The New Army Master Black Belt

By William Frost, Mark Hagedorn, and Maurice RossApril 13, 2021

(Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL


As the Under Secretary of the Army James E. McPherson notes in the recently released Army Business Management Plan, “It is critical that we develop, adopt, and embrace advanced technology, but it is even more critical that we embrace the business management transformation that will enable sustaining readiness while modernizing and reforming the Army.”

One of the ways the Army manages its s business operations is by ensuring the workforce is trained in the most advanced tactics, techniques, and procedures. In this case, ensuring our Soldiers, civilians, and contractors are trained in the skills and tools they need to effectively manage and improve the business of the Army.

One of the premier programs the Army offers to train our personnel in this fight is the Master Black Belt (MBB) Course. The MBB Course develops an understanding of the skills and tools that enable the effective management of an organization's processes, and improvement and innovation in all aspects of an organization's business.

While the course focuses on the application of these skills and tools within the Business Mission Area (BMA), what students learn is widely applicable to any operating environment where the day-to-day business of an organization is routine and focused on delivering a specific result.

Graduates of the MBB Course master the data-driven methodologies needed to manage multi-domain and cross-functional projects and become a trusted advisor in their organization. The core of this understanding is comes from their training in Lean Six Sigma (LSS), which enables them to analyze a business problem and effectively work with key stakeholders to deliver results that improve an organization’s performance.


In order to better enable the Army execute the Army Strategy, the MBB Course has been updated with several new approaches that enable the implementation of Army Strategic Policy.

Leveraging Hoshin (Direction) Kanari (Management), or what is otherwise called strategic planning and execution, the new course focuses on aligning an organization’s goals (strategy), with the plans of managers (tactics), and the work performed by the workforce (operations). A true Continuous Process Improvement approach in action.

Hoshin Kanri methodologies enable everyone in an organization to align their work towards the same strategic goals. By ensuring strategic goals drive progress and action at every level of an organization, waste is eliminated from inconsistent direction and poor communication.

Other improvements in the new MBB Course address the need to better align and measure goals at each level of an organization. This involves validating causal relationships, key stakeholder roles and responsibilities, and impacts up and down the Enterprise Value Chain. By better aligning an organization’s goals, Master Black Belts are able to employ innovative tools, like Agile, TRIZ, Automation, and others, to ensure the strategic goals and priorities of the Army are directly addressed through prioritized Process Improvement Efforts.

One of the outcomes of the new MBB Course is that Master Black Belts will be better able to identify performance gaps and recognize opportunities to improve business process problems.  By addressing these gaps and problems with targeted improvement efforts, alignment between the Army Strategy, internal management controls, policy and metrics, and Return On Investment (ROI) expectations can be more effectively realized.


The Master Black Belt training course serves as the Army’s premier opportunity to develop skills in how to manage business processes and lead transformational change.

While incorporating a new focus on the implementing a shared vision across all levels of an organization, the course continues to address the fundamental concepts and core competencies of Lean Six Sigma (LSS) and other business process improvement methodologies. These concepts are part of a structured approach for analyzing and improving business processes, accomplishing goals that enable an organization to best achieve its mission, and more efficiently and effectively managing performance on a continuing basis.

The core of the instruction focuses on the development of advanced skills in how to leverage the right tools and methods for improving mission effectiveness and efficiency. Some of the tools discussed include Agile, Theory of Constraints, Systems Thinking, and other data-driven improvement techniques.

The course also continues to promote the establishment and use of Integrated Process Teams (IPT) in executing improvement projects across all levels of the Army. IPT process improvement efforts are generally ideal for Army-level initiatives. but can also be used effectively to execute improvement efforts at lower levels in the Army.

The course extensively examines the use of Lean Six Sigma, and covers Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control (DMAIC) methodology, Business Process Reengineering (BPR), Define-Measure-Analyze-Design-verify (DMADV), and different Value Engineering and Automation approaches. By the end of the course, a Master Black Belt will be able to identify the best tools and methodologies to use to streamline complexity, increase benefits, reduce costs, and generally add value to any process improvement effort.


During the Master Black Belt course, students will complete an Environmental Scan of their organization’s processes. This scan is used to identify an opportunity to improve the performance of the student’s organization, and provides a return on investment for the student’s sponsor organization. This improvement project is the Capstone for the MBB Course, and must be completed in order to be certified as a Master Black Belt.


To be prepared to compete in this new age of great power competition, the leadership of the Army needs to re-imagine its approach towards operational excellence. The MBB Course is one way that we can ensure our workforce has the expertise needed to reform the Army and deliver performance at the speed of relevance.  Leaders across the Army should not hesitate to take the opportunity to hone their understanding of the skills and tools needed to remain competitive. To see if you have what it takes to become a Master Black Belt, check out the Lean Six Sigma milBook website at: