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29,1 A conceptual model for the
successful deployment of Lean
Six Sigma
Roger John Hilton and Amrik Sohal
Department of Management, Monash University, Caulfield East, Australia

Purpose – The purpose of this paper is to examine the relationship between the successful
deployment of Lean Six Sigma and a number of key explanatory variables that essentially comprise
the competence of the organization, the competence of the deployment facilitator and the competence
of the project leaders.
Design/methodology/approach – The preliminary fieldwork involved interviews with two senior
Master Black Belts; then, combined with the results of a literature review, the authors develop a
conceptual model. A number of hypotheses are developed and the procedures involved in empirically
testing these hypotheses are briefly explained.
Findings – Technical and interpersonal attributes of Black Belts and Master Black Belts are
identified as well as the factors for success in deploying Lean Six Sigma. These factors relate to:
leadership, communication, behavior and awareness of Six Sigma; policies, culture and organizational
support and strategy; education, training and competency of the Six Sigma experts; project
improvement teams and project management; and performance evaluations based on quality criteria,
information systems, data and measurement.
Originality/value – The paper produces a predictive model for the successful deployment of a
continuous improvement program such as Lean Six Sigma.
Keywords Six Sigma, Lean production, Lean Six Sigma, Master Black Belt, Black Belt, Competences,
Critical success factors, Total quality management
Paper type Research paper

Six Sigma has been adopted as a major initiative by some of the leading companies
throughout the world (Hahn et al., 1999). It has gained wide acceptance as an
improvement methodology to enhance an organization’s competitiveness (Lee and
Choi, 2006). Lean thinking or lean principles, coined by Womack (Womack and Jones,
1996) has been combined with a Six Sigma program to enhance the impact on a
company’s performance and is referred to as Lean Six Sigma. According to George
(2003), lean identifies inefficiencies and waste in all processes in both manufacturing and
service, addressing speed, flexibility and quality while Six Sigma’s data-driven analysis
delivers precision and accuracy.
We define “Lean Six Sigma” as a philosophy comprising a number of organizational
International Journal of Quality factors that are critical to the successful deployment in which the senior Six Sigma
& Reliability Management facilitators known as Black Belts (Harry, 1998) adopt the Six Sigma methodology
Vol. 29 No. 1, 2012
pp. 54-70 referred to as define-measure-analyze-improve-control (DMAIC) phases (Harry and
q Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Schroeder, 2000) and within each phase various statistical and lean tools are selected
DOI 10.1108/02656711211190873 as appropriate (Pyzdek, 2003; Womack and Jones, 1996).
In this paper, we develop a model describing the relationship between the successful Deployment of
deployment of Lean Six Sigma from a number of key explanatory variables that Lean Six Sigma
essentially comprise the competence of the organization, the competence of the
deployment facilitator and the competence of the project leaders. This model has been
derived from a review of the literature on critical success factors that drive sustainable
continuous improvement and a competency-based theory for successful performance
(Huq, 2006). In order to get a better understanding of the model we have conducted 55
preliminary interviews with two senior practitioners and subject matter experts in
Lean Six Sigma.
We demonstrate that the same model could apply to any continuous improvement
deployment in general, that is Six Sigma, TQM, Lean principles, business process
reengineering and process improvement and other models for improvement. This is
because a number of authors have demonstrated that there are similar practices between
Lean Six Sigma, Six Sigma, Lean and TQM (Naslund, 2008; Andersson et al., 2006;
Bendell, 2006; Zu et al., 2010).
In the first section of this paper, we provide a review of the literature on
organizational competence and subject matter expert competence including both the
deployment facilitator and the project leaders. In the next section, we provide a summary
of the results of the preliminary interviews from the two subject matter experts in Lean
Six Sigma. We then develop a model of Lean Six Sigma deployment success based on the
literature review and the preliminary interviews. Hypotheses are developed and the
various constructs that might comprise the variables of the model are discussed. Finally,
we discuss the ways to test the model including the proposed sample of the Lean
Six Sigma program facilitators, the research limitations and offer some conclusions
about the practical implications and impact of such a model to assist with continuous
improvement within business. We finish by offering suggestions for further research
work that could be useful for practitioners in deploying Lean Six Sigma.

