Six sigma levels

What Will You Learn at Each of the Six Sigma Levels?

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Six Sigma levels refer to the stages of proficiency within the Six Sigma methodology, a process improvement methodology that has become quite popular in recent years.

Read on to discover what the six Sigma levels are, why they matter, and what skills you need to know at each proficiency level.

A Guide to Six Sigma Levels

Like the lean methodology, Six Sigma aims to improve efficiency and business outcomes through continual improvement.


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Unlike the lean methodology, however, Six Sigma has adopted a very formalized structure for its skill levels.

These are:

  • White belt. White belts only obtain a cursory overview of Six Sigma. In general, these team members are not included in Six Sigma initiatives.
  • Yellow belt. Yellow belts achieve a basic understanding of six Sigma methodology and the tools needed. This is the second from the lowest level, so it often receives few responsibilities aside from basic participation in a project.
  • Green belt. Green belts learn more techniques related to statistics. They can be held responsible for data collection and statistical work, and they may also be eligible to receive increased compensation for their contributions.
  • Black belt. Black belts not only have knowledge of statistical work and the essential tools of Six Sigma, they are also expected to have the ability to lead projects.
  • Black belt levels two and three. The Master Black belt is sometimes preceded by black belt levels two and three. At these levels, Six Sigma practitioners are expected to have much more experience, and they are also expected to lead complex projects and initiatives.
  • Master black belt. Some organizations also have a champion designation, or a master black belt. This is the highest level, requiring the deepest knowledge of the Six Sigma methodology, while also providing the most lucrative compensation.

Interestingly, and perhaps unsurprisingly, these levels also correspond to the key concept that underlies the Six Sigma methodology – the reduction of process variations beneath the six sigma, or 3.4 defects per million opportunities. 

That is, the Six Sigma Champion corresponds to the level of six sigma, while the black belt levels correspond to five sigma, and so forth.

What You Will Learn as a Six Sigma Practitioner

Here are a few of the most common tools and techniques you will learn as a Six Sigma practitioner:

  • The DMADV process. This stands for define, measure, analyzed, design, and verify. It is an improvement system used to develop new processes and enhance them to Six Sigma quality.
  • The DMAIC process. This is a data-driven strategy that stands for defined, measure, analyzed, improve, and control. Like DMAIC, DMADV is intended to optimize processes to the level of six sigma. This tool, however, is applied to existing processes rather than to new ones.
  • DPMO, the six sigma level, and data-driven optimization methods. Noted earlier, the six sigma level refers to the level of 3.4 defects per million opportunities (DPMO), a measurement used to decrease the number of defects in processes. By achieving this level of quality, managers can improve customer satisfaction, process efficiency, business revenue, and more.
  • Root cause analysis. A root cause analysis is a tool designed to analyze a problem and discover the primary cause of that problem. By continually asking the question “why,” for instance, managers and Six Sigma practitioners can identify a root cause of a problem, then create solutions.
  • Business process mapping. Business process mapping is a tool used not only in Six Sigma, but in many other disciplines aimed at enhancing business processes and outcomes. This technique is aimed at analyzing and visually diagramming business processes. Cross. Using tools such as flowcharts and swimlane diagrams, Six Sigma practitioners can understand key details of a process, such as those related to cost, time, and resources. That information, in turn, can be used to reduce variability, improve productivity, and more.

These are just a few of the tools used in Six Sigma. Naturally, the higher the level, the more tools one will use and the greater the expectations will be.

Should You Obtain a Six Sigma Certification?

Organizations that use Six Sigma look for highly experienced and qualified practitioners. 

Organizations such as IBM, Honeywell, and General Electric, for instance, have adopted and use this methodology. Companies that do offer jobs related to Six Sigma will often include it in the job title, though anyone working in a business unit that uses Six Sigma can benefit from learning about this methodology. 

For these organizations, getting certified can be a very wise choice.

That being said, it is important to carefully evaluate schools that offer Six Sigma certifications. Not all schools offer the same quality of education, after all. Also, some are accredited and some are not. It is therefore important to research the schools carefully, discover whether they have received accreditation, and find a top-quality school that will deliver a high quality education.

Further Reading

For more information on Six Sigma, see these articles that cover the Six Sigma methodology, Lean Six Sigma, and process improvement.

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