The ABC wants eight executives to become certified black belts by mid-2019, though martial arts has nothing to do with it.

The new Grandmaster Fu, Michelle Guthrie, wants her team to learn the (slightly) mysterious management art of Lean Six Sigma. The production methodology, most common in engineering and manufacturing firms, uses coloured belts typical of those used in martial arts — white, yellow, green and black — to certify levels of training. Only master black belts, who have spent at least two years leading projects in line with the doctrine, are considered experienced enough to pass on their skills.

The national broadcaster is calling for tenders to put together a panel of organisations to meet “future requirements for training and coaching in the Lean Six Sigma continuous improvement methodology”. It’s a four- to five-year contract.

Six Sigma was developed by Motorola engineer Bill Smith in 1986 and taken further by GE chief executive Jack Welch in 1995. It emphasises continuous incremental improvement to smooth out the wrinkles in systematic processes and achieve the most consistent outcomes possible. It relies on fostering a commitment to the dogma throughout the organisation, enthusiasm in senior executive ranks, evidence-based approaches and the DMAIC — define, measure, analyse, improve and control — system.

The Australian Graduate School of Management at the University of New South Wales, which teaches the Lean Six Sigma system, claims it helped Optus “reached the pinnacle of lean maturity” in a cheery advertising feature to promote its courses.

The ABC’s tender documents indicate a rough plan to start by putting about 10 senior executives through “a day-long continuous improvement leadership course” in the first half of 2017. After that, the plan is to run increasing numbers of staff through the training, and pay for somewhere around 150 hours of “coaching” each year, starting from June 2017, to help it stick.

Those who do know a bit about martial arts might get a kick from one line of the tender documents.

“If White-Belt training is not a mandatory pre-requisite for participants to undertake Yellow-Belt training then the ABC will not require White-Belt training.”

A white belt signifies nothing at all in the world of martial arts. It’s the one you start with — that holds your pants up. — The Mandarin reporter Stephen Easton