Literature review
It has been widely demonstrated in the literature that many organizations have
produced substantial cost savings through Six Sigma deployment (Motwani et al.,
2004; Banuelas and Antony, 2002; Gabor, 2001). There is some evidence for Lean Six
Sigma (Best Practices, LLC, 2005; Shah et al., 2008; Leipold, 2007; Kumar et al., 2006;
Does et al., 2009; Cotton, 2006). It is unclear whether this impact has been short term or
has been sustained in the long term. It has been suggested that Lean Six Sigma can
only be successful if sustained over a long period of time and it depends on where the
organization is at with respect to a maturity model of Lean Six Sigma (Raje, 2009).
In order to adopt Lean Six Sigma as a rigid data-driven approach to achieve higher
quality performance in the long term, it has been suggested that a company must
develop a unique combination of resources and competencies that “bring home” the
benefits of Six Sigma (Huq, 2006). This competency-based perspective is based on
the premise that a company needs to have the assets, skills and resources necessary to
perform some selected activities systematically in order to achieve a better competitive
position in the market place (Eriksen and Mikkelsen, 1996; Sanchez, 1996). According to
these authors, the competencies have a cognitive aspect in terms of knowledge and skills
the company possesses and an action aspect that enables a company to deploy its
competencies in a coordinated manner.
IJQRM According to Huq (2006), these competencies also include both personal and
29,1 corporate competencies. Personal competencies comprise the technical knowledge and
charisma of the Six Sigma facilitators leading the Six Sigma or Lean Sigma
deployment, that is the Black Belts and Master Black Belts. Corporate competencies
comprise a combination of skills, knowledge and experience that enable a firm to
implement a change program successfully (Dunphy et al., 1997). These skills and
56 knowledge are embedded in a corporate culture and work methods and they can only
develop through continual process improvement efforts (Huq, 2006).
Organizations achieve success through the integrated functioning of people,
processes, and technology. The strength of organization development lies in its roots in
organization behavior and dynamics, and the application of action research to improve
human performance and organizational effectiveness. Six Sigma offers advantages as
a complement to use with other, less technical organizational development techniques
when interventions are required to improve operational processes ( Jeffery, 2005).
We argue that for Lean Six Sigma to be successful, it must have both technically
and interpersonally competent facilitators managing the program and leading the
improvement projects and the company must have a unique combination of resources
and competencies so that the program is sustained in the long term (Huq, 2006). This is
consistent with the classical human resources model which evaluates an organization
based on the three C’s – competence of the workforce, commitment of the management
and culture of the organization (Rao, 1999). The question arises, how to get more
people – not just the Lean Six Sigma facilitators – to overcome the mental barriers of
using statistical analysis using the DMAIC methodology for everyday improvements
within their workplace (Wiklund and Wiklund, 2002).
An example of a competency-based perspective of success is where leadership
commitment, open communication, employee empowerment and team structures exist
in an organization (Powell, 1995). It seems reasonable to assume that these factors are
independent of the type of improvement program so would equally apply to Six Sigma
and Lean Six Sigma (Naslund, 2008). Organizational competency also includes the
concepts of a learning organization, an ability to work in teams and an appropriate
infrastructure to allow individuals to be creative and innovative (Huq, 2006).
The skills level of the Lean Six Sigma program facilitator and the Black Belts that
lead the projects are also critical to success (Pyzdek, 2009). A particular skill of a Lean
Six Sigma program facilitator is an ability to influence cultural change and workplace
change taking place from project improvement activities and this would be related to
the seniority of the role they play in the organization. According to Hooper (Hooper and
Devine, 2002), the quality professional needs to re-invent their role in an organization
and move from “quality control” to “interpreters of business strategy” and drive the
integration of all quality processes, metrics, tools and accountancy systems to optimize
the performance of all departments. This could mean that the role of the deployment
facilitator could take a high level or a low level depending on whether the role is senior
and influential or less senior, perhaps more analytical and less influential, respectively.

