Belt Up!

Which Lean Six Sigma Belts are for you, your team, your organisation


Most people are familiar with the Lean Six Sigma Belts, but we are often asked to explain the difference, who should do which Belt, and what they can expect once someone achieves the various Belt standards.

If you are interested in understanding the Belts and what they mean to you or to your organisation, then presumably you are working in an organisation which has, or is in the process of establishing, a culture of continuous improvement where the thinking, methods and tools of Lean Six Sigma are important to you.

You value people as individuals and their knowledge of the work;  you want to engage them in creative problem solving, and believe that it is everyone’s job to build, maintain and improve the system. 

Take a look at this video in which PMI Consultant, Dennis Crommentuijn-Marsh talks about how to use Lean Six Sigma to improve your business.

How many of each do we need?

There is no mathematical formula to answer this question, nor should there be, but the image below shows the hierarchy of Belts, AND is a representation of the number of people in your organisation.  Starting at the bottom, it is realistic ambition for an organisation which sees continuous improvement as key to its ongoing success, that everyone can attain the minimum standard, White Belt. 

Here are some brief descriptions of each Belt level and the relevant skills that a certified member of your team would master:

Awareness level – meaning “they have knowledge of or are conscious of”.  They have a basic awareness of Lean Six Sigma (LSS), they can interact with processesthey are aware of how LSS has been applied to their work processes and they understand their role.  

Introductory level – they understand the basic LSS methodology, and know how to use a small range of basic LSS tools with the processes that they work in, to regularly make incremental improvements.  They can actively support and contribute to projects which are run by Green Belts and Black Belts. 

Practitioner level – they use the LSS methodology and tools every day in their work.  Following an improvement cycle, they can lead LSS step change improvement projects, typically lasting 3 – 4 months, which may require process redesign.  They have a wide range of LSS tools in their repertoire, a keen understanding of variation, and good facilitation skills, which enable them to involve the people who do the work in designing the improvements.  

Hierarchy of Lean Six Sigma Belts

Expert level – can lead business critical improvement projects for strategic issues, often with complex large data sets.  They have excellent soft skills, and can lead high profile cross functional projects, effectively engaging their stakeholders and project team members.  They act as excellent coaches for Green Belts. 

Master level – a Master Black Belt possesses outstanding leadership qualities, is an expert change leader, and is highly valued as a quality and improvement advisor.  They have a holistic approach to their work and a systemic view of their organisation.  Highly skilled and sought after as potential employees for senior leadership roles, and capable of leading organisational transformation, the Master Black Belt is a natural leader and mentor. 

If you are looking to…

    • accelerate your process performance
    • create accountability for process improvement
    • have clarity over everyone’s role in the system
    • introduce a step-change in thinking to focus on the customer and what they value
    • and improve staff engagement by providing capability and empowerment to tackle problems themselves

…then the Lean Six Sigma Belts can be a useful framework to adopt.

Learn more about the content at each level on our training pages here.

Written by Susannah Clarke
Managing Partner
Process Management International

Follow Susannah on LinkedIn.

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