Six Sigma Belts – What is the Difference?

Confused about the different Six Sigma Certification Belts, and the roles of each within a business environment?

Although Six Sigma training is a popular term throughout the business world, not that many people know the difference between the Six Sigma belts. They are sure there is a difference; they just do not know what it is. The different belts one can achieve are yellow, green, black and master black. The most basic is the yellow belt. Not that many people achieve this level because there is not much one can do with it. People typically go for the higher belts. However, if you do want to go for the yellow belt, you will have to have a strong understanding of the Six Sigma style. Most people with a yellow belt cannot work on a black belt project; their every day work will reflect a quality vs. profit relationship.

The next step in the Six Sigma belts is the green belt. People with this certification are often referred to as worker bees because they do the majority of the work during projects. They are the ones who gather all the necessary information. They also do a majority of the experiments and tests throughout the project. The main goals of a green belt are to ensure the success of the training techniques and lead smaller improvement projects. Just like the yellow belts below them, people with green belts must have a strong understanding of what the Six Sigma training is all about.

Higher still in the Six Sigma belts, are black belts. These are the people who are in charge of the Six Sigma projects within their respective companies. Most of the time, these are the people who are asked to take on this task on a full time basis. Once the project is completed and everything has been implemented, they will return to their regular duties. The projects they head up typically are expected to save the company at least $100,000. This is why they usually do the work full time. Along with heading the project, they also are expected to coach, develop and advise other managers so the entire company can achieve this goal.

There also are master black belts. This is the highest of the Six Sigma belts one can achieve. You will not necessarily find a master black belt in a company just because they are implementing Six Sigma. This is because this person is a highly trained black belt who will do the work full time, even after the project is completed. The master black belt will make sure everything continues running smoothly and all the training the company learned stays in the company. They are there to execute the practices throughout the company, not just within the project.

Originally developed by Bill Smith at Motorola in 1986, the Six Sigma Training program was created using some of the most innovative quality improvement methods from the preceding six decades. The term "Six Sigma" is derived from a field of statistics known as process capability. The term 6 Sigma refers to the ability of manufacturing processes to produce a very high proportion of output within specification. Processes that operate with "six sigma quality" over the short term are assumed to produce long-term defect levels below 3.4 defects per million opportunities. Six Sigma's goal is to improve overall processes to that level of quality or better.