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Yellow-Bellied is Now a Compliment

By Graphic Products Editorial Staff

Yellow Belt certification: Six Sigma's first step

Butter. Sunshine. Piles of gold. Some really great things come in yellow, and Six Sigma Yellow Belts are one of these.

Now for the bad news: there is no actual belt. If you want to hold up your pants, you'll still have to do it however you've been doing it.

But Six Sigma Yellow Belt certification will provide you with expertise, and a certificate to prove it.  If you'd like to learn more about Six Sigma but wouldn't like to work very hard at it, this is the easiest of the belts, first in the series. (Some programs offer white as the first level, but the official program starts with yellow.) After you've acquired yellow, you can move up to green and black, or just rest on the laurels of your yellow success.

So what is Six Sigma exactly? In short, it's a discipline that helps you minimize defects and streamline process flow. That sounds great, but how exactly does one accomplish that magic? Six Sigma focuses on several lean precepts:

  • Setting up a stable process with minimal variation
  • Measuring, analyzing, and improving processes
  • Achieving management buy-in so the structure is supported from the top down

Six Sigma focuses on acquiring statistics on processes, mapping out this data, and analyzing it in order to spot and eliminate inconsistencies, redundancies, and bottlenecks. It employs a variety of process charts and diagrams that may put the average person to sleep — but to the Six Sigma groupies and charting whizzes, this stuff is the perihelion of the diagnostics world, the cream in the Six Sigma Twinkie. Need a scatter diagram? Talk to a Six Sigma expert. Like to make scatter diagrams? Become a Six Sigma expert.

Yellow Belts can act as support to Green Belts or Black Belts, but Six Sigma does not typically constitute a significant percentage of their worktime. Though they're not qualified to implement Six Sigma, they may sometimes spearhead smaller projects. They have sufficient knowledge to collect and monitor data and identify areas for improvement. Yellow belts will typically know standard Six Sigma terms and ideas and will be able to interpret diagrams, reports, tables, and related Six Sigma documentation.

The certification testing becomes progressively harder as one advances through the belt colors. Test length varies but is typically around 50-60 questions and takes about an hour and a half (compared to Black Belt certification, which is typically a four-hour test with 150 questions). You can retake the test if you fail, but you may have to pay the exam fee again.

Certification will cost you from $29 on up, depending on the provider. Most providers bundle testing with the necessary training, but training courses are not necessary in order to take the certification exam. Six Sigma Institute™ and Go Lean Six Sigma offer free coursework.

The International Association for Six Sigma Certification (IASSC) Certified Yellow Belt Exam is $195 USD. Though a number of other entities have created their own verification programs, they are testing for what they feel is an appropriate level of mastery. This is why the coursework is typically bundled with certification, as coursework and testing information may differ somewhat between entities. The IASSC is the official testing organization, the one who sets the Six Sigma standards. They don't provide course materials but do provide a list of accredited providers.

After achieving certification, you just need to find a way to bring it up in casual conversation, such as "I need to buy some yellow shoes to go with my new Yellow Belt". They don't have to know there's no actual belt.