example, it could be about a project charter and a Green Belt could be something to say, “This looks like a great and achievable goal statement.” And you also have a really substantial business case because it quantifies the dollar impact or the customer impact. Some suggestions I have would be to make the problem statement more quantifiable with a measure. And also, it seems like there are a lot of people on this team. There are 15 people. And I’m wondering if there’s a way that we can reduce that amount to something more manageable.

So, talking in that form gives them practice for coaching as well as on the tools. And I’d highly recommend it. And you’re going to see people during these group reviews that you may have and group reviews again is something that you can arrange and set up where if they’re doing online Green Belt together, asynchronously, they can come together for these group sessions and talk about some of the tools.

But I would highly recommend doing that because it really – people start to give really good feedback. They actually get really good at recognizing good problem statements or good charters and then providing feedback on suggestions. And it’s a great way to build that skill. So I’d highly recommend leveraging Green Belt in that way.

5. Green Belts Should Help Facilitate Yellow Belt Activities

So another way to leverage Green Belts is to help facilitate Yellow Belt activities. So again, Yellow Belts, there is – Yellow Belts are great. I would recommend doing Yellow Belt even though some organizations don’t. Yellow Belts are great ways to get introductory skills out there to put – dip people’s toe in the water with process improvement. You can learn some really good basic skills that people can apply immediately. And why wouldn’t you do Yellow Belt? Because guess what? Now, you got a ton of Green Belts that can help Yellow Belts with some of this work.

So again, Green Belts can be looked at as a mentor to Yellow Belts. So a couple of examples could be that you help facilitate Yellow Belt activities like waste walks and 5S events. And if you haven’t gone through the Yellow Belt, I’d recommend that you do go through the Yellow Belt to learn what the waste walks are and the 5S events are. But they are very easy to do. If you know what the 8 wastes are, it’s basically walking around looking for the waste and documenting what you find and then figuring out what you’re going to do about it.

So, this is a great way for Yellow Belts and Green Belts to team up so that they can build these skills together.

So as a recap, we’ve covered the 5 ways to ensure Green Belt use their skills; expecting those Green Belt projects every year, encouraging participation from these Green Belts in the form of continuous improvement ambassadors for continuous tour community events, and then we definitely talked about peer mentorship for Green Belts as well as Yellow Belt mentorships. So these are all ways that you can involve Green Belts to ensure that they are using their skills after they get certification.

Poll #2:

I hope you remember all that because now, we’re going to go ahead and launch the next poll. So what we want to know is how many of you are working with an organization that has done any of the following to involve Green Belts? So let’s go ahead and launch this poll. And we got a list there. Go ahead and fill out the ones that you feel like your organization has done:

Require projects every year.

Participate in community building activities or be a peer for another Green Belt or Yellow Belt.

Or maybe, you’re one of those lucky ones that say all of the above.

Or unfortunately, some of you to say none of the above.

Elisabeth Swan: I think more and more of B, participate in community building activities, which is great. People realizing or groups realizing outreach is a big piece of making a culture of problem-solvers. You want other people to see what the Green Belts have been doing, what they have accomplished, their excitement, their work. It’s always a great experience.

Tracy O’Rourke: Yes. Good. That’s wonderful. All right. Let’s go ahead and close this poll and see what our results are. What do we have?

Elisabeth Swan: Well, it turns out it’s a good thing you did this webinar because 54% say none of the above. So these things are not happening.

Tracy O’Rourke: Oh no!

Elisabeth Swan: Yeah. So of the ones that are happening, 15% creates Green Belt peer mentorship opportunities, 15% participate in community building activities, and only 11% require Green Belt projects to be completed each year. That is such a failure. And we’ve seen and we’ve been there so we know that people just get their projects done and it’s moving on and then they are done that so now on to the next.

Tracy O’Rourke: Yes. I would absolutely agree, Elisabeth. So, the fact that we’re not spending enough time engaging Green Belts after fact is really just a waste of resources. That is one of the 8 wastes, right? It’s underutilized talent. You just spent all this money and time. The Green Belt invested their time and their effort and the organization that’s investing its money and we’re not doing anything with these Green Belts. And that is unfortunate.

Elisabeth Swan: Very much.

Got Ideas?

