When you start talking about belts and their colors (yellow, green, and black) many people start looking around for Karate practitioners, lost at the reference. Well I am here to tell you that not only is it important to know what the different belts bring to your project, it is also easy to understand. By understanding the belt levels and the expectations, you can help ensure the success of your 6Sigma project.
Yellow Belt– A Yellow belt is a novice in the 6Sigma world, this is someone who has just begun the journey and serves more often than not as a specific subject matter expert on a project. This could be an engineer or line manager, someone who knows the process intimately but hasn’t had any experience with improvement processes.
Green Belt-A Green Belt is an intermediate in the 6Sigma world, this is someone who is familiar with the concepts and the statistics but doesn’t run projects on their own. Green Belts generally assist the Black Belt in creating project plans, tracking task completion and monitoring the project. Green Belts are familiar with the statistics, but they will generally not have an in-depth understanding of them and improvement projects will often be an additional duty for Green Belts; this is why they shouldn’t lead projects unsupervised.
Black Belts– Black Belts are considered to be experts regarding 6Sigma and they are expected to lead improvement projects on a full-time basis. The Black Belt has in-depth knowledge of the statistical processes, understands change management and how to manage resistance, how to lead teams, how to identify change agents and how to select appropriate 6Sigma projects. When working with a Black Belt you should be able to rest easy knowing that they have the project under control. Black Belts will need to work closely with you, but there should never be any question that they are running the project. The Black Belt should have a firm grasp on stakeholders, objectives, metrics and anticipated outcomes and risk at the very least. Most importantly your Black Belt is most often going to be your change agent or will be responsible for identify company change agents, the person that will sway the rest of the company to accept the change project, so be sure that the Black Belt understands why this change is important.
Master Black Belts-Master Black Belts are like the Obi-wan’s of 6Sigma. The Master Black Belts traditionally train Black Belts and have a complete and total understanding of 6Sigma methodology. Again these belts run 6Sigma projects full-time and really steer an organization’s 6Sigma efforts. They do everything a black belt does and much more. A Master Black Belt is able to determine which metric is the best fit for an improvement project, which risk is worth taking and how resources can be allocated efficiently. The Master Black Belt should also be able to decipher team roles and identify team members with a negative impact fairly quickly; once discovered the Master Black Belt will be able to formulate and implement mitigation strategies for the negative team member as quickly as they discover them.
Knowing the responsibilities of the respective belts will help your organization sustain the improvement effort in the long term. The knowledge of the belts responsibilities aids the leadership in creating realistic expectations for the improvement projects and the project leaders.