Preliminary fieldwork
In order to initially investigate the variables within the model relating to competency of
the program facilitator and the project leaders, preliminary interviews were held with
two senior Master Black Belts (respondents 1 and 2). Respondent 1 was responsible
for the deployment of Lean Six Sigma in a large Australian bank that had a number of Deployment of
Master Black Belts and a large number of Black Belts. Respondent 2 was working as a Lean Six Sigma
consultant and trainer in Lean Six Sigma in Australia and has had the opportunity of
facilitating a number of large-scale deployments of Lean Six Sigma. Both respondents
were asked to complete an open questionnaire that addressed the question – what
attributes do you observe in the Master Black Belts and Black Belts in your
organization or organizations you have been involved with? A summary of the 57
answers appears below.
Respondent 1 indicated that the following were attributes necessary for Master
Black Belts:
developing/refining methodology;
delivering Black Belt training;
helping others to learn how to deliver Green Belt training;
undertaking certification of Green Belts and Black Belts;
providing technical advice; and
reviewing project work, particularly where the use of advanced tools is involved.

These attributes indicate that a high level of understanding and experience are
required to qualify as a Master Black Belt.
Respondent 2 suggested that Master Black Belts should have a more administrative
role rather than simply being active practitioners leading process improvement
projects. It was suggested they should have either:
accountability for a division of the organization; or
coaching and/or support roles for a number of practicing Black Belt project

When introducing Lean Six Sigma deployments within organizations, this respondent
recommends that Master Black Belts are indeed seasoned professionals. Individuals
who have completed their engagement strategy and Lean Six Sigma training followed
by several years (e.g. three or more) of leading successful projects using a variety of the
tools available to them.
Additionally, respondent 2 recommends that Master Black Belts also have
identifiable leadership/management traits as defined by the organization’s own
standards. These traits are due to the preposition that they will be more than project
leaders in a master role. They would be expected to be leaders and ambassadors within
the organization, coaching several Black Belts in a coordinated body of work.
Respondent 1 suggested that Black Belts in their organization were required to have
a strong statistical knowledge and demonstration of competent application of
advanced statistical tools and making use of the information gained to address the
business problem. Respondent 1 stated that Black Belt certification also required
minimum standards of leadership, project management and coaching and benefits
delivery. Black Belts are used in the team as senior coaches, often leading larger
programs of work with more junior coaches managing individual project streams.
They are expected to mentor Green Belts and Black Belts on the way to certification
and contribute to the delivery of training.
IJQRM Respondent 2 indicated that his expectation and experience was that Black Belts are
29,1 full-time project leaders improving processes within their organizations. Typically, the
projects are significant (e.g. millions of dollars of bottom line value and/or spanning
across divisional boundaries). Sometimes respondent 2 had noticed that individuals
would complete the necessary training and, for one reason or another, fail to complete
projects. By and large, most of the Black Belts that respondent 2 had worked with had
58 indeed produced solid results (sometimes stunning results) for their organizations by
improving processes using the disciplined DMAIC approach and associated tools. The
most interesting factor this respondent always finds when these project leaders discuss
their projects is that 70 percent of their time is taken up with “people issues”. Getting
sufficient stakeholders to accept their improvements and ensuring these are sustained
is their main focus. The “stats and data analysis” section of a project always seems
relatively straight forward according to respondent 2.

Conceptual model
A Lean Six Sigma program involves a number of breakthrough projects that are
developed with a project sponsor to significantly impact the bottom line of a business.
Lean Six Sigma projects focus on a combination of the measures – overall quality,
process efficiency, responsiveness and cost (De Koning et al., 2008) and thus it makes
sense to measure the successful deployment of a Lean Six Sigma program by the
success of a project in terms of one or more of these four measures. We use this as the
dependent variable in our model.
Specifically, we propose that there is a relationship between the successful
deployment of Lean Six Sigma (or any other continuous improvement initiative) as the
dependent variable and the following six explanatory variables:
(1) the technical skills level of the deployment facilitator;
(2) the interpersonal skills level of the deployment facilitator;
(3) the level of influence of the deployment facilitator;
(4) the technical skills of the improvement project leaders;
(5) the interpersonal skills of the improvement project leaders; and
(6) the organizational competence measured by the adherence to the various critical
success factors.