Tracy O’Rourke: Oh, kills me! Well, thank you for sharing. So what we want to do now is we would love to hear about any other ideas that you might have that would help engage Green Belts after certification. So, if you have any ideas, why don’t you go ahead and just go to the question window and type in your idea. You could as brief as possible. It would be helpful. So in case we have a lot of responses but we’d love to hear some of your ideas or maybe your organization has done something different to involved Green Belts. So I’d love to hear any.

And I don’t know if you’ve seen any other ideas, Elisabeth, out there to involve Green Belts after certification. Have you?

Elisabeth Swan: Let’s see. It’s more around different types of community events. There’s a local nonprofit and they’re inviting other nonprofits to come and view their gallery walk, the projects that they have done so that they get the idea too that nonprofits are – can bring Lean Six Sigma into the organization, which is great.

Here’s one. You’ve got mentorship program and personal home improvement projects. That’s always fun, hearing what people have done at home. We’ve just had a Green Belt share with us the family kanban board. It’s how all the kids know what jobs they are supposed to do, who has cleaned their room, who hasn’t cleaned their room who has taken out the trash yet. And it works, which is a kind of amazing.

Another one is Lean MDI huddles and programs. Are familiar with MDI? I’m not that – acronym isn’t …

Tracy O’Rourke: Yeah. Can you share what MDI is? That would be wonderful. And while we are waiting for that, I just want to speak about the personal examples. I actually love that. And that’s a great idea because somehow, we’re all dealing with things that are very similar in the home and sometimes those examples resonate really well with application, just as you had said, Elisabeth, the personal kanban.

I wrote a blog recently called How I Eliminated My Shoe Addiction Using Lean Six Sigma. And that was really around putting a kanban in for my shoe, my shoe collection. And it has worked. And so, I really do appreciate and like that idea.

And so, how do we promote that – those ideas or those applications and share them internally as Green Belts continue to work? Good. Thank you for that. Great idea.

Elisabeth Swan: And Roger wrote back. MDI, managing for daily improvements. That’s a great one.

Tracy O’Rourke: Yes, that’s wonderful. So can you just write what he – can you just repeat what he wrote with the MDI in place?

Elisabeth Swan: So he said, “The idea is Lean MDI huddles and programs.” So managing for daily improvements. Think about Paul Akers 2 Second Lean, asking his employees to do at least one improvement even if it’s just was a 2 Second game of efficiency. And this sounds like Roger is recommending huddle so everyone can share what was their improvement that they’ve just made. So you share the improvements, you get momentum and enthusiasm and excitement with the huddles. So those are great

Tracy O’Rourke: Yes. And I would even suggest too, and maybe he meant this too, that Green Belts can lead potentially even help organize or even help lead the facilitation of people participating in the huddle or maybe they can lead changing the huddle boards, if you have a board, what’s working, what’s not. These are all great facilitation exposure and examples although really anybody in the huddle could do it but I actually think if Green Belts are very proliferating throughout the organization, that’s a great way to use them. Thank you, Roger.

Elisabeth Swan: Yeah. Let’s see. Some companies invite other companies to attend. Example, gemba walks or to observe whiteboards. I’m going to mispronounce it, but Asaichi meetings, A-S-A-I-C-H-I meetings, and give feedback. It’s enormous experience for both parties.

Tracy O’Rourke: Yes. So, as people are doing gemba walk, it sounds to me like how do you bring people in for observation? I think that’s a great idea too. And people have to be pretty comfortable with that but – and probably know the ground rules of not stepping in because some people just want to jump right in and tell you how to do it. But I agree, I think that’s a great way to share knowledge and share learning opportunities.

Elisabeth Swan: This is another fun one. Louise said, “Give a real belt to employee to be shown on his chair or desk and then give him or her a stripe for each concluded project. So bringing exposure and motivation, a real belt like a karate belt.

Tracy O’Rourke: That’s great! That is a great way to show recognition and a nice way to see how many projects people have done. It’s just a great way to sort of make a tally, a visual tally of some of the efforts people are doing. I like that. And we’ve talked about badges even, giving people badges for training completed. has something like that. And people doing it internally is great.

Elisabeth Swan: Those are great. Those are great one. Abdul Rahman said, “Rewards for completing projects.” So giving Green Belts rewards. And Kate suggested quarterly campaign, client assessments, see if existing client’s campaign are producing return on investments. So just sort of checking the impact and I guess relaying that to the workforce. What has been the impact of the projects to keep that top of mind and visible?

