Belted Bullshido

I was once asked what my ‘highest level of Lean 6 Sigma Belt’ was. 

Technically, by the many and vague measures that currently exist, I’m a Master Black Belt, however, as I penned my usual barbed response to Bullshido requests, I was reminded of a true story at a client. 

You’ll remember my ’70s introduction to Fad Wars: martial arts, skateboards etc. referred to in a previous article.

Another major Fad of the time was the Snake Belt

Anybody, who was somebody, wore a Snake Belt, which was, essentially, a 30-inch length of coloured elastic buckled together with a silver snake shaped clasp. 

You could buy many colours of belt. Some boys I knew had collections

They were absolute cheap rubbish though and quickly wore out, losing their integrity and consequently, their attraction.

An ill that someday soon, will probably befall LSS belt structures.

Some people couldn’t afford Snake Belts and again, as with skateboards, there was a division between the ‘haves’ and ‘have nots’. 

I had a Snake Belt, but I quickly found that I could use it as a huge catapult and rarely wore it, preferring to fire all manner of stuff into my neighbour’s garden with my ‘Snakey Slingshot’. 

And so to the client story.

In 2017, I was delivering a suite of skills training for client, centred around tools and techniques. As we were getting into the final modules, one guy asked ‘is this kinda like a Green Belt course? Do we get a certificate and a belt at the end of this?’

By now, you’ll know my attitude to Belted Bullshido, so I said ‘yes, of course you get a certificate… and a belt’

Everyone on that course was awarded a genuine, authentic, No Bullshido Snake Belt.  

  • Not something that would divide teams and reinforce have/have not behaviours. 
  • Not a yellow, green, or black statement of Bullshido.
  • Not a means to promote Elitism Bullshido. 

Just a good old fashioned Snake Belt. In fact, I don’t think I issued two the same colour that day, or even the same pattern. 

Each was unique.

Most of the guys on the course knew exactly what a Snake Belt was. Many had worn them as kids. There was humour in the award session and whilst we all had a laugh, the lessons had been learnt and applied.

The kaizen mindset had been established.

These belts had meaning. And the meaning is this: it’s not about what you wrap around your waist.

It’s all about what’s inside your head.

Your improvement mindset and spirit

Belts mean nothing.

As a lean six sigma construct, the concept of a belt structure was stolen from martial arts. It is meant to show hierarchy. Progression.

And if you are old school, you were forever reminded that if you wear your black belt on the tatami long enough, it will turn white again. 

Circle complete. 

The bit that the opportunists didn’t steal from martial arts and probably the most important part, is that no credible martial artist gives a toss about a belt colour

It is of zero importance. Only progression of the mind and body. The spirit. 

And so it should be with the tools, techniques, skills, and mindset in lean and six sigma, both of which themselves are constructs and examples of #FadLabelling

By definition, if you are a six-sigma black belt, the processes upon which you have brought your mighty powers to bear, should now all be on 6 sigma levels of performance. 

So, if that’s NOT the case, should you really be called a 5-sigma black belt? Or perhaps a 4 sigma blackbelt?

In martial arts everyone knows the standard a black belt needs to operate at. 

Every time, all the time, and globally recognised. 

Can you honestly say that about Lean Six Sigma Blackbelts?

I still give out Snake Belts to people I work with. They are all different colours and patterns, reflecting the diversity of our people and to bring a little humour to the process. 

I tell them the story. I explain the Bullshido, and I urge them to use the Snake Belt to ward off the Bullshido Snake Oil Senseis, cashing in on a divisive structure.

Snake Belts. beware of cheap, confusing imitations.

As always, thanks for reading. All thoughts, opinions and experiences, mistakes and general wrongness are entirely mine and no offence is meant or inferred.

Comments and corrections welcomed.

But No Bullshido.

We don’t do that.

If you’d like to learn more, or discuss further, please contact us via the website links.