Certification Belts

“Six Sigma” management has several levels of certification, they are: Champion, Yellow/Green Belt, Brown/Black Belt, and Master Black Belt. Each level of certification is described below.

A Six Sigma Champion is the most basic form of Six Sigma certification. A Champion understands the theory of Six Sigma management, but does not yet have the quantitative skills to function as an active Six Sigma project team member.  However, executives in Six Sigma organizations function as champions of Six Sigma projects. As champions, executives take a very active sponsorship and leadership role in conducting and implementing Six Sigma projects. A Champion should be a member of the Executive Committee, or at least a trusted direct report of a member of the Executive Committee. She or he should have enough influence to remove obstacles or provide resources without having to go higher in the organization. They work closely with the executive committee, the project leader (called a black belt) assigned to their project, and the master black belt (supervisor of black belts) overseeing their project. Champions have the following responsibilities:

  • Identify their project on the organizational dashboard.

  • Develop and negotiate project objectives with top management.

  • Select a black belt (or a green belt for a simple project) to lead the project team.

  • Remove any political barriers or resource constraints to their Six Sigma project.

  • Provide a communication link between project team(s) and top management.

  • Help team members manage their resources and stay within the budget.

  • Review each project’s timetable.

  • Keep the team focused on the project by providing direction and guidance.

  • Assure that Six Sigma methods and tools are being used in the project.

A Six Sigma Green Belt is an individual who works on projects part-time (25%), either as a team member for complex projects, or as a project leader for simpler projects. Green belts are the “work horses” of Six Sigma projects. Most managers in a mature Six Sigma organization are green belts.  Green Belt certification is a critical prerequisite for advancement into upper management in a Six Sigma organization. Managers act as Green Belts for their entire careers, as their style of management. Green belts leading simpler projects have the following responsibilities:

  • Refine a project charter.

  • Review the project charter with the project’s champion.

  • Select the team members for the project.

  • Communicates with the champion, master black belt, black belt and process owner throughout all stages of the project.

  • Facilitate the team through all phases of the project.

  • Schedule meetings and coordinate logistics.

  • Analyze data through all phases of the project

  • Train team members in the basic tools and methods of Six Sigma.

In complicated Six Sigma projects, green belts work closely with the team leader (black belt) to keep the team functioning and progressing through the various stages of the Six Sigma project.

A Six Sigma Yellow Belt is an individual who has passed the Green Belt certification examination but has not yet completed a Six Sigma project.

A Six Sigma Black Belt is a full-time change agent and improvement leader who may not be an expert in the process under study. The ideal candidate for a black belt is an individual who posses the following characteristics:

  • Has technical and managerial process improvement / innovation skills.

  • Has a passion for Statistics and Systems Theory.

  • Understands the psychology of individuals and teams.

  • Understands process improvement tools and methods.

  • Has excellent communication and writing skills.

  • Works well in a team format.

  • Can manage meetings.

  • Has a pleasant personality and is fun to work with.

  • Communicates in the language of the client and does not use technical jargon.

  • Is not intimidated by upper management.

  • Has a customer focus. 

The responsibilities of a black belt include:

  • Help to prepare a project charter.

  • Communicate with the champion and process owner about progress of the project.

  • Lead the project team.

  • Schedule meetings and coordinate logistics.

  • Help team members design experiments and analyze the data required for the project.

  • Provide training in tools and team functions to project team members.

  • Help team members prepare for reviews by the champion and executive committee.

  • Recommend additional Six Sigma projects.

  • Lead and coach Green Belts leading projects limited in scope.

A black belt is a full-time quality professional who is mentored by a master black belt, but may report to a manager, for his or her tour of duty as a black belt.

A Brown Belt is a Six Sigma Green Belt who has passed the Black Belt certification examination but has not yet completed their second Six Sigma project.

A Master Black Belt takes on a leadership roles as keeper of the Six Sigma process, advisor to executives or business unit managers, and leverages, his/her skills with projects that are led by black belts and green belts. Frequently, master black belts report directly to senior executives or business unit managers. A master black belt has successfully led ten or more teams through complex Six Sigma projects.  He or she is a proven change agent, leader, facilitator, and technical expert in Six Sigma management.  Master black belt is a career path. It is always best for an organization to grow its own master black belts. Unfortunately, sometimes it is impossible for an organization to grow its own master black belts due to the lead time required to become a master black belt. It takes years of study, practice, tutelage under a master, and project work.

Master Black Belts have the following responsibilities:

  • Counsel senior executives and business unit managers on Six Sigma management.

  • Help identify and prioritize key project areas in keeping with strategic initiatives

  • Continually improve and innovate the organization’s Six Sigma process.

  • Apply Six Sigma across both operations and transactions-based processes such as Sales, HR, IT, Facility Management, Call Centers, Finance, etc.

  • Coordinate Six Sigma projects from the dashboard.

  • Teach black belts and green belts Six Sigma theory, tools, and methods.

  • Mentor black belts and green belts.