Tracy O’Rourke: Yes. I would definitely agree. Do you say that was Kate?

Elisabeth Swan: Yup.

Tracy O’Rourke: What’s really surprising about that I often see is people really don’t know necessarily what improvements have been made unless they have been shared widely. So as much as people go, “You know, I don’t want to really share what I did.” It’s so important because people get ideas. They see that activities happening.

So as much as people go, “You know, I don’t want to really share what I did.” It’s so important because people get ideas. They see that activities happening.

I was working with an organization. It was a government agency. And they had done some significant process improvement work, probably about, I want to say, in a 6-month period, had done about ten significant improvement projects. And they’re a parent company if you will so they’re a division. They report into a department. A department representative came in and he had – this person had different results because I heard that the results aren’t that good. And I was shocked. And when we shared all of the results, he had it known.

So sharing some of that, making sure that people understand what it is especially the impact is really important especially if you’re looking to promote the idea that we need more Green Belts. They want to see the results.

So thank you for that. That was a great insight on that.

Elisabeth Swan: And then one last one I might have missed. This is Babatundi who also gave us the personal home improvement projects, suggested a formal mentorship program.

Tracy O’Rourke: Yes. And so, I don’t know if you have ideas about what that formal mentorship program would look like but I agree with you. Actually, having a mentor is successful in itself. People always say, “If you want to be really successful and you want to get promoted, you need to find a mentor.”

And I think that is absolutely applicable in the Lean Six Sigma process improvement world as well. Finding a mentor to make sure that if you are unsure about something, you don’t know how to run a certain tool or you haven’t done it in a long time, being able to go somebody to mentor you or even if you’re running into a situation where the champion has a difficult conversation. People aren’t following up. And you go to a mentor to get some advice on how to handle that I think is critical. So, making it formal I think is a great idea.

Elisabeth Swan: That’s nice. These are great. Thanks everybody. No, that was it for now. One more. What have I got? To support the previous idea, the quarterly campaign. It’s important to share quick and even small but evaluated wins known in the organization. Big projects take time. Quick wins inspire and make it more possible to everyone. And that’s Ostea. Apologies if I’ve mispronounced your name.

Tracy O’Rourke: Wonderful. Excellent. Thank you for all of that. I love hearing some of your ideas. And I think that those are great. So hopefully, you get lots of ideas not just from Elisabeth and I on how to engage Green Belts more but also from our audience. So thank you.

Planning to Involve Green Belts

So ultimately, I would say that I think involving Green Belts, I think the most important thing you could do is to be purposeful about how to involve them and start early. I’d say that having a discussion strategically how to plan involvement and having that discussion every year is a really important piece because you want to make sure you’re involving Green Belts. You’re being purposeful about it. You want to be able to communicate and share that broadly so that they can really get behind it as well.

I think often this has sort of a little ad hoc or last minute feels unorganized, and it doesn’t feel good. It doesn’t feel very respectful. And it really doesn’t give them time to think or decide how they’re going to plan to engage.

So involving Green Belts early in planning for it and talking about it every year is really important. So I would even say plan, do, check, and adjust what this plan is and PDCA and see how it’s going. You have a plan to involve the Green Belts, you’re doing it, now check on it. How is it going? How do they feel how it’s going? Is there adjustments we should be making in the next quarter that we want to collaborate?

So, really important in terms of being purposeful. It should be definitely a question that when you’re planning the – when you have an annual planning session for Lean Six Sigma, this is a question you should be asking every year. How is it – if you did it last year, if you involved Green Belts last year, are you going to continue those things? Are you going to make a change? Are you going do it differently? What is their feedback?

And so, this is – we cover the strategic planning elements of a Lean Six Sigma Program Office in this webinar. So if you have an interest in understanding what that looks like annually, ultimately, this should be embedded in a discussion during the strategic planning session. And if you want to learn more about strategic planning, this is the webinar to go to.

Q & A

So we have Q&A now. Time for question and answer. I don’t know if you have any questions about this webinar, what we’ve covered in terms of how to ensure Green Belts apply their skills after certification. I’m going to let you think about it. And if you do have a question, please put it in the question window, just the same place that you put your ideas for how to also engage other Green Belts.