The hypothesis for this research is that there is a relationship between project success
and the technical and interpersonal competency of the facilitators of the program and
their level of influence in the organization, the technical and interpersonal competency
of the project leaders and the competency of the organization in which Lean Six Sigma
has been deployed.
In many large organizations the program facilitator of a Lean Six Sigma program
might be a Master Black Belt in Lean Six Sigma and the project leaders might be
Black Belts in Lean Six Sigma. For smaller or medium-sized organizations the program
facilitator might be a quality or process improvement manager and the project leaders
might have other roles like quality coordinators or process improvement specialists.
These facilitators are the planned respondent in a planned survey to test the model,
parameters and constructs.
Derivation of variable constructs Deployment of
This section is in four parts – part 1 is a discussion of the alternative measures of Lean Six Sigma
assessing the performance of a organization that has deployed Lean Six Sigma
(or continuous improvement); part 2 is a review of the literature around the competence
of the Black Belts; part 3 is a review of the literature around the competence of the
deployment facilitator and part 4 is a review of the literature around the competence of
an organization to successfully embrace the deployment in the long term. 59
1. Lean Six Sigma deployment success
Using project success is one way to measure the success of a Lean Sigma program
(De Koning et al., 2008). Another way is to measure the success using stock price for an
organization. Using stock price as an indicator, Goh et al.’s (2003) research shows that for
each of 20 Six Sigma program adopters there was no statistically significant change in
the stock price even though other performance indicators change. In another study that
used 161 valid questionnaires collected from managers in a number of Samsung
companies that have introduced Six Sigma and have been actively applying it for several
years, the results of structural equation modeling showed that Six Sigma activities do
indeed contribute to process innovation, quality improvement, and finally corporate
competitiveness (Kun-Chang and Bong, 2006).
The Xerox organization defined success for their Six Sigma program as increasing
profits, reducing costs, business velocity and increased customer satisfaction whilst
another large US business used improvement metrics in quality, productivity,
cross-functional collaboration and employee satisfaction as the success measure
(O’rourke, 2005).
A maturity model has also been used to examine the level of maturity of a Six Sigma
deployment (Raje, 2009). There are five levels namely – the launch, early success, scale
replication, institutionalization and culture transformation. The “launch” is the
starting point wherein an initial few visionaries in the organization launch Lean
Six Sigma, training is initiated and projects begin. The “early success” is where the
initial projects are yielding results and early successes are being achieved. The “scale
replication” stage is where the early success has led to other parts of the organization
buying into Lean Six Sigma and a broader launch of projects in underway.
The next stage, “institutionalization”, is where projects are yielding broad-based
financial impact throughout many parts of the organization. The last stage, “culture
transformation”, is where Lean Six Sigma is part of the organizational DNA, financial
impact is sustained and the Lean Six Sigma culture is pervasive – even beyond the
Lean Six Sigma practitioners and beyond the organization boundaries.
The success in most Lean Sigma programs have a short term focus since there is little
or no organizational learning that results from the project improvements (Wiklund and
Wiklund, 2002). What seems to be missing, however, is the need for a systemic approach
to organizational change and improvement (Naslund, 2008). These comments tend to
suggest that some organizations are targeting stages 3 or 4 of the above maturity model
rather than stage 5 of the model namely “culture transformation”.
A Lean Six Sigma program involves a number of breakthrough projects that are
developed with the Master Black Belt and Black Belts to significantly impact the bottom
line of a business. Lean Six Sigma project success can be measured by overall quality,
process efficiency, responsiveness and cost (Shah et al., 2008). This is consistent
