Day in the Life of a Master Black Belt and CI Leader



Beau Groover
11/22/2011

Have you ever want to know what it would be like to work in a different job or industry? PEX Network's twice monthly "A Day in the Life" series continues this week as Beau Groover, a Master Black Belt and Continuous Improvement Leader within the Folding Carton division of RockTenn Company, describes how he got started in continuous improvement, what he likes about the job, and explains why he thinks it’s important to never be "satisfied with the current state."

I began my Lean education by working for Nordson Corporation in 2001. For the next eight years, I served as a part-time Lean leader, full-time Lean implementation manager and plant manager for that producer of precision dispensing equipment. The plants that I supported were primarily in the southeastern United States and were discrete manufacturing centers. My formal training included working with a Lean sensei from Simpler Consulting named John Rubio and a former General Electric master black belt named Pam Porath. John and Pam were excellent teachers who provided me with a strong foundation for formal Continuous Improvement (CI).

During those eight years, I facilitated kaizen events, value stream mapping exercises, office and transactional Lean, as well as policy deployment and eventually a full-blown A3 process to support the CI system. I fell in love with CI, and the relentless pursuit of excellence became a way of life for me. From the time I started learning and applying Lean Six Sigma, I have enjoyed a continuous stream of growth and education for myself. I also have had the joy of helping those around me grow and develop, which is very rewarding.

Beau Groover is a Master Black Belt and Continuous Improvement Leader

In August 2007, I decided to expand my technical CI knowledge by pursuing and receiving my Black Belt certification to supplement my formal Lean training. That combination allows me to focus on removing the two primary enemies of performance – waste and variation. Using the DMAIC (Define-Measure-Analyze-Improve-Control) process to improve consistency and the Lean tool set to improve efficiency helped make me very effective at all facets of process improvement. I later decided to validate my Lean training by pursuing and receiving Lean certification through the Society of Manufacturing Engineers (SME); I took and passed the bronze-level exam. Additionally, I completed my MBA in 2003, and have an under-graduate degree in business administration.

My current role is to work diligently between the strategic/planning sides of CI to create the roadmap for success. I coach full-time and part-time green belts, black belts and engineers on applying the rigors of the Lean Six Sigma (LSS) methodology. The program at RockTenn consistently supports the vision of the company’s leadership. The application of LSS allows the company to continually find and execute improvement opportunities in the pursuit of excellence, while I get to do what I love, which is to help people around me develop and to continue my own education and development.

A typical day for me is working with mid-level and senior-level managers to identify high-value opportunities, coaching green and black belts, and managing projects. I very much enjoy the fast-paced environment of working with multiple levels of the organization and striving for alignment between the strategic vision we are pursuing and the tactical needs to make it a reality. Some of the challenges I face are balancing the day-to-day requirements of running the business without losing focus on how to make the operations better. Likewise, we can’t spend so much time on making the operation better that we ignore or fail our customers. In every case, there are always too many things to get done and not enough time and other resources to get it all completed. It is, therefore, necessary for me to help the organization define clarity for what we are trying to accomplish and then find ways to support the efforts to ensure success of each project or initiative. I am at once a coach, a psychologist and a technical advisor for the organization, and I love each role equally well.

Much of my coaching is around technical tools for how to lead or execute a kaizen or DMAIC project, but there also is a large portion of time devoted to change management, or the softer side of leading change – how to build influence, how to lead, how to challenge, etc. At the end of the day, regardless if you are applying Lean, Six Sigma, Lean Six Sigma or some other methodology, the end goal is to build a culture of excellence centered on speaking with data and never being satisfied with the current state.

I enjoy the role of master black belt very much. Working to execute on the various projects, goals and objectives to meet deadlines provides a definite sense of accomplishment. I work with great people and a great company, and I get to do what I love.

Do you want to share your story with PEX Network? If you work in process improvement we'd love to hear what your day is like! "A Day in the Life" submissions should be between 700-1000 words and can be sent to us at info@pexnetwork.com. Please include a brief professional biography, and a jpeg photograph. Please note: submission does not guarantee publication.