Get to Know the Lean Six-Sigma Belts
If you’ve ever attended a manufacturing seminar or trade show, chances are that the headline speaker was someone notable, with numerous credentials and accolades to their name. More often than not, it’s someone who’s a “Six-Sigma Master Blackbelt” or some other Lean accreditation. And while they’re certainly impressive at face value, these certifications are even more impressive when you understand the commitment and education involved in achieving them.
If you’re interested in Lean Six-Sigma certification, you’ll need to climb the ladder. Here’s what the roadmap of Lean Six-Sigma belts looks like and what it takes to earn each one.
- White Belt: This is the entry-level certification for Lean Six-Sigma and is really just a representation of familiarity with the concepts. White Belts aren’t part of Six-Sigma problem-solving teams — rather, they provide support to projects as they learn more about the Lean architecture. Consider this belt the first step in a long journey.
- Yellow Belt: Yellow Belts are Lean Six-Sigma team participants and are actively involved in contributing to Lean projects. They primarily review process improvements and focus on honing fundamental knowledge of Lean concepts. The first “true” belt status, it’s one that engrains the foundation of Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control (DMAIC) methods in participants.
- Green Belt: These are the project and team leaders. Green Belts oversee the execution of Black Belt projects and are primary data collectors and analysts. Think of this as the proficient stage in the Lean Six-Sigma accreditation process. At the Green Belt level, individuals will have both working knowledge and hands-on experience. This is where many Lean-inspired professionals root themselves when they don’t plan on pursuing a more intensive focus in Lean.
- Black Belt: Black Belts are managers and leaders — the ones conceiving and pioneering projects that bring measurable change to facilities. This is typically the highest level most Lean professionals reach, as it distinguishes them as bottom-line-focused professionals who have mastered the philosophies of the Lean methodology.
- Master Black Belt: Few candidates reach the level of Master Black Belt — and frankly, they don’t need to. These are the best of the best, tasked with training all belt levels below them. They focus on developing key metrics and strategic direction for projects, and they’re the Lean ambassador for the company at events and conferences. Master Black Belts are also referred to as Champions.
Climbing the ladder takes time and everyone’s destination is different. Project managers who want to distinguish themselves may choose to maintain their Green Belt; those bound for the c-suite may bolster their reputation with a Black Belt or Master Black Belt.
There’s also the prospect of demand — many companies are willing to pay for Lean Six-Sigma certified professionals. According to the American Society for Quality (ASQ), Lean-Certified professionals earn, on average, $16,411 more than their counterparts, with that total rising for each belt level earned.
Lean Six-Sigma belts don’t come without work. A Black Belt typically takes 95 hours minimum to earn, on top of the 35- and 20-hour stints required for Green and Yellow Belts. This, in addition to the continuing education and training required to maintain certification. All told, Lean Six-Sigma belts aren’t a walk in the park to earn, but well-worth the investment.