Book Review: The ASQ Pocket Guide for the Certified Six Sigma Black Belt, ISBN 978-0-87389-856-0

This book is often referred to as one of the go-to book for Six Sigma certification preparation.  It is published by ASQ Quality Press and written by T. M. Kubiak.  With its deep explanation of Six Sigma principles and the inclusion of tables and data collection techniques, this book outshines many other Six Sigma publications for its depth of knowledge.  The book only includes roughly 274 pages of hard information, but those pages are packed with some critical knowledge that will benefit any Six Sigma practitioner.

It’s important to note that the author states in the beginning of the book “This pocket guide assumes the reader has the necessary background and experience in quality and Lean Six Sigma, is already an ASQ Certified Six Sigma Black Belt.”  This means the book isn’t designed for beginners.  The author also mentions “Unlike other pocket guides, this guide is designed specifically to address topics that I have found to cause problems, issues, and concerns for most Black Belts over the years. As such, its primary purpose is to serve as a useful reference guide for the Black Belt throughout his or her busy day, and particularly in meetings.”  Its nice to see a book that actually highlights problem areas within a Six Sigma project, rather than simply gloss over them and move on.

The ASQ Pocket Guide for the Certified Black Belt

We were happy to see that this book doesn’t really include a history of Six Sigma section.  This is because it’s already assumed the reader has advanced knowledge in these principles.  Rather, the author spends the first chapter discussing the how each chapter should be followed and how the reader can skip around to different chapters when needed, this is a long-term reference book after all.

One of the unique aspects of this book is that immediately after discussing DMAIC in chapter two, the author discusses DFSS methodologies in chapter three.  Discussing Design for Six Sigma certainly isn’t unique, but the fact that the author introduces it early in the book highlights the authors understanding of how Lean Six Sigma can be used to fix existing processes and design new ones.  The author knows that many organizations already have a quality program in place.  He even mentions: “Many organizations have well-established policies and procedures for their respective design processes. One valuable Lean Six Sigma technique that supports the design process is quality function deployment (QFD). Additional tools useful in this phase include pilot runs, simulations, prototypes, and models.”

Chapters four and five discuss selecting the Proper Project Methodologies and Developing the Project Charter.  These are well-defined areas of the book, but the next chapter we really liked was chapter six, Determining Project Savings.  Every book discusses project savings to some degree, but the author really takes the time to develop the proper mindset in this book.  He discusses the differences between hard and soft dollar savings and confusion within the organization can cause havoc on a project.  He discusses different ways that a project can effect the bottom line of an organization.  Here is one example from page 49 “Another way to impact the bottom line is through revenue or top-line growth. How might a Lean Six Sigma project affect such growth? Consider a project that identifies and removes a production bottleneck or constraint. As a direct consequence of removing that constraint, the organization is 50 Chapter Six able to accept new customer orders (something it wasn’t able to do previously) or work off backlogged orders.

Another chapter we like to highlight is chapter eleven.  This book covers a subject that is typically left only to Six Sigma Master Black Belts, and that is the subject of coaching and mentoring.  Important subjects like evaluating the teams performance, coaching non-belts, and coaching as a cost element are all covered.  We’ve reviewed many books here at MSI and this is one of the only ones that covered the role of mentoring with such detail.

At the end of the book are eleven separate appendix.  Each one covers a critical project element and is easy to locate quickly.  The appendix sections cover these 11 topics:

  • Project Creation to Completion Process Definitions
  • Managing the Project Flow from Creation to Completion
  • Control Chart Constants
  • Factors for Estimating Sigma
  • Standard Normal Distribution Table
  • Cumulative Standard Normal Distribution Table
  • t Distribution Table
  • Chi-Square Distribution Table
  • Equivalent Sigma Levels, Percent Defective, and PPM
  • Glossary of Lean Six Sigma and Related Terms
  • Glossary of Japanese Terms


This book will help you prepare for the following certifications:

ASQ Six Sigma Black Belt Certification

MSI Six Sigma Black Belt Certification

MSI Lean Six Sigma Master Black Belt Certification

MSI Lean Six Sigma Green Belt Certification