Author: Frank Lucer
Those who are new to the practice of Six Sigma might be confused by references to Green Belts, Black Belts, Champions, and other designations of expertise. All businesses and organizations operate with a hierarchy of people. In the same manner, Six Sigma derives much of its strength by training and deploying people with varying levels of experience.
In this article, we'll explore one of those levels. I'll explain how Black Belts fit into the hierarchical pyramid and the role the play in a successful project. You'll learn about the training involved with earning the designation and how ongoing development is critical for professional growth.
One Of Several Critical Roles
It's important to realize that the hierarchical pyramid of Six Sigma process management relies upon several levels of skill and expertise. All of them are tasked with different responsibilities and each plays an essential role in bringing a project to a successful end. At the lower end of the pyramid are Green Belts; they typically comprise a project team. Black Belts, the experience level we're focusing upon today, oversee teams of Green Belts.
The next level is referred to as Master Black Belt status. Masters are appointed by Six Sigma Champions who report to an organization's CEO, CFO, and other department heads. The experts at each level represent important contributions to a project's end goal, whether that goal is increased customer satisfaction, improved process efficiency, or a reduction in training-related issues.
Education Plus Practical Application
To earn a Black Belt, a Six Sigma student must prove that he or she has mastered a number of key principles. Not only must they display a firm grasp of the fundamental concepts of the methodology, but they must also demonstrate mastery of the Green Belt curriculum. Black belts must show proficiency in lean enterprise theory as well as an understanding of the DMAIC paradigm.
The training also includes practical application of learned concepts. Students are usually placed within an existing Six Sigma project in order that they can apply the concepts they've learned. It also allows Master Black Belts to test students' understanding of both rudimentary and advanced principles of the methodology.
Ongoing DevelopmentAs with martial arts, becoming a Six Sigma Black Belt doesn't signify an end to a student's training. They must undergo constant improvement. That includes learning, understanding, and applying increasingly advanced concepts. It also involves exposing students to the responsibility of broader project management. As a Black Belt, the Six Sigma student is normally engaged in overseeing individual project teams. As their experience and knowledge base grows, they should be given opportunities to manage larger projects and coach other students.
Leading The Project
As noted, each level of expertise within the Six Sigma hierarchy is important to the overall success of the project. Whether the responsibility of each expert is to focus upon statistical analysis, problem identification, coaching lower-level students, or communicating with department heads, every level contributes to the end result. For those interested in learning the methodology and becoming certified as Black Belts, it's worth emphasizing that the designation only represents one step on a continual path of development.
After the training has been completed, Black Belts will be armed with the tools necessary to lead Six Sigma project teams. They'll be able to supervise a team of Green Belts and oversee the completion of each members' tasks. They'll also be equipped with the knowledge they need in order to communicate the rationale for the project to upper management, both during implementation and afterward. In the end, the key to completing the training is having a devotion to the methodology and realizing that it's one of many building blocks in the ongoing professional growth of the student.
About the Author
This information on six sigma and lean processes is provided by BMGI, a leading education and consulting firm in the lean six sigma field.