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Lean Six Sigma Belts Explained: Which Belt is Right For You?

Lean Six Sigma Belts

Perhaps you’ve heard of Lean Six Sigma? The driving force behind the innovation and improvement of products and services, Lean Six Sigma’s distinct methodology has seen major success within manufacturing, IT, finance, military, and the healthcare sector. To reduce defects and eliminate waste, Lean Six Sigma’s set of tools and processes are logistically refined to Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control (DMAIC) each stage of production.

Lean Six Sigma’s philosophical methodology is a combination of Lean manufacturing and Six Sigma. Lean manufacturing is a method principally focused on minimizing production time and increasing agility across operations. Six Sigma aims to eliminate variables within manufacturing and organizational processes, with Six Sigma standards aiming to produce no further than 3.4 defects per one million opportunities (DPMO). 

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When combined, Lean Six Sigma is born. The unification of two highly effective improvement methodologies, Lean manufacturing, and Six Sigma’s combined effectiveness can cultivate and support a robust and reliable production model. With LSS processes aiming for near-absolute perfection – 99.99966 percent, in fact, knowing exactly what talents and skills are required and where they’ll be most effective is of major importance when employing talent to oversee and conduct LSS projects. That’s where the LSS Belt certifications come in. 

What Are The Lean Six Sigma Belts?

The Lean Six Sigma certification scheme is focused on training and educating individuals on the different levels of Six Sigma practices – giving them the specified tools and qualifications required in navigating and completing Six Sigma level projects. There are five main LSS belts – White, Yellow, Green, Black, and Master Black Belt. Following a color-coded hierarchy that covers the entirety of Six Sigma knowledge, those qualified in one or more Six Sigma Belt certifications can deliver (to differing degrees) skills that implement change and encourage process improvement. In this article, we’re going to break down the different echelons of the LSS certification scheme and help you identify and choose which one is right for you.

White Belt

Those with a White Belt qualification have an introductory understanding of Six Sigma processes – possessing essential skills that support essential tasks. White Belts are versed in the core basics of Six Sigma and can participate and assist alongside Green and Black Belts in Six Sigma projects. White Belts should be able to communicate effectively, understand processes, compose solutions, strive for improvement, and be versed in DMAIC standards. There are no criteria for pursuing White Belt status and no limitations in ascending Belt status. 

White Belts are ideal for any professional looking to enter the Six Sigma arena. The spectrum is diverse for those seeking a White Belt, with most professionals in organizations adopting LSS methods being able to achieve this feat. White Belts are perfect for those interested in knowing more about improvement and quality management. 

Yellow Belt

Pursuing Yellow Belt status is for those already possessing the essential skills needed to support and navigate Six Sigma projects and for those exceeding the limitations of White Belt capabilities. Yellow Belts look to shed their beginner knowledge and embrace higher knowledge on LSS processes. Yellow Belts are proactive contributors that can assist Green and Black Belts in process improvement projects. Yellow Belts should be able to easily execute minor tasks, initiating methodologies such as Define, Measure, and Control (DMC) and Plan, Do, Check & Act (PDCA).

Yellow Belt certifications are perfect for those with a desire to expand their knowledge on Lean Six Sigma of those seriously considering a career in quality management. Prospective Yellow Belts can expect to enter the Six Sigma periphery and act as an instrumental member that underpins and abides by the methods of quality improvement, e.g. DMAIC.

Green Belt

Those of Green Belt status adopt a more hands-on approach when undertaking Six Sigma projects, usually initiating and overseeing key elements including, enhancing processes, data analysis, project management and to support and reaffirm objectives appointed by Black Belts. The role of a Green Belt also includes navigating and orchestrating ground operations, deploying mid to large-scale improvement projects (depending on the level of experience), and observing process operations to detect and correct anomalies within a process. This Six Sigma level will expand your understanding of LSS methodology and can be used as leverage when looking for prospective work. 

Pursuing a Green Belt qualification is for those looking to gain a comprehensive understanding of Lean Six Sigma and quality management practices like DMAIC. To become a Green Belt practitioner, you’ll need at least 3 years of work experience within the field of quality management. Once you have Green Belt status under your belt (no pun intended), employers will be keen to hire you – potentially earning you up to $75,000 annually.

Black Belt

Now we’re entering the top tier of the Belt scheme. Lean Six Sigma Black Belt specialists are expertly qualified in orchestrating and conducting large-scale quality management processes and hold a confident understanding of Lean Six Sigma’s principles and methodology. Colloquially known as agents of change, Black Belt practitioners possess strong leadership skills and can manage staff, assign roles and manage multiple cross-functional workloads and objectives. Black Belts’ responsibilities also include overseeing and mentoring Green Belts.

Armed with a complete and comprehensive understanding of Six Sigma methods (DMAIC/DFSS), systems, and tools, Black Belts are tasked with validating and analyzing data to explore and improve process improvements. If improvements aren’t ideal, the new data is studied and new solutions are implemented in accordance with quality standards. Black Belts aim to drive innovation and profitability for process owners and industry alike, harnessing their expert skills to deliver the exceptional standards of Lean Six Sigma methodology and quality process management.

Black Belt status is usually a stepping stone for those graduating Green Belt status, though the characteristics that define a Black Belt are of a different calibre. Black Belt candidates need at least 3 years of full-time experience practicing LSS methodology, and verification of two successfully completed LSS projects. Black Belt courses can be achieved within 1-4 months, with no prerequisite for accessing the course. So where can you access these courses? ASQ and IASSC are both globally recognized LSS Black Belt certifiers and are a superb choice offering the highest quality education.

Master Black Belt

At the top of this hierarchy sits Master Black Belts (MBBs). With a complete and total understanding of LSS philosophical principles, Master Black Belts assume expert, leader, innovator, and mentor roles. Holding the highest LSS Belt certification, MBBs are almost as foolproof as the processes they’re improving, equipped with excellent data-driven statistical skills and unmatched knowledge of process improvement methodologies. A huge part of a Master Black Belts responsibility is passing on knowledge to lower-tiered Belts, educating and guiding staff so that the LSS methodology and practices trickle down through the workforce – which in turn cultivates productivity and improvement across sectors. 

A major part of a Master Black Belts role is harnessing their interpersonal skills to create synchronicity within and around project activity. This means knowing how to utilize both their soft and hard skills where appropriate. Establishing project objectives and deadlines, easing cross-level communications, understanding conflicting viewpoints, and eliminating major errors are all within the responsibility of an MBB. 

To seek higher education and qualify as a Master Black Belt, you’ll need a minimum of 2 years of full-time experience working on Black Belt level LSS projects as well as over 5 years of business experience. You’ll need proof of at least 5 successfully completed Lean Six Sigma projects with verifiable results, strong change management skills, and exceptional verbal and written communication skills. 

Becoming a Master Black Belts is not easy, you’ll need years of experience and education within LSS. You’ll need to be a master in quality process improvement tools such as DMAIC and Lean practices, holding a confident knowledge on various LSS improvement methods that include, rectilinear regression, material-and-information flow mapping, and root cause analysis. When it comes to seeking a Master Black Belt certification, The American Society for Quality (ASQ) is the only institute exclusively offering MBBs. 


Whether you study with the American Society for Quality (ASQ) or the International Association for Six Sigma Certification (IASSC), or the Council for Six Sigma Certification (CSSC), striving to become a Six Sigma practitioner is an invaluable skill that will gain the attention of employers and set you apart from others. Along with increasing your credibility, certified LSS practitioners versed in identifying and eliminating risks have a greater potential to affect change within the field of quality process improvement.

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