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Lean Six Sigma Belt Levels Explained

March 15, 2022

At first glance, Six Sigma training can feel overwhelming, especially when it comes to deciding which level is best for you. But with a basic understanding of the belt levels and their various functions, the process is actually quite simple to comprehend and will elevate your professional career.

Key Takeaways

  • As you advance in belt level, you sharpen leadership skills and build technical capability.
  • Not everyone needs to be a Black Belt. Figure out the right amount of training for you based on the problems you need to solve and your career path.
  • Each belt level, regardless of color, allows you to bring more value to your workplace.

From a business perspective, in order to create a culture of organizational excellence, it's important to align the training with the specific roles that are needed to complete various projects. Every level offers valuable insight, and deciding on which level to train employees should depend on the complexity of the problem that they need to solve.

So what is Six Sigma training? At its core, it's disciplined problem solving. The more complex the problem, the more sophisticated the tools necessary to solve it. Lean Six Sigma follows the DMAIC method. This is an acronym for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control. This roadmap is taught and followed by MoreSteam, large global organizations and many universities and institutes of higher education. Once you understand how DMAIC works, you'll never look at problems the same way again.

When it comes to process improvement, everyone has an opinion about the best way to get started. If you're not sure what to believe or what your options are, keep reading. Lean Six Sigma is just an approach to problem solving and there are lots of ways to get started.

Here is a basic guide on the MoreSteam Six Sigma belt approach, and the different skill sets that each one brings to the table.

White Belt

The White Belt level of Six Sigma training offers a basic understanding of problem‐solving principles. The idea behind training at this level is awareness; to get employees thinking about the current process of the workplace and how they could go about improving them. This is a good place to start learning what the words and concepts mean.

Yellow Belt

Yellow belt earners will gain a basic understanding and overview of Lean Six Sigma concepts and tools. You should expect around 20‐30 hours of training, where you'll cover topics like the 5 lean principles, process and value stream mapping, error‐proofing, and much more.

Once trained, Yellow Belts can expect to participate on a project typically led by a Green Belt, as a team member. They might also participate in quick hit kaizen events that require deep focus for several days in order to solve an immediate problem. Yellow's are responsible for solving smaller process problems around them that do not require the use of advanced statistics.

Green Belt

As a level‐up from Yellow Belt, Green Belt training goes a bit more in‐depth with Lean Six Sigma concepts.

A popular option for those that want to become project leaders, green belt training covers everything that you would learn as a yellow belt, with added material. This includes things like communication, hypothesis testing, Statistical Process Control (SPC) Charts, and much more. Green belt professionals should expect around 80 hours of comprehensive training.

When Green Belts are fully trained, they are equipped to lead their own DMAIC project. Green Belt programs also provide some leadership training for small project team management with the assistance of other Green Belts or Yellow Belts. Since the training involves more in‐depth analysis, Green Belts will also know a considerable amount of statistics.

Black Belt

Black belt training takes significantly more time and effort than yellow or green belt training, but is perfect for those seeking roles of leadership in project management or process improvement.

Overall, you should expect around 140 hours of training. This comprehensive course goes in‐depth on concepts like identifying potential root causes, charting process behavior, and process improvement projects, plus all of the material that you would learn at the green and yellow belt level.

Since this level requires a substantial amount of hours of training, Black Belts can expect to run more advanced projects that require heavy stats or Designed Experiments. This level is well trained in both leadership and soft skills, like mentoring, and will be able to confidently lead other Green Belts.

Master Black Belt

The Master Black Belt level will help you become an expert in operational excellence. Master Black Belt programs build on the foundation of the previous belt levels and help you understand how to lead complex enterprise‐wide projects, develop the technical and process excellence skills of teams, and support organizational transformation at the executive level.

A rare belt‐level achievement, Master Black Belts are seasoned Black Belts that will have extensive advanced training in design, stats, and modeling. Master Black Belts will often lead entire process improvement initiatives. Additionally, they help coach Black Belts and Green Belts through their projects and their own leadership challenges.

But Which One is Right for Me?

No matter the belt level you choose for your role, your career will benefit. Point blank, everyone benefits from understanding the basics. But how far you go in your training will depend on your ambition, role and responsibilities.

If you're an organization looking to introduce Lean Six Sigma into your workplace, we recommend a "just-enough" approach to training until your project efforts yield returns. It doesn't make sense to have everyone trained as a Green Belt. Varying certifications among employees ensures that you have enough support at each level and all participants are sufficiently coached and mentored. Plus, it guarantees that projects are overseen, maintained, and successfully completed.

Lean Six Sigma Belt levels and how they support each other

Green and Yellow Belt training are great career boosters for process or manufacturing engineers, continuous improvement specialists, and project managers. If you're aiming for a senior level director or project manager title, consider Black Belt and Master Black Belt training. Consider your specific job, situation, and career goals, and from there, assess which belt is the right level for you.

Also recognize that Lean Six Sigma Training requires time to learn and practice the skills. You might decide to start at a lower level and work your way up. There is no wrong answer, and each level brings added value to your career and workplace. For more information on the various belt levels that MoreSteam offers, and how they can each add value to your career, check out our course catalog.