Participants in the Lean Six Sigma Green Belt program come from a wide diversity of backgrounds, but they share the same desire to solve complex problems in their departments, companies, and industries.
In 2002, McGill became the first university in Canada to offer the Green Belt program through the Program for Operations Excellence at the Desautels Faculty of Management. Alex Boussetta, a Certified Six Sigma Master Black Belt who has taught the program for more than 25 years across Canada, has witnessed the determination that drives participants to his classroom. “Many of our students are motivated by the desire to reach the next level of management, while others are managers who have realized that they need to do more today than they did yesterday,” he reflects.
In many cases, that desire to do more for a company or a cause clashes with a sobering financial reality, particularly in the age of COVID-19. “Without funding for additional staff and resources, managers need to do more with less,” explains Boussetta. “They need to gain the right management tools to help their department meet new challenges. That’s where the principles of Lean Six Sigma come in.”
Building a foundation for improvement
Introduced by an engineer at Motorola in 1986, the Six Sigma methodology has become the gold standard of training for continuous improvement and project management across sectors, from management and operations to engineering and product development. Over the course of the three-day Lean Six Sigma Green Belt program, data-driven tools and team-based decision making exercises complement the rigorous Six Sigma methodology to help participants improve quality of operations while cutting down on time, money, and waste. An optional fourth day session provides specific training related to Lean Enterprise goals, values, and tools to round out the Lean Six Sigma Green Belt certification.
Yang Ding, the Director of Engineering at Chameleon Innovations, a Quebec-based manufacturing firm, enrolled in the Lean Six Sigma Green Belt program in 2014 at the urging of the owner of the company. “I had just been promoted to lead my department,” remembers Ding. “At first, I was putting in long hours to put out fires, both technical and interpersonal. I acknowledged that my technical background didn’t give me the tools I needed to lead a team and solve the quality-related issues I had been tasked to solve.”
On his first day of class, Ding was skeptical that the Green Belt program would provide the value he was looking for. “I was there primarily to focus on quality control, but the material seemed more broad,” he remembers. “Over the next three days, I realized that quality fits within a larger context that Lean and Six Sigma methodologies address. In the end, the program exceeded my expectations.”
Ding returned to his role with an enhanced ability to identify and solve quality-related issues at his company. “I gained the tools to frame data as a key performance indicator (KPI) and communicate that data effectively to other people,” he explains. “I was able to do more than put out fires. I could identify the source of those fires and lead a more stable, effective team.”
Though Ding found the Green Belt program particularly useful in his industry, he recognizes its value for a wider audience. “Whatever their industry, the Green Belt is the way to go for someone who wants to improve on team performance,” he affirms. Like many of his classmates, Ding was so encouraged by the progress he had made that he continued on to earn a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt certification.
Tracking the impact
After more than 25 years of teaching the Lean Six Sigma Green Belt program, Boussetta can point to dozens of participants with similar stories of success. “I hear frequently from participants who reduced their costs because of the efficiencies they identified,” he shares. One of his former students, a manager at a beverage manufacturing company, helped reduce the cost of one of their company’s production lines by 30 percent. Another group of students who work in administration at a children’s hospital used their training to reduce the waiting time in their emergency room from five hours to 90 minutes. “I always encourage them to use their wits, not their wallets, and they deliver,” says Boussetta.
As the COVID-19 pandemic challenge employees to maximize their budgets, major Canadian companies continue to send their employees to earn Lean Six Sigma Green Belt and Black Belt certifications. "The Lean Six Sigma Green Belt is a good place to start before continuing on to the Lean Six Sigma Black Belt program, which gives senior managers the tools to cultivate a leaner, more productive environment,” Bousetta concludes. “In these times, everyone has to become more agile to remain profitable.”