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Lean Six Sigma Blue Belt: Creating Sponsors Capable of Eliminating The #1 Reason for Project Failure

Updated: Jun 9, 2021




Every single company or organization is right now facing changes and challenges. That’s just the reality of being an organization. Whether the changes and challenges are massive or puny, the point is that - in order to keep up with them - something has got to change. After all, ironing out who’s doing what, making sure that we fix this, prepare for that and reshuffling priorities on a daily basis is the reason we have so many meetings! The whole objective of everything that we do as leaders is to run the business while we change things for the better - to continually improve.


It’s time to confront the #1 reason for project failure, and that reason is lack of the right kind of leadership support.

Well, it’s time. Enough is enough. How many more repetitive and unproductive meetings, ongoing problems, failed improvements do we need to experience? How many more projects and company-wide implementations must fail? How much more time must people spend in frustrating and chaotic processes? It’s time to confront the #1 reason for project failure, and that reason is lack of the right kind of leadership support.


This, by no means, implies that leaders in general don’t “care” or that they don’t want to improve. Because they do care and they are in favor of making things better. The problem is that the world of Continuous Improvement has not done a good enough job of defining what it means to lead improvement. We’re dealing with a nebulous concept when it should be observable, tangible and crystal clear.


Why Improvement Projects Fail

The typical scenario is that a group of people in an organization are selected to receive specialized training. They are assigned high profile projects and the wheel starts turning. Meanwhile, the people responsible for providing direction and support to these soon-to-be Continuous Improvement practitioners, typically receive nothing more than a high-level overview of “What is Lean Six Sigma?” with a quick handful of bullets that describe their role. And, congratulations! You’re a Sponsor!


Organizational culture greedily eats Continuous Improvement for breakfast.

The newly trained Yellow Belts and Green Belts are expected to practice and apply their new

skills in the margins of their already busy day without their Leaders (Supervisor, Manager, Director…) having a specific role or any tangible accountability. As time goes on and pressures arise, leadership falls right into their old patterns and behaviors and the chaos returns. Priorities are set by the most recent issue or the loudest voice. Gut feel, politics, fear and apathy take the place of facts and data, and assumptions and impulse decisions rule. Employees slip into the old ways of working like an old, broken-in pair of shoes. We continue to chase repetitive problems as the pressure grows. Organizational culture greedily eats Continuous Improvement for breakfast.


Where Does the Lean Six Sigma Sponsor Come Into Play?

Many leaders come up through the ranks by proving their technical competence - they know all the ins-and-outs of the job. And, if they’re really good, they have a good balance of people skills as well. Many times, they are resourceful and scrappy and they’ll figure out how to solve problems by hook or by crook. And that works to a point. But not for long, and not without burning people out and certainly not for the big stuff.


The challenge is to develop leaders who can predictably deliver a balance of…

  • Speed & Quality

  • Efficiency & Profitability

  • Employee & Customer Delight

... at the same time as driving the changes needed to GROW and SCALE.


To accomplish this, it requires someone who can apply the structure - the proven tools and methods - to achieve real goals. Predictably. Sustainably. And joyfully. This is the role of the Lean Six Sigma Sponsor or Lean Six Sigma Champion. This is no manager or leadership side hustle. This is a fundamental leadership skill set needed to successfully drive change.


In fact, while our own organization uses the traditional belt levels for our certifications, we had to settle on our own belt color for Sponsors as no industry standard existed.

A simple web search will show that there’s not much out there in the way of resources for Lean Six Sigma Sponsor training or certification. In fact, while our own organization uses the traditional belt levels for our certifications, we had to settle on our own belt color for Sponsors as no industry standard existed. Our Lean Six Sigma Blue Belt is our Sponsor certification, which teaches the structure and tools needed for leaders to provide powerful support and direction to Lean Six Sigma Yellow and Green Belts OR to any individual or team working to solve problems and to improve.


What can a Certified Lean Six Sigma Sponsor do that 99% of Leaders Can’t Do?

A competent Lean Six Sigma Blue Belt (also referred to as a Lean Six Sigma Sponsor or Champion) unlocks the potential of Continuous Improvement because they have the tools and know-how to do things like…

  • Increase the quality and efficiency of communication

  • Skillfully manage daily problem-solving & increase the team’s problem-solving skills

  • Prioritize escalated issues & select improvement projects

  • Manage simultaneous projects (as priorities and resources change)

  • Clearly define problems, opportunities and actionable plans

  • Develop and utilize meaningful metrics

  • Use Proven Solutions and generate innovative ideas

  • Confirm Results and Maximize ROI

  • Sustain Benefits and Continually Improve

  • Develop, Challenge and Engage Employees

These skills are much too important to leave to chance.

They are too foundational to have every leader doing it their own way. They are beyond the capabilities of a scrappy and resourceful leader who has gotten themselves this far on their own. We owe something to the people who we choose to put in leadership positions. And what we owe them is the gift of a toolkit.


And, as the brilliant Grady Booch once said, “a fool with a tool is still a fool”,

So they need the proper training and practice to know how to use that tool!