Is a proliferation of yellow and greenbelts a symptom of growing ills?
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Is a proliferation of yellow and greenbelts a symptom of growing ills?

Many businesses centre their continuous improvement efforts around yellow, green and black-belt training.  Significant sums of money are invested in training and developing both individuals and teams to implement and drive change in an organisation.  This is often seen as fundamental step in changing an organisations’ culture.  Once trained, there is an expectation on the individuals and teams to deliver ‘real’ saving.  I have seen targets of $1m a year to justify the existence of a master black-belt’.

One symptom of the proliferation of Greenbelts is projectitis!  In other words, newly qualified greenbelts (or those in the process of being belted) search for or are allocated projects as part of their certification process. Often the question of relevance of these projects to current business needs gets lost.  After their training candidates present themselves to management teams who review their projects in an atmosphere that can sometimes resemble a mild manifestation of a Spanish inquisition!

While increasing the skills and capability in an organisation is undoubtedly critical to improved performance, my question is: what is the role of managers and leaders in the overall picture?  Is it to sit on  X-factor-like panels on a monthly or by-monthly basis and purse their lips and crinkle their foreheads (or vice versa if it’s American Idol) as aspiring belters present their insights and offerings?   Is this a delegation of responsibility on behalf of management teams?

Could managers spend time more effectively by challenging the performance of his or her area of responsibility?  Should they question the systems and processes that they are responsible for?  Are they robust up-to-date and standardised?  Deming suggested that 90% of problems are caused by poor management systems and practices.  Do your greenbelts play in the 10% space?  And who is responsible for the 90% bit?

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