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Roles and Responsibilities
The Lean Six Sigma methodology has defined roles of Yellow Belt, Green Belt, Black Belt and Master Black Belt with respect to project leadership and execution.
When to use
The roles and responsibilities of Lean Six Sigma Black Belts, Green Belts, and Yellow Belts apply whenever they are working on a Lean Six Sigma Project.
Lean Six Sigma is a project based improvement methodology. Each project has a business goal, a start and end point, a plan, schedule, deliverables, and uses resources to accomplish the