Understanding the Six Sigma Black Belt

The Black Belt is at the top of the Six Sigma Professionals when it comes to the knowledge base they’ve learned and have been certified in. Black Belts practice daily leadership skills, leading teams and creating ways for employees in a company to work together to implement plans and strategies.

A Quick Overview

Six Sigma Black Belts are fourth in the chain of personnel that play a key role in six sigma implementation. Six Sigma Black Belts form the critical link between the Master Black Belts who are higher up the chain and the Green Belts, lower in the chain. Six Sigma Black Belts need to devote 100% of their time to the implementation, with their primary focus on execution.  Six Sigma Black Belts dealing mainly with day to day activities rather than generalities of the program. The role of Six Sigma Black Belts as frontline executives of the program is critical to the success of the organization.

It is important that someone at the Six Sigma Black Belt certification level have expertise in designing, developing and running team projects, as well as using the DMADV method of designing new products and services. Black Belts and Master Black Belts train the lower level belts, showing them exactly what processes they need to know and making sure they are giving their trainees all the information they need to be successful. The lower belts that they train and work with are green, yellow and (sometimes) white, although there is much debate to whether or not the white belt is an actual acknowledged certification within the six sigma community.

Black Belts take complete responsibility for the smooth execution of the plans and projects they have been assigned. They will work with various teams and train others to be leaders of teams, as well. It is wise for someone in this position of leadership to be extremely qualified, with experience and expertise in human behavior and psychology as well as having a good grasp of change management. Teams that have good leaders will produce the best results. They will understand the team members in a way that allows them to decide how to best use their skills and talents in the workplace. The skill of good delegation of responsibility is essential to the leadership role.

As leaders, Black Belts will need excellent skills with communication. They will know how to teach the Six Sigma methodology well and create teams that finish projects on time, producing excellent results every time. The green belts are the second level and will work as assistants to the black belts when they are not leading their own teams. Green Belts are in charge of most of the actual number crunching and 6 sigma statistics within an organization. Some projects will require the expertise of a black belt, while others will not be quite as intense and can be trusted to someone with the experience and understanding that a green belt will have. Green belts will analyze and collect data for the higher belts, executives and champions.

Black belts will also be assisted on projects by yellow belts. These team members carry out tasks their supervisors assign to them, reviewing data, spotting errors and making suggestions for possible areas of improvement. Usually it is auxiliary staff who is trained in the Yellow Belt level of 6 Sigma. If an organization chooses to train employees in the White Belt level, they will assist on a local level, arranging meetings and utilizing local resources. They will help out a 6 Sigma professional team, despite their controversy within the Six Sigma Community.

What They Should Know

Although Six Sigma demands high value personnel, not all of them are equally trained or talented. While causes for this disparity often causes loss of time and resources, it is important to implement standardization on what they should know as Six Sigma Black Belts, because they are essential for the fulfillment of program objectives. Here are the fundamental things Six Sigma Black Belts are expected to know:

Comprehensive Knowledge Of DMAIC Processes:

A Six Sigma Black Belt is expected to know the five basic principles of Six Sigma methodology as described by DMAIC. A deeper understanding of these five principles, to the core, is essential as a first step. The acronym DMAIC stands for defining the process, measuring the current process baseline, analyzing causality factors, improving the process by optimization and finally controlling the process flow and transition to production.

Thorough Knowledge Of Processes:

A thorough understanding of the processes, acquired by having worked on them as a full- time employee, is essential. The Six Sigma Black Belt should have substantial knowledge with hands on experience as the basis for identifying problem areas. Technical skills and active involvement in day to day activities are also paramount.

Familiarity With Tools And Techniques:

The implementation of Six Sigma methodologies is made possible through the use of various tools and techniques of measurement that help the decision making process. Familiarity with technical statistical tools is a must for Six Sigma Black Belts for effective 6 sigma implementation. Although formal training in statistics and analysis is not essential, Six Sigma Black Belts are expected to pick up this subject with relative ease.

Ability To Formulate Projects & Plans:

A Six Sigma Black Belt should able to make business plans and execute them in order to make sure that defined goals are achieved. Along the way, Six Sigma Black Belts are responsible for measurement of progress and the ability to articulate them in meaningful terms. Six Sigma Black Belts are expected to control the course of 6 sigma implementation for maximum gains.

Knowledge Of Customer Base:

A Six Sigma Black Belt should be aware of the roles of each key person and be independently able to devise, test and conduct customer surveys. He/she should also know how to interpret and validate the results, identify differences, and report and incorporate the results of the survey.

Role of Six Sigma Black Belts

Six Sigma Black Belts play the role of change agent. Their role is a position of leadership. They must possess the sharpest business acumen, strong communication skills, customer advocacy knowledge, leadership qualities, technical aptitude and most of all, patience.


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.