THE LEVELS OF SIX SIGMA
Master Black Belt / Champion:
This is the highest level of technical and organizational proficiency. Master Black Belts provide technical leadership of the Six Sigma program. Thus, they must know everything the Black Belts know, as well as understand the mathematical theory on which the statistical methods are based. Master Black Belts must be able to assist Black Belts in applying the methods correctly in unusual situations. Whenever possible, only Master Black Belts should conduct statistical training. Otherwise the familiar “propagation of error” phenomenon will occur, i.e., Black Belts pass on errors to green belts, who pass on greater errors to team members. If it becomes necessary for Black Belts and Green Belts to provide training, they should do only so under the guidance of Master Black Belts. For example, Black Belts may be asked to provide assistance to the Master during class discussions and exercises. Because of the nature of the Master’s duties, communications and teaching skills are as important as technical competence.
Candidates for Black Belt status are technically oriented individuals held in high regard by their peers. They should be actively involved in the process of organizational change and development. Candidates may come from a wide range of disciplines and need not be formally trained statisticians or engineers. However, because they are expected to master a wide variety of technical tools in a relatively short period of time, Black Belt candidates will probably possess a background in college-level mathematics, the basic tool of quantitative analysis. Coursework in statistical methods should be considered a strong plus or even a prerequisite. As part of their training, Black Belts receive 160 hours of classroom instruction, plus one-on-one project coaching from Master Black Belts or consultants.
Successful candidates will be comfortable with computers. At a minimum, they should understand one or more operating systems, spreadsheets, database managers, presentation programs, and word processors. As part of their training they will be required to become proficient in the use of one or more advanced statistical analysis software packages. Six Sigma Black Belts work to extract actionable knowledge from an organization’s information warehouse. To assure access to the needed information, Six Sigma activities should be closely integrated with the information systems (IS) of the organization. Obviously, the skills and training of Six Sigma Black Belts must be enabled by an investment in software and hardware. It makes no sense to hamstring these experts by saving a few dollars on computers or software.
Green Belts are Six Sigma project leaders capable of forming and facilitating Six Sigma teams and managing Six Sigma projects from concept to completion. Green Belt training consists of five days of classroom training and is conducted in conjunction with Six Sigma projects. Training covers project management, quality management tools, quality control tools, problem solving, and descriptive data analysis. Six Sigma champions should attend Green Belt training. Usually, Six Sigma Black Belts help Green Belts define their projects prior to the training, attend training with their Green Belts, and assist them with their projects after the training.
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