How To Understand The Basics Of Six Sigma

Six-sigma just like many other techniques and disciplines coined by successful companies and emulated by those seeking to improve their own operations, requires a thorough understanding in order to properly evaluate how it can be used in a particular case, and also to identify the elements that are important to have in mind for it work the way it has worked for others. Today in David Kiger’s Blog, we want to take an opportunity to explore some of the specifics of Six Sigma, its levels of certification and what it really means to make it work for your company. All of this information is exposed seeking to give you enough footing so you can analyze how it works and decide if it can work for you. Perhaps you may find a discipline worth implementing, if not generally then maybe partially, into multiple aspects of your operation. In a worst-case scenario you may discover that six-sigma doesn’t work for you, however, we feel that everything that can be used to enhance performance through analytics can be adapted even slightly to give you an edge and boost the effectiveness of daily operations.

What is Six Sigma?

Six Sigma is a number of techniques implemented seeking improvement in specific processes. When performance is increased, then negative aspects that also known as “defects” are reduced obviously. By how much you may ask? Well, that is where the number six comes from. Six Sigma seeks to reduce defects within six standard deviations from the centerline in a control chart. Six sigma looks to improve the quality of the output in a process and while it may be easier to understand this if we place it in a manufacturing context, it is not limited to just that. This type of methodical implementation can be also used to improve performance in areas like an improvement of customer loyalty, time management, employee retention rates and even marketing goals. Anything and everything that can somehow be measured can be potentially improved by using Six sigma.

Teams working_six sigma belts_logistics
Image courtesy of Paris Buttfield-Addison at

What is this nonsense about belts?

Six Sigma professionals are individuals that are certified and trained in Six Sigma strategies and can support efforts by the company when it comes to implementing these strategies.

At the organizational level, we have what is known as champions and executives.

Champions are those who are able to take the company’s goal, its vision and the analysis of data that is captured and create a plan for deploying strategies and forming teams to carry out different projects.

Executives work with establishing the strategies themselves and directing the programs within the guidelines laid out by the culture and vision of the company.

At the project level, we have the different belt designations that define the goals of each of those members of the organization that work within the projects created to implement changes according to Six Sigma.

White Belts are individuals who are just getting started on their path to Six Sigma certification. Getting accredited as a white belt is very easy and it only requires a short training session. Since they understand the basis and have a clear picture of how Six sigma works, White belts can help more advanced members outline strategies within projects but they many not be part of them yet.

Yellow Belts are the core members of a project team and they report to team leaders. These individuals have already completed Six Sigma basic training and are ready to be more involved into the organizational implementation projects. They are extremely valuable within the company as they are directly involved in the success of the project and are sometimes responsible for overseeing smaller and more specialized projects inside their own departments.

Green Belts are the first level leaders in Six Sigma projects. They are in charge of groups made out of yellow belts mainly and are responsible for their performance and the proper implementation of solutions. Green Belts are usually picked by the management team to lead projects that operate in areas that are of their expertise. They are people who not only understand Six Sigma very well but who also have great leadership skills and know how to motivate and enhance the performance of a team.

Black Belts are the next step up from a Green Belt and are usually involved with Six Sigma projects 100% of the time they spend at work. They are the overall leaders of the teams and they use their knowledge to lead Green Belts and Yellow Belts towards reaching the objectives of their individual projects. Sometimes they are in charge of training junior members as they advance in the Six Sigma ladder and they are expected to have great leadership skills on a grander scale.

Master Black Belts are at the top of the belt progression and are in charge of training and coaching Green and Black Belts. They knowledge of the program and its implementation within the company is vast and they are the liaisons between the teams and the company’s senior leadership when it comes to Six Sigma matters.

* Featured Image courtesy of Taís Melillo at

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