Lean Six Sigma Belts and Roles
If you’re interested in Lean Six Sigma, you will have come across many mentions of Lean Six Sigma belts on your research travels.
We have created this article as a short, introductory guide to understanding the different belts and the importance of all Lean Six Sigma roles.
New to Lean Six Sigma?If this is the first time you’re reading about the process improvement methodologies of Lean and Six Sigma, we recommend taking a few minutes to read our article, “What is Lean Six Sigma?”.
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What are Lean Six Sigma Belts?
The Lean Six Sigma Belts indicate different stages of knowledge, skill and experience in a process improvement practitioner’s development.
These clearly defined roles help structure an organisation’s continuous improvement strategy, as every belt level plays a key part in the success of Lean Six Sigma initiatives.
Is there a difference between “Lean Six Sigma Belts” and “Six Sigma Belts”?
No, they are essentially the same thing.
Lean and Six Sigma are separate methodologies in their own right, but are so frequently used together that the terms “Lean Six Sigma”, “Lean” and “Six Sigma” are often used interchangeably.
You will sometimes find training and certification for a belt that focuses more on the “Six Sigma” side of things, but for the purposes of general knowledge and certification, there is no real difference.
Understanding Lean Six Sigma Belts and Roles
In the Lean Six Sigma hierarchy, there are 5 belt levels and one other crucial role that we will outline below.
White Belt: General Understanding
A White Belt has an understanding of how Lean Six Sigma works. They can use correct Lean Six Sigma terminology to communicate potential issues or relevant points to those working on process improvement projects.
Who are White Belts?
When an organisation is introducing a Lean Six Sigma culture, it’s usual for everyone within the organisation to receive White Belt training. This helps everyone to get on board with the changes that will happen as the process improvement team take action.
Yellow Belt: Active Contributors
Yellow Belts have a strong foundation in Lean Six Sigma.
They understand how it works and can contribute to process improvement projects. They report to and support Green Belts.
Who are Yellow Belts?
Yellow Belts are most often people who will work on a Lean Six Sigma project but will not lead it. Learn more about becoming a Yellow Belt.
Green Belt: Project Managers
Green Belts can manage process improvement projects.
They have a confident understanding of Lean Six Sigma and the capability to implement it successfully.
Who are Green Belts?
Green Belt is the most popular of all Lean Six Sigma certifications, as it’s closely aligned with a “project manager” role. Businesses usually need more than one Lean Six Sigma Green Belt to drive process improvement initiatives forward. Find out how you can become a Green Belt.
Black Belt: Mentor and Strategist
Those trained and certified at Black Belt level drive cross-functional process improvement projects.
They take savings and improvements to the next level and function as a mentor to White, Yellow, and Green Belts.
Who are Black Belts?
Black Belts are those who have experience working with Lean Six Sigma and process improvement. They are often – though not always – people who progress from a Green Belt Level. Learn how you can progress to Black Belt level.
Master Black Belt: Big Picture, Organisational Strategy
Master Black Belts are very advanced Lean Six Sigma practitioners.
They work cross-level with Black Belts and leadership teams to strategise and lead process improvement across the organisation.
Who are Master Black Belts?
Not all Black Belts progress to Master Black Belt level, but those who do have usually worked at Black Belt level for some time. They are involved with high-level strategy for streamlining, savings, and sustainable improvements. They oversee the application of Lean Six Sigma across an entire organisation and devise the strategy for future initiatives.
Champion: Supports and Nurtures
Successful Lean Six Sigma depends on leadership commitment.
A champion is someone who is part of the organisation’s leadership team. They are fully invested in nurturing and supporting a Lean Six Sigma culture.
Who are Lean Six Sigma Champions?
Champions are most often the leadership team within a company. Executives can function as both Champions and Six Sigma practitioners, but not all Champions need to do this. It is crucial for all leadership within an organisation to be Champions for Lean Six Sigma to succeed fully.
Do I need to begin at White Belt level?
We find that most individuals begin at Yellow or Green Belt level.
Most teams adopting a Lean Six Sigma approach take a tailored approach to their training, discussing their specific needs with us so that we can customise a programme to help them achieve their goals.
Occasionally someone will be ready to begin at Black Belt level. This is rare, but it does happen. If a person has plenty of experience leading process improvement initiatives, they may be ready to start with Black Belt training and certification, bypassing Green Belt level.
How can I decide which Belt is Right for me?
To decide on the best training and certification path for your career, your business, or for your team, you need to consider your background and objectives. Ask yourself the following questions:
- Do I / my team have any experience with process improvement?
- Do I / my team need to be able to apply Lean Six Sigma or just understand the concepts?
- How will I / my team use Lean Six Sigma?
Once you’ve considered these questions, we recommend taking a look at our courses online, and getting in touch to discuss your next steps.