Why do we Call these People Black Belts?

Many are surprised that Six Sigma refers to their trained experts as “Belts.” There are Green Belts and Black Belts in Six Sigma, referring to a level of training they have achieved. The term Black Belt is not an empty buzzword nor is it a mockery of organized martial arts. Comparing a Six Sigma Black Beltand Martial Arts Black Belt is a revealing exercise.

Just like in martial arts, to obtain a Black Belt in Six Sigma requires training that teaches skills and discipline. A Black Belt in both martial arts and Six Sigma is a designation that is not given way or can be bought “off the shelf;” it is something that is earned through hard work. Also like in martial arts, achieving Black Belt level is not an end but a beginning. Six Sigma is about continual learning and continual improvement. Six Sigma is not a mastery of a finite set of knowledge but an understanding of a method. Like in martial arts, being a Six Sigma Black Belt is a responsibility. It’s about intensity, hard work, and discovery. While it is correct to say that a Black Belt is an expert, it doesn’t make them an elitist. T he black belt is not as important as the practice itself. Black Belts are mentors to others who share their skills and seek to continually improve themselves, those around them, and the organization as a whole.

Ultimately, business process improvement is achieved through the attainment of knowledge. Since knowledge is a commodity that people acquire, organizations must recognize their people as their most valued assets. Awarding people who have completed Six Sigma training a Belt title is an appropriate designation. It denotes their level of knowledge and responsibility. A Belt is simply a signpost along the way showing that you have reached a certain place on the process improvement path.

A Green Belt is an individual who has completed two weeks of training on the Six Sigma roadmap and essential elements of statistical methodologies supporting Six Sigma projects and who is a member of a Six Sigma process improvement team. A Black Belt is an individual who has completed four weeks of training focusing on the Six Sigma Roadmap and extensive statistical methodologies and is experienced in leading cross-functional process improvement teams. Black Belts become leaders of Six Sigma project teams.

The Six Sigma Black Belt training includes the curriculum of the Six Sigma Green Belt training as well as more complex Six Sigma Black Belt content. The Six Sigma Black Belt training program requires that a Six Sigma improvement project be conducted as the capstone and final training program requirement for Six Sigma Black Belt certification.

There is an even higher level: Master Black Belt. This is an individual very highly trained and experienced in the Six Sigma methodology who acts as the organization-wide Six Sigma program manager. He or she oversees and mentors Black Belts and process improvement projects and provides guidance to Black Belts as needed. A Master Black Belt teaches other Six Sigma students throughout the organization and helps them achieve Green Belt and Black Belt status.

Six Sigma processes are executed by Six Sigma Green Belts and Six Sigma Black Belts, and are overseen by Six Sigma Master Black Belts. Through the effective deployment of Six Sigma, the utilization of people can improve process performance, affect product and service quality, positively influence customer satisfaction, and assure long-term business success.

Peter Peterka is a Six Sigma Master Black Belt for Six Sigma us and has implemented Six Sigma in a variety of organizations. For additional information please contact Peter Peterka at

Author: Peter Peterka Google

Published 09/1/2008 offers both Live Virtual classes as well as Online Self-Paced training. Most option includes access to the same great Master Black Belt instructors that teach our World Class in-person sessions. Sign-up today!

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