Getting Started

And while we’re waiting for those questions to come in, we’re going to go ahead and cover a few other things. So first, you can learn more by starting with some more training. So I’m not sure if you’ve done any Yellow Belt or Green Belt or a Black Belt, maybe this pique your interest and maybe getting Green Belts involved in being a mentor for Yellow Belts.

We’ve got a free Yellow Belt training. It’s available. Take a look at it. It’s a great way to see what kind of things a Green Belt could be mentoring a Yellow Belt on. So I highly recommend it. People really like that Yellow Belt training because it’s simple, easy and fun. And obviously, we’ve got all the other belts too, Green Belt, we’ve got the Black Belt training, and then the Lean training as well. So these are all ways to get started if you haven’t gone through any of these types of trainings before.

Also, we have an upcoming webinar next month. It will not be happening on Eclipse Monday. And Elisabeth, I’m going to hand it over to Elisabeth to talk a little bit more about what this upcoming webinar is about.

Upcoming Webinars

Elisabeth Swan: Sure. Last month’s webinar, we covered what kinds of charts and graphs are the best to showcase your data, convince other people to make improvements or convince people there’s an issue or to showcase your improvement once you’re done to show a before and after. So we did the basic 5 basic different charts and graphs.

And now, we’re going to take a step backward and say, “Well, what data would we need to build those charts and how would we set it up in Excel, in a spreadsheet or to get ready for SigmaXL or Minitab or some statistics package. So this is a follow-on webinar and it goes together well if you want to figure out basically how to showcase your data and who to collect the data properly to do that.

Tracy O’Rourke: Wonderful. And are you finding that people really are asking a lot about this? This is actually one of the things that people have requested that we cover. Is that right?

Elisabeth Swan: Yeah, this is something that Green Belts understand where anyone doing a process improvement understands, well, this is an issue. It’s a problem. Well now, we have to either prove that that’s really a problem and then I have to do some analysis to understand it’s a problem but there’s not usually in-depth explanation of, “Well, I collected that data. Where does it go? How do I set that up? What? Is it column? Is it a row? Some really simple questions that some people just aren’t familiar with so that became just a big area of question and we thought we spill the hole.

Tracy O’Rourke: Wonderful. Thank you, Elisabeth. Looking forward to that one.

Just-In-Time Podcast

And also, something else we’re looking forward to is our Just-In-Time Podcast. And this was – we interviewed John Guaspari and he wrote a book. I’m going to let you talk a little bit about that. And the podcast is about engage employees? Make process improvement happen. So tell us a little bit about this podcast, Elisabeth?

Elisabeth Swan: Well, this one is timely based on this webinar talking about how to keep Green Belts engaged. And he took the topic in a broader way addressing it to leaders and saying, how do you keep employees engaged? And that words like engagement, empowerment, trust, respect become a little bit fuzzy in their meaning and people think, “Well, we just hold an event and then we get engagement.”

And he really dissects it and he does it with a fun, fable sort of satire family called the Wilsons. He does a little episode with the Wilsons trying to use post-its and whiteboards and engagement surveys with their family and then he takes that into, well, how would you actually use that in your own business? So really interesting.

Q & A

Tracy O’Rourke: Very nice. Thank you, Elisabeth. OK. So let’s see if there are any questions that have come through about the webinar. Now, this might be a little hard for your to find because there’s a lot of stuff in there now because we got a lot of good feedback.

Elisabeth Swan: OK. So there are some good questions. One is a simple one. Do you know how to get on a list to do a Lean tour with King County?

Tracy O’Rourke: Absolutely. We can send you the link. So I will do that in our Q&A that we send out. And they do it every month, the last Monday of every month. And they would love to have people come tour them.

Elisabeth Swan: OK. That was for Janelle. Maxim is asking, “How to manage a Green Belt if there are no other Lean Six Sigma belts in the company? For example, when a company is just starting from scratch with a Lean Six Sigma culture.”

Tracy O’Rourke: Well, the good news is you’ve got a trailblazer and an early adaptor. And typically in the world of change management, you leverage those early adopters as much as possible because often, there are some people in the organization that are going to need to see that it works, that are going to need to see that process improvement works before they’re going to even try it.