IJQRM with quality, delivery, flexibility and cost measures frequently used in the past
29,1 operations management literature (Ward and Duray, 2000).
Thus, it makes sense to measure the success of a Lean Six Sigma deployment by the
success of projects in relation to overall quality, process efficiency, responsiveness and
cost but to also note what stage of maturity the deployment is at. We use this as the
dependent variable in our model.
2. Black Belt competence
The key attributes of Lean Six Sigma Black Belts identified from a pilot study of UK
manufacturers include: effective communicators, change agents, customer advocators,
team builders, results-driven mindset personnel, positive thinkers, etc. (Antony et al.,
2007). Similarly, overcoming obstacles, attitude, logical thought process,
communication skills, data driven, team experience and mathematics skills are key
competencies for a Black Belt (Pyzdek, 2009).
Other competencies posed by other authors (Byrne, 2003; Defeo, 2000; Hoerl, 2001)
comprise the following:
(1) Byrne (2003):
. A clear understanding of their company’s business strategies and objectives.
A strong process orientation.
A solid knowledge of and the ability to apply statistical/analytical tools and
Strong facilitation, teaching and team building skills.
Change management skills and experience.
. Cross-functional business and work experience.
(2) Defeo (2000):
Demonstrated management and leadership skills.
A background in mathematics, statistics and analysis.
A basic understanding of the business process and of finance.
Potential future management or other advanced professional positions.
(3) Hoerl (2001):
Statistical skills.
. Organizational effectiveness skills, e.g. team and project management.
Meeting management skills.
Clearly present the results of projects.
Training skills.
When Black Belts become certified, it does not signify the end of their studies; they
must make a commitment to continuous learning (Snee et al., 2003). Using a case study
organization in Sweden Wiklund and Wiklund (2002) suggests that training for
Black Belts in Lean Six Sigma include the following suggesting that they need to be
competent at each area of learning namely: leadership, change management, learning
aspects and self-knowledge, supervision strategies, statistics and finance and
behavioral science.
Black Belts must have an in-depth knowledge of behavioral science as this is one facet Deployment of
for the basis of increased organizational learning and that there must be support for the Lean Six Sigma
Black Belts when they start to implement projects (Wiklund and Wiklund, 2002). For
example, a finance expert should advise them in the project business case, a statistician
should advise them on application of advanced statistics and a behavioral scientist
should support their roles as consultants (Wiklund and Wiklund, 2002).
Consequentially the Master Black Belt should have the competencies of coaching 61
Black Belts in advanced statistics, finance and interpersonal skills.
Process improvement consultants must have interpersonal competence,
theory-based problem solving capability, the ability to create a learning experience
and the awareness of their own assumptions and models (Porras and Silvers, 1991).
Table I summarizes the competencies of Black Belts noted in the literature reviewed
The attributes identified by Antony et al. (2007) were derived empirically. Some
attributes have been combined where logical. Interestingly, only one author suggests a
customer focus specifically but one would expect that the other authors include this
attribute in their project management and problem solving areas. Another author
suggests “interpersonal competence” but one would expect this to be equivalent to one
of more of the other attributes. Also, it is clear that some attributes relate to technical
skills and others relate to the interpersonal skills of the Black Belt and some might
apply to both areas. We split the skills into technical and interpersonal. Black Belts are
“ideal” candidates if they demonstrate high “technical/analytical competence” and high
“leadership competence and organizational power” (Catherwood, 2005).
In summary, we develop the constructs from the above literature review as
presented in Table II. It should be noted that these competencies are applicable also as
a minimum to a Master Black Belt as this title is usually given to experts that have
been trained as Black Belts and have had experience as a Black Belt.

