The Belts of the Six Sigma Program

The Belts of the Six Sigma Program
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  • 0:01 What Are All These Colors?
  • 0:48 Yellow and Orange Belts
  • 1:55 Green Belts
  • 2:38 Black Belts
  • 3:22 Beyond Black Belt
  • 4:00 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kevin Newton

Kevin has edited encyclopedias, taught middle and high school history, and has a master's degree in Islamic law.

Ever wondered what all those belts for Six Sigma meant? Since when did people start advertising that they had a black belt on their resumes? In this lesson, we learn what all those belts actually mean.

What Are All These Colors?

When you were a kid, you probably had a friend who practiced some form of martial arts. You may even continue to practice them yourself. In any event, you know that as a martial arts practitioner advanced in their study, they received new belts to indicate their mastery of a subject. A white belt was an amateur, while a black belt was someone who had really studied to a great degree. In fact, you may have even been aware that there were levels beyond the standard black belt.

All of this is to say that in American culture, the idea of receiving a belt color to indicate the amount of mastery in a field is nothing new. One field that has taken a special affinity to this system is Six Sigma, a method of increasing business productivity by limiting the amount of defects in a product. In this lesson, we'll take a look at the belts of Six Sigma and what they mean for a business.

Yellow and Orange

Let's face it: not everyone in your organization has to know about Six Sigma. For example, your company's government relation's people probably shouldn't be talking to political officials about levels of belts - that could cause security details some undue nervousness! However, there are inevitably people who need to know about efficiency, even if at a lower level. The Six Sigma system refers to these individuals as Yellow Belts. Occasionally, you may see someone mentioned as an Orange belt, but this is just an intermediary stage between Yellow Belt and Green Belt that doesn't always get full recognition.

Don't get the idea that Yellow Belts aren't important; these are the people who are most engaged in a project on a daily basis. If we were to use the example of a company that produces a variety of widgets, gizmos, and gadgets, a Yellow Belt has Six Sigma supervision over a particular style of widget. Still, on top of that, they may also be supply chain specialists.


Next up on the belt structure are the Green Belts. These individuals often only look at the Six Sigma success rate of various projects as the whole of their job. That makes sense, as it takes a considerable amount of professional investment to reach the Green Belt stage. Still, it doesn't mean that they are necessarily a senior member of the team. People can become Green Belts relatively early in their careers, often out of college. This is their opportunity to demonstrate that they can finish projects on time and efficiently. If we got back to our widget factory, a Green Belt oversees the Yellow Belts who provide feedback on all widgets produced, but not gizmos and gadgets.

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