Six Sigma Certification

No global standard exists for Six Sigma certification.

Six Sigma
Six Sigma. Getty Images

Six Sigma projects are disciplined, data-driven and designed to improve processes by identifying and removing the causes of defects or errors and minimizing variability.  Six Sigma projects are usually led by professionals trained (and typically certified) in Six Sigma techniques.  Certification for Six Sigma is generally conferred on Green Belts and Black Belts.  There is no global standard for Six Sigma certification but Black Belts generally need to do course work, take a written exam and complete one to three Six Sigma projects.

The Six Sigma vocabulary can sometimes be confusing, so here’s a primer to get you started.  If you want a deeper dive, try this.  The term Six Sigma is derived from the statistical principle that states - if you start at your process’ mean value and you eliminate defects within six standard deviations of the mean and the nearest specification limit, you’ll virtually eliminate all defects or errors.  If you’re not a statistician, think of Six Sigma looking at a bell curve and eliminating the errors within the thick chunk of the bell. 

Executive Leadership – Within any Six Sigma project, you’ll want Executive Leadership.  This role can include the CEO or other top management. They are responsible for setting up a vision for a Six Sigma implementation.  One important aspect of having Executive Leadership is the buy-in aspect of it.  If you want a project to succeed, it’s critical that those in an organization understand why it’s important – and who it’s important to.

Champion – The Champion is the person in an organization who 'champions' a Six Sigma project, like a senior manager who ensures that it’s properly resourced and uses their authority to overcome organizational barriers.  The champion sits a level below the Executive Leadership.

Master Black Belt – The Master Black Belt is an expert with extensive experience and technical expertise in all aspects of Six Sigma.

The Master Black Belt is responsible for selecting, training and mentoring black belts within an organization. They’ll also ensure the Six Sigma program standards are maintained.

Black Belt – A Black Belt is a full-time professional and team leader responsible for the operation and outcome of a Six Sigma project.  Black Belt training courses involve a month or more of classroom training – with a  study focus in methods, statistical tools, and team skills.  Black Belt training courses also require a completed Six Sigma project. Certified Six Sigma Black Belt qualification courses are offered by the American Society for Quality (ASQ) and other organizations.

Green Belt - A Green Belt has been trained in Six Sigma methodology and participates in projects as part of their full time job. They may either work as part of a team, led by a Black Belt, or lead smaller projects, with a Black Belt acting as mentor.

Project Sponsor - The Project Sponsor is a manager who can sign off on resources, defines objectives and evaluate outcomes. The Project Sponsor is sometimes the Champion or Executive Leadershop.