3. Master Black Belt competence and roles

Typical roles of quality professionals needs to move from quality control to a
leadership position with equal weight to the other department managers (Hooper and
Devine, 2002). The role must contribute to strategic leadership to drive the firm’s
performance. Likewise Lean Six Sigma facilitators must hold a similar elevated
position in the organization to ensure management commitment and buy-in.
Champions are appointed to oversee a Lean Six Sigma deployment and these can be
a Master Black Belt or a senior manager with knowledge of Lean Six Sigma (Pyzdek,
2003). The role of the Lean Six Sigma facilitator includes the following: development of
the implementation strategy, accountability for success, and obtaining and allocating
resources (Catherwood, 2005).
In order to deliver on their tasks, the program facilitator needs to have a reasonable
level of responsibility and authority in an organization since when it comes to ensuring
Lean Six Sigma delivers the promised benefits, a great deal rests on the shoulder of the
strategy facilitator and his appointed Black Belts. There is a link between the
interpersonal competencies of the Master Black Belts and the management/leadership
role that they play in an organization. If the role is not as senior – perhaps not on the
leadership team – and they have good interpersonal skills then they may still affect the
sustainability of the Lean Six Sigma deployment. Whether or not the Black Belt

Table I.

Black Belts
Competencies of
Black Belt competency Antony et al. Pyzdek Byrne Defeo Hoerl Porras skills Interpersonal skills

Effective communicators U U U X
Change agent and influence skills U U U X
Customer advocates U X
Project team management, facilitators, leaders, able to
create learning U U U U U U X X
Results-driven mindset U U X
Positive thinkers U X
Mathematical, statistical, analytical skills U U U U X
Data driven U U X
Logical thought, problem solving capability U U X
Attitude U X
Strategic level knowledge U X
Cross-functional skills U X
Process, finance orientation U X
Desire for high level management positions U X
Committed to continuous learning U X
Self-awareness U X
Interpersonal competence U X
Deployment of
Technical constructs ¼ X1
1 Is able to facilitate and lead teams Lean Six Sigma
2 Is results driven
3 Has good mathematical and statistical skills
4 Is data driven
5 Has strategic level knowledge
6 Has cross-functional skills 63
7 Has a process orientation
8 Has a finance orientation
Interpersonal ¼ X2
1 Is an effective communicator
2 Has good change agent and influence skills
3 Is customer focused
4 Is able to facilitate learning in project teams
5 Is a positive thinkers
6 Has logical thought, problem solving capability
7 Has a good attitude Table II.
8 Has a desire for high level management positions Attributes of a Black Belt
9 Is committed to continuous learning and minimum for a
10 Is self-aware Master Black Belt

role is full-time or part-time will dictate if the Lean Six Sigma project will be successful
in the long term (Catherwood, 2005).
In summary, we derive additional constructs for the competencies of a Lean
Six Sigma Master Black as presented in Table III. It is important to note that the
second interpersonal competency for the Master Black Belt will be dependent of the
level of the leadership role that the facilitator plays in the organization. The levels for
the role of deployment facilitator are presented in Table IV.

Technical ¼ X3
1 Are able to develop implementation strategy
2 Are able to coach staff at all levels
3 Are able to coach Black Belts in advanced statistics
4 Are able to create training programs for the organization
5 Has an ability of obtaining and allocating resources
6 Are able to coordinate multiple projects across the organization
Interpersonal ¼ X4
1 Are influential at getting buy in from all staff Table III.
2 Have equal influence to the leadership team members Additional attributes of
3 Is able to step into a project leadership position if necessary a Master Black Belt

Levels Examples

1 Very high influence Senior position on leadership team

2 High influence Improvement management responsibility across the organization
3 Moderate influence Business unit responsibility/middle management position Table IV.
4 Low influence Department position Role levels for
5 Very low influence Analytical role master black belts
IJQRM 4. Organizational competence
29,1 Various cultures within the organizational cultural framework are important to
implementing and deploying TQM and Six Sigma (Zu et al., 2010). These cultures
include a group culture (participation, teamwork, facilitator-type leader, people and
commitment), development culture (creativity, flexibility, entrepreneurship-type
leader, innovation and new resources) and rational culture (efficiency, task focus,
64 achievement-type leader, goal orientation and competition). The fourth, hierarchical
culture (centralization, order, administer-type leader, regulation, control), does not play
a role in the importance of Lean Six Sigma.
There is a relationship between the first three of these cultural dimensions and the
ten practices within TQM and Six Sigma (the first seven below relate to TQM and the
last three below relate to Six Sigma (Zu et al., 2010). These are:
(1) top management support;
(2) customer relationship;
(3) supplier relationship;
(4) workforce management;
(5) quality information;
(6) product/service design;
(7) process management;
(8) Six Sigma role structure;
(9) Six Sigma structured improvement procedure; and
(10) Six Sigma focus on metrics.