So my recommendation would be to have the person and hopefully they have completed a project already, but if not, to complete one as soon as possible, a good one, and then share it widely. Share it broadly and try to leverage that success to get more recruits for Green Belts.

Do you have any suggestions on that, Elisabeth?

Elisabeth Swan: No, that was great. It was great, Tracy. It was a good description. There are two questions that are very similar. Eusebio is asking, “What would be a good number of Green Belts for an organization? Is there a sweet spot in your experience?”

And then Louise asked, “Is there a right percentage of certified Green Belts employees in a company? This way, I know if I need to invest more time on training some more or just maintaining the ones I have?”

Tracy O’Rourke: Well, I think he brought up a very important point. And ultimately, if everyone in an organization was a Green Belt, that would be wonderful because they would all understand and have the same common language, if they said they were in the measure phase, I really would know what that meant. If they said, “We’re jumping to solution,” people really know that they mean we should be doing DMAIC.

So having everyone trained at a certain level, I think is really important. But I think the other consideration around that is not train everybody at once. And what I mean by that is you want to make sure people are using the skills just as we’ve talked about.

And there are some time and effort that needs to go into that. If you just train everybody in the organization all at one and nobody uses it then they’re not going to feel like there was value. So I would say that you need to have or create some sort of wave approach if you will where people are relating the skills, and then you have resources to help those people apply the skills and then repeat. And hopefully, we have one person as we’re discussing can help bring other ways up to speed as mentors and with involvement.

So, you really want to make sure that people are getting trained and that they’re getting the help to apply the skills. And how fast you do that really is going to determine how many you should be training at once. And I hope that makes sense.

…you really want to make sure that people are getting trained and that they’re getting the help to apply the skills.

Elisabeth Swan: That’s a good one, yeah. So I believe in, we call them flights or waves, and that’s a nice technique.

Roger has a question for you. Do you have a scorecard that shows return on investment?

Tracy O’Rourke: We do have recommendations on how to set one up. So we have dashboards that it’s in our strategic blogs and in the webinar. It’s talks about creating a dashboard. And ultimately, every organization has different reasons why they implement Lean Six Sigma. And so, those dashboard metrics should reflect what your company is trying to do.

And so generally, people are doing that to improve productivity, to improve customer satisfaction, or to save money. And so, if it’s all three, you need measure for all three. And you need to pick projects that are going to reflect all three. And I think often what I see is people aren’t completely clear on measures of success for Lean Six Sigma program. And it really has to have that as an input to strategy part.

So I would – I hope this is helping, but I highly recommend going through our strategic planning webinar and specifically, in the section about creating the dashboard. We’ve got metrics that people have used at different points.

So for example, when you’re just starting off on a Lean Six Sigma initiative, some people are going to use training, number of people trained as a measure. But later, that becomes project results potentially.

So a lot of it can depend on where you are in the journey and really are you trying to accomplish this year? And how are you going to measure that success this year and how does that fit into the 5-year plan?

So that was a loaded question. You got a lot of answers. I hope that helped.

Elisabeth Swan: No, that’s great. I think the main message there was that your metrics will change so you’ve got to keep monitoring what you’re measuring.

Tracy O’Rourke: Yup, exactly.

Elisabeth Swan: Well, Tracy, that brings our webinar into its own eclipse.

Tracy O’Rourke: Wonderful. OK. So thank you very much everyone for coming to the webinar. Is there anything else you want to say, Elisabeth?

Elisabeth Swan: No, that was great, really helpful. I learned a few things from you, Tracy.

Tracy O’Rourke: OK. Wonderful. So, don’t forget. There are lots of free templates or tools on our website, and obviously, a list of training for all of the levels of training to build your problem-solving muscles. Don’t forget. The Yellow Belt training is free. And thank you for joining us today. We really look forward to seeing you or hearing your participation next time. And watch out for our invitation for next month’s webinar.

Elisabeth Swan: See you all later.

Tracy O’Rourke: Bye-bye.

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Tracy O'Rourke

Tracy is a Managing Partner & Executive Advisor at She is also a Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Instructor at University of California San Diego and teaches in San Diego State University’s Lean Enterprise Program. For almost 20 years, she has helped leading organizations like Washington State, Charles Schwab and GE build problem-solving muscles.