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Six Sigma Green Belt

By Graphic Products Editorial Staff

Green is the pile of money you could make with your new Six Sigma skills. Green is the envy of your friends, at your new certification. Green is not really the color of either your belt or your certificate, after Green Belt certification.

In case you're late to the party, Six Sigma has a ranking system of sorts that uses belt colors to denote skill level. The belts are unfortunately imaginary — just a laddering naming scheme. You do, however, receive an actual certificate. Though different companies have created different systems, sometimes with additional belt levels, the typical system includes three colors/levels:

  • Yellow is the first rung of Six Sigma expertise. A Yellow Belt understands the basic Six Sigma precepts, and may participate in projects but does not lead them, and time spent on the Six Sigma program is minimal, typically up to 15% of the employee's work time.
  • Green is a mid-level Six Sigma expert. Green Belts may lead Six Sigma projects but are not in charge of the company's Six Sigma program. They typically spend up to half their time on it, and will answer to ...
  • Black Belts are the Six Sigma masters. They may get jobs in companies specifically to institute a Six Sigma program. They might freelance as Six Sigma experts or even start up their own business.

As you progress through the levels, training takes longer and the tests include more questions. But as with anything in life, the rewards are also bigger.

So why earn a Green Belt?

So in addition to the awesome but theoretical belt, what else does Six Sigma Green Belt certification provide?

  • You might gain a role as team leader. Everyone loves the person who helps them work as a team!
  • These skills may apply to your personal life, also. True, you're probably not running an assembly line at home, but you may gain an ability to spot flaws in a process, decreasing project time. You might even leap onto related Lean Manufacturing concepts and 5S the home, or make a shadowboard for your tools. Completing projects faster equates to more free time!
  • You'll learn process improvement and refine your ability to identify and solve problems. Even if you do not pursue a career that utilizes your Six Sigma certification, these skills make you a better employee, and may prepare you for a management career, or improve your management skills. In fact, you have my permission to tout this in a job interview.

Evelyn Gifford, Business Analyst, DMI, is working on her Green Belt certification. She said, "Six Sigma training is helping my job performance. Every project I work on is better because the project framework and toolset helps improve the processes and drive out defects. Our company uses Agile Development,  where we practice prioritization of user stories in sprints with rapid releases. Six Sigma helped drive home the value proposition.  When you understand why you're following a specific path, it really helps harden the process. Also, it does not hurt to have the credential on your resume."

She said the Green Belt training has definitely been more difficult than Yellow Belt, but also much more beneficial. "The process took a long time since I work, and try to have a personal life, but I fit it in on downtime on weekends. I understood the basic concepts from past work experience in manufacturing, and have worked with Motorola [originator of Six Sigma in the United States].  I think it would be harder for people with little or no business experience because it is conceptual, but once it starts covering use cases it all makes sense."

According to GoLeanSixSigma, an entity which offers training and certification, a Green Belt's average salary in the U.S. in $72,000 per year, with Black Belts clocking in at $98,000 per year. (Their data is sourced as 2012, Indeed.com.) A $26,000 pay raise is certainly a significant motivator toward proceeding farther along the certification path!

GoLeanSixSigma offers free Yellow Belt training and certification, which might be an ideal place to start to determine whether this is for you.

Okay, I want to get Six Sigma Green Belt certified, what do I do?

First you'll need to decide which training/certification entity you prefer. Each provider has somewhat different training and certification so it'll improve your odds of success if you stick with one provider throughout all the belts. If you switch to another provider for your next belt, you may not have the proper foundation of knowledge to move up. Also if you train with one provider but take the test with another, you might be asked questions that were not covered in your training.

Learning style should also be another factor while deciding on a provider. Some offer online courses and testing. These can be done at your pace and on your timeline, although some students prefer in-person training to push them through the process rapidly. Consider whether you'll be more focused in a classroom atmosphere or online at your home or workplace. And if you like to ask questions, make sure this is a supported feature while choosing a provider. If you have to wait for a teacher to get back to you, certification could be a slow process.

Prices vary widely so be sure to shop around if cost is an issue, and check the prices of all belt colors before plunging in. Yellow Belt training and certification might be very inexpensive with one provider with subsequent belts being prohibitively expensive, or there may even be additional belt colors you have to pass to move onto the next level. Some providers offer college credits so this could be valuable if you're trying to earn a degree.

And the next time someone tells you the grass is greener on the other side, let them know that neither side of the grass is greener than your Six Sigma belt.