Education, training and participation are factors critical in the implementation of a quality
improvement process (James, 1996). Effective implementation of an improvement
program is about organizational learning and without organizational learning there can be
no continuous improvement (Wiklund and Wiklund, 2002). Organizational learning is also
critical otherwise organizations focus on personal mastery rather than “team learning”
and a systems view (Senge, 1990). Interestingly, the system of profound knowledge
(Deming, 1993) is comparable to the concept of organizational learning. Information
systems and innovation are key elements that should be included in every company’s list
of core competences (Unland and Kleiner, 1996). The continuous flow of cross-functional
information and knowledge supports organizational learning (Dixon, 1994).
Training or team training is not successful unless reinforced by regular follow up of
an ongoing systematic change in how work is conducted (Wiklund and Wiklund, 2002).
A lack of quality training causes insufficient implementation of quality methods and
quality learning as the learning necessary for a permanent change in the way of
working to create quality achievements, including both knowledge and ideology
(Sandvik and Karrlson, 1997).
Organizational excellence is comprised of an overlapping of Six Sigma, workplace
spirituality and emotional intelligence (Marques et al., 2008). Organizational
competency is the ability of an organization to “Absorb previous initiatives”, that is
the ability to deploy an improvement program if similar concepts have been deployed
before – for example, lean deployment first followed by Six Sigma training and
deployment (Shah et al., 2008).
Organizations fail to successfully implement Lean Sigma because of lack of Deployment of
broad-based leadership and active support of process owners and poor selection of Lean Six Sigma
candidates for Black Belt training (Byrne, 2003). To embed an improvement into the
culture of a business is to integrate the improvement process as a procedure into the
quality management systems (Pfeifer et al., 2004).
In comparison, the critical success factors of Banuelas and Antony (2002) as cited in
Naslund (2008) are as follows: 65
(1) business plan and vision;
(2) top management support;
(3) project management (including project champion, teamwork and composition);
(4) change management and organizational culture;
(5) effective communication, education and training, knowledge transfer,
knowledge management (including skills and expertise);
(6) organizational structure; and
(7) monitoring and evaluation of performance, performance measurements.

Points 3 and 5 tend to relate to the competence of the program facilitator or Black Belt
and the remaining points relate to the competence of the organization.
Powell’s work on TQM (Powell, 1995) and Lee’s work on Six Sigma (Lee and Choi,
2006) have shown that there are five broad factors critical to a successful deployment
of Lean Six Sigma. These are shown in Table V.
Based on the literature review, we summarize the competencies of the organization in
Table VI.

Testing the model

Data for this research will be obtained from a survey of a sample of Lean Six Sigma
deployment leaders (or their equivalent) currently employed in Australian
organizations. Thus, the unit under study is the organization. Depending on the size
of the organizations these respondents may be either qualified as Master Black Belts;
Process Excellence Executives; Quality Managers; Black Belts; Green Belts; Quality
Managers; Continuous Improvement Managers, etc. Most likely there would not be a
qualified Master Black Belt working full-time in a small- or medium-sized company. The
number of Master Black Belts and Black Belts in Australia can only be approximated.
There are a number of Lean Six Sigma practitioners registered with the Australian
Organization for Quality and there are a number of members of the Australasian
Association of Six Sigma Practitioners, an association set up to assist in the development

CSF Category

1 Factors relating to leadership, communication, behavior and awareness of Six Sigma

2 Factors relating to policies, culture and organizational support and strategy
3 Factors relating to education, training and competency of the Six Sigma experts Table V.
4 Factors relating to project improvement teams and project management Broad factors for
5 Factors relating to performance evaluations based on quality criteria, information systems, success in deploying
data and measurement Lean Six Sigma
No. Construct
1 Factors relating to leadership, communication, behavior and awareness
An organization that supports Leadership
An organization that supports line management drive
An organization that supports the role of deployment facilitator
66 An organization that supports continuous improvement
An organization that supports a structured approach to Black Belt selection
2 Factors relating to policies, culture and organizational support and strategy
An organization that supports employee empowerment
An organization that supports rewards and recognition
An organization that supports a community spirit of improvement and emotional intelligence
An organization that supports the sharing of improvement initiatives with all stakeholders
An organization that supports cross-functional collaboration internally and externally
3 Factors relating to education, training and competency of the Six Sigma experts
An organization that supports building skills across the organization
An organization that supports consistency of training in DMAIC
An organization that supports ongoing training without compromise
An organization that supports quality learning and knowledge gathering
An organization that supports coaching and mentoring of others
An organization that builds on previous initiatives, e.g. TQM, BPR
4 Factors relating to project improvement teams and project management
An organization that supports participation in a team environment and an understanding of team
An organization that rewards team-based improvements
An organization that supports a structured approach to improvement project selection and
5 Factors relating to performance evaluations based on quality criteria, information systems,
Table VI. data and measurement
Specific constructs An organization that supports collecting good data and performance measures
for organizational An organization that supports a zero defects mentality
competence of factors An environment that embeds the Lean Six Sigma program in the quality management system
for success in deploying An organization that supports the focus on improvement of processes
Lean Six Sigma

