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Six Sigma: Green Belt vs Black Belt

With record high unemployment, there is record high “competition.” A “Six Sigma” certification is a wonderful differentiator that can set you apart from others whether you are a seasoned executive or recent graduate. Although not all Six Sigma courses are created equal, and there is a “White” and “Yellow Belt,” most individuals begin their studies by trying to decide between the “Green” or “Black Belt” certification programs.

The term “Six Sigma” originated from terminology associated with the statistical modeling of manufacturing processes; eventually crystallizing into strategies which improve the quality of the output of a process by identifying and removing the causes of defects and minimizing impact variability in manufacturing and business processes. In short: it is a set of techniques and tools for process improvement where 99.99966% of all opportunities to produce some feature of a part are statistically free of defects.

Green and Black Belt courses teach different skill sets which upon successful completion can lead to career advancement, higher salaries, and bonuses. So what are the primary differences?

The obvious differences are the length of time these courses take, the sophistication and frequency of necessary performance / aptitude tests; and the totality / completeness of the Six Sigma foundation which you must know to be awarded your “belt.” In other words, it is like the difference between a Captain in the Navy and an Admiral; a high “five-figure salary” vs “a six-figure salary;” and both require tremendous hard work and dedication to master.

Competent Green Belts are experts in understanding, utilizing, and applying all of the concepts and tools comprising that which is “Six Sigma.” Black Belts, upon completing their studies should have a mastery of all the “Six Sigma” tools and techniques; as well as the ability to organize, manage, and lead teams.

Earning a Green Belt in Six Sigma is a tremendous accomplishment, certainly putting you on a road towards leadership and C-Level Executive roles; but a Black Belt completes this journey. A Black Belt says you are within the apex of the pyramid, prepared to take on leadership roles as an expert in “process improvements” and “change management.”

One important point to mention; Green and Black Belts often work together making both necessary. Green Belts primarily focus on and strive to be experts in “DMAIC,” a foundational methodology in Six Sigma. It stands for:

  • Define – Defining a challenge and building a case for why and how to change it

  • Measure – Setting goals, calculating performance standards and ensuring new processes contribute to an organization’s overall effectiveness

  • Analyze – Sifting data to find issues such as process redundancy

  • Improve – Creating, implementing and sustaining process improvement measures, and also creating standards to measure their effectiveness

  • Control – Adjusting new processes to ensure all goals are met

In short, Green Belts are responsible for data collection and the analysis of that data. Black Belts with a complete understanding of Six Sigma methodology focus their time on reviewing the data and analysis, while leading a team(s), and ultimately improving business goals.

Black Belts are also crucial when it comes to acting as interdepartmental liaisons facilitating effective and efficient “communication.” In other words, Black Belts are the “bridge” between the project team and a company’s leadership.

Green Belts and Black Belts are a great asset to any corporate entity capable of ultimately improving processes applying all or elements of Six Sigma. For those who wish to take on a higher-profile role in managing change, acquiring a Six Sigma certification will help propel you towards greater measures of success.

If you would like to learn more or have any questions, you can connect with Business Anthropology’s Director and Six Sigma Master Black Belt Anthony Galima or Rakesh Rajora, the Curator of LinkedIn’s Six Sigma Group.

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