5 Things You should Know about Six Sigma Belts

5 Key Items about Six Sigma Belts

If you are promoting the Six Sigma methodologies in your facility, you have likely heard a lot about the different belts that can be obtained. Whether working toward these belts yourself, or helping others in the company with this training, it is important that you understand a few key items about Six Sigma belts.

The following five points will help give anyone a basic understanding of what the belts are, and why they are important. This will help allow people to better pursue their training and qualify for whichever belt they are currently working toward.

“Every project needs organizational support. Six Sigma executives and champions set the direction for selecting and deploying projects. They ensure, at a high level, that projects succeed, add value and fit within the organizational plan.” – ASQ

What are the Six Sigma Belts?

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The first, and perhaps most important thing that you need to know is what the belts actually are. In the Six Sigma program, the belts identify different levels of experience and training through the program. They can also be used to identify which people will do what work on a specific project. The following are the available belts, and what they mean:

  • Yellow Belt – This is the lowest level in the Six Sigma belt program. Those with yellow belts will typically going to be the closest to the actual work that is being done on any project.
  • Green Belt – Green belts are the next level up, and will manage the processes more than do the actual work. They may in some cases have yellow belts reporting to them for projects, but not always. This level also focuses a lot of attention on data collection and analysis throughout any project.
  • Black Belt – The black belt holders normally work only on larger projects that will have a major impact on the company. They almost always have one or more green or yellow belts working under them on these projects. They are normally responsible for providing training and guidance to those with lower level belts.
  • Master Black Belt – This is the highest belt in the hierarchy, and their main role is training others. It can take years of experience to attain the master black belt.

Knowing What You Need

When many people start looking into getting a Six Sigma belt, they assume that they will want to attempt to move through the ranks as quickly as possible to achieve a master black belt. This is not, however, how the Six Sigma program works.

Many people will get a yellow or green belt, for example, and continue at that level throughout their career. If they are not interested in, or qualified for the higher level management of projects, there is no need to seek the black belt or master black belt.

In most cases, a company will identify which belt levels they would like specific employees to attain, and then only recommend that they get further belts if they show real promise in that area.

How to Attain a Six Sigma Belt

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Another common question people have about working on qualifying for a Six Sigma belt is related to how they can accomplish their goal. Most people will go through training. This is either done through formal classes, or with the help of an existing black belt or master black belt working for the company.

Once ready, candidates can take tests that are offered through the International Association for Six Sigma Certification (IASSC). There are individual tests for the yellow, green and black belts that must be passed in order to be officially recognized as holding those belts. There is no test, however, for the master black belt.

While there are some institutions that offer master black belt training and certification, the most important qualifications will come from experience. To attain this level, you should have years of experience as a black belt, and focus on providing training and assistance to lower level belt holders.

A common rule of thumb for getting a master black belt is that you should have a minimum of two years as an active black belt, a mastery of all the tools used in the Six Sigma program, have completed at least five major black belt programs, and be successful in your area of business.

Why get a Six Sigma Belt?

If you are just implementing a Six Sigma program at your company, you have undoubtedly been asked why they need to get a Six Sigma belt. There are many benefits that getting these belts can bring, both for the individual employee and the company as a whole. The following are just a few of the most important reasons why people work to get these belts:

  • Waste Reduction – Companies love the Six Sigma program because it dramatically reduces waste within the facility. Getting the belts helps individuals to identify and eliminate waste in their projects.
  • High Demand – Individuals will benefit from getting a Six Sigma belt because those with this type of certification are often in high demand. It can also provide you with job security, and potentially more money.
  • Standardization – One of the best things about the Six Sigma program in general, and the belts specifically, is it provides standardization regarding how things are done throughout industries.

What Happens Once You Have Your Belt?

The last thing that will be touched on here is what happens once you’ve attained your Six Sigma belt. There are two main options, neither of which involves just sitting back and coasting with your new certification.

For some people, getting a belt is just one step on a journey toward the master black belt. If that is the case, as soon as you get a yellow belt, for example, you should begin working and studying for the green belt. For others, they are only interested in getting to a set belt level, and don’t want to move up any further.

When that is the case, you should continue to focus your efforts on improving your project management skills at that level. If you want to stay a green belt, for example, you should focus on improving your data collection and analysis skills. This will help you to continue to improve and benefit yourself and the company more and more over time from within the green belt level.

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