What is a Six Sigma Black Belt?

In every Six Sigma project, someone takes on the leadership role. They work to define process improvement goals and guide a team to achieve them.

In most cases, that person is a Six Sigma Black Belt.

Achieving designation as a Black Belt means a person has mastered the tools and techniques of Six Sigma. Earning Six Sigma Black Belt certification requires a commitment to understanding the methodology in detail and having the ability to put Six Sigma to use in solving real-world business challenges.

What is a Six Sigma Black Belt Certification?

To create a system for learning about Six Sigma in a step-by-step process, certifications were created to designate various levels of knowledge and skill in using the methodology. The color-coded levels work as follows.

  • White Belt: A basic understanding of Six Sigma terminology and theories.
  • Yellow Belt: More extensive education in learning about Six Sigma tools and strategies. This person will sometimes work assist a Green Belt on projects.
  • Green Belt: People at this level make the leap into implementing Six Sigma on real-world business challenges. They often work under the direction of a Black Belt.
  • Black Belt: A master of Six Sigma methods. They take on the leadership of process improvement projects.
  • Master Black Belt: The highest level of Six Sigma certification. Those in this position have mastered all aspects of Six Sigma and have led numerous successful projects.

The Roles And Responsibilities For A Black Belt

At the level of Black Belt, a person must be ready to handle multiple, critical roles in an organization’s ongoing process improvement efforts. They are highly valued because they can handle solving complex issues.

The following are some of the roles a Black Belt must take on.

Leadership. The buck truly stops with Black Belts. They guide project teams in process improvement efforts. That requires complete mastery of Six Sigma methods such as DMAIC (design, measure, analyze, improve, control) and DMADV (define, measure, analyze, design, verify). Communication and interpersonal skills are also key to success as a Black Belt.

Business strategy. One of the hardest tasks on any project is clearly defining a business goal from the outset – and then ensuring a project is completed in such a way that aligns with that goal. Black Belts work hand-in-hand with executives to ensure everyone is on the same page and that projects add value to the company.

Process improvement. Black Belts work as change agents. They seek to make a business more efficient and profitable. They also seek to create better products and services for customers. In short, they want an improved business world and they work hard to make that happen.

Belief in the system. At this level of Six Sigma, a person must have completely bought into what the methodology can achieve. That enthusiasm for Six Sigma will motivate others, as well.

Who Should Become a Black Belt?

Black Belts typically work at the manager or director level. Many, however, start Six Sigma certification training while still among the employee ranks.

Executives also can benefit from learning Six Sigma methodologies. The emphasis on eliminating defects from operational stages while also adding value to the customer, aligns perfectly with the goals of executive leadership.

Six Sigma also is a data-driven method of fostering change. Those with an interest in data analysis will find Six Sigma Black Belt certification both challenging and rewarding.

Who Can Benefit from Six Sigma Black Belt Certification?

If a person is considering becoming a Black Belt, they most likely have already earned their Green Belt. They can benefit greatly from taking the next step higher in certification.

Companies and customers are obvious beneficiaries of having Six Sigma Black Belts onboard. Black Belts can handle complex calculations involving process improvement. They can identify the root cause of defects and waste, correct those issues and set standards to sustain improvements.

However, for those who have achieved this level, the skills, knowledge and certification can also improve their professional outlook. Black Belts can often command higher salaries because of the important job they perform.

Earning Six Sigma Black Belt certification is a big step. For those with the proper skills and a deep commitment to the job, it’s the right step toward more challenging and rewarding work.

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