of Lean Six Sigma in Australia. There are also quite a number of Black Belts within some
of the larger international companies operating in Australia. For example, there are
approximately 120 trained Black Belts working full-time or part-time in one business
that has deployed Lean Six Sigma in Australia.
In the planned analysis of the data, we intend to test if the constructs in Tables II, III,
IV and VI are valid representations of the explanatory factors using Cronbach’s a
values. Unreliable constructs will be deleted and h 2 values will be used to estimate the
importance of constructs.
Of specific interest is the level of role that the program facilitator plays. We investigated
five levels of this variable, namely a “very high influence” to “very low influence” level. For
a very high level, the Master Black Belt has a senior role on the leadership team for
example, is influential in the organization and manages projects. For a low level, the role
may not be as senior, not as influential and may be an analyst within the organization.
We plan to test the following hypotheses:
H1. That there is a positive relationship between Lean Six Sigma Success and
program facilitator skills.
H2. That there is a positive relationship between Lean Six Sigma Success and Deployment of
program facilitator role level. Lean Six Sigma
H3. That there is a positive relationship between Lean Six Sigma Success and
Black Belt project leader skills level.
H4. That there is a positive relationship between Lean Six Sigma Success and
organization competence. 67
There are a number of challenges in this research. First, there are a large number of
Lean Six Sigma practitioners (Black Belts and Green Belts) working in manufacturing
and service and these people will not be sent the survey. We will only get the views of
the deployment facilitators (Master Black Belts). Thus, the results of this research are
limited to this data set. Second, the small- and medium-sized organizations may not
have a deployment facilitator or even a Black Belt working on a full-time basis. They
may be contracted or part-time employed. Third, some organizations have abandoned
their Lean Six Sigma deployments and in some cases have scaled them down. Last,
there is a significant turnover of Lean Six Sigma practitioners between organizations
over time and this may create some confusion in interpretation.

Discussion and further research

The technical and interpersonal attributes of the Black Belts provide an important
basis for the design of a Black Belt training program and this should give training
providers further insights into the focus for their training. It will be useful to compare
the above attributes of Black Belts with the training that they obtain to determine their
competence. One might suggest as a hypothesis that the competency of the Lean Sigma
experts is partly due to the training and assessment that they have received. The
training of Six Sigma facilitators needs the involvement of academia in designing
appropriate courses. In particular “Academia has a critical role to play in ensuring that
sound statistical education is an integral part of Six Sigma curricula” (Mitra, 2004).
There is variation within Six Sigma curricula, of course, as within any other field
(Hoerl, 2001). While much of the core technical material, such as experimental design
and statistical process control, are common across virtually every provider, the breadth
and depth of coverage of topics will vary.
It would be useful to compare the competencies that are derived from the model
testing with the competencies noted by the body of knowledge of the American Society
for Quality and other international accreditation bodies, for example those registered
under the Lean Six Sigma division within the Australian Organization for Quality.
We expect there is a positive association between these variables leading to the
conclusion that Lean Six Sigma project success is significantly affected by the
competence of an organization and the competence of a Black Belt and/or Master Black
Belt. This is consistent with the fact that a relationship between knowledge and learning
behavior exists in which knowledge is defined as a new idea or improved understanding
and the capability of a team doing a quality project successfully and learning is the
influence of a team member’s cognitive processes to learn in a quality improvement
setting (Choo et al., 2007).
Finally other research may involve an in-depth case study of one of the large
organizations that employ a large number of Master Black Belts and Black Belts.
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About the authors

Roger John Hilton, MSc, BAppSc, CStat, FRSS, is a doctoral student in the Department of
Management at Monash University. His thesis is on the sustainability of Lean Six Sigma for
Australian businesses. Currently he is Principal of Lean Sigma Institute, a company involved in
the training and strategic implementation of Lean Six Sigma.
Amrik Sohal, BE, MBA, PhD, is Professor and Deputy Head, Department of Management,
Monash University. Amrik has authored or co-authored over 100 papers published in refereed
journals, as well as three books and a number of book chapters. His research interests are in
manufacturing/operations strategy, quality management, supply chain management and
lean/agile production systems and electronic business. Amrik Sohal is the corresponding author
and can be contacted at:

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