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

The difference between the Lean Six Sigma Belt levels

Most people are familiar with the Lean Six Sigma Belt levels (White, Yellow, Green, Black and Master), but we are often asked to explain the difference between them. Who should do which Belt? What can they 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.  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.

How do you use Lean Six Sigma to improve your business?

Take a look at this video in which PMI Consultant, Dennis Crommentuijn-Marsh talks about using Lean Six Sigma to improve your business. We know that Lean Six Sigma can sound daunting, and it can be difficult to know how to use it and where to start when you’ve got a problem to which you do not know the answer.

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How many of each Lean Six Sigma belt level 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 that should be trained to each level. Starting at the bottom, it’s a realistic ambition for an organisation which sees continuous improvement as key to its ongoing success, that everyone can attain the minimum standard, White Belt.

Lean Six Sigma Belt Levels

White Belt​

Beginner Level – they have a basic awareness of Lean Six Sigma (LSS), they can interact with processes, they are aware of how LSS has been applied to their work processes and they understand their role.

Yellow Belt​

Technician Level – they understand the basic LSS methodology. They 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.

Green Belt

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.

Black Belt

Specialist 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 Black Belt

An Improvement Leader – 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.

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What can the Lean Six Sigma Belt levels help my organisation accomplish?

The Lean Six Sigma Belt levels can be a useful framework to adopt if you’re 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
  • improve staff engagement by providing capability and empowerment to tackle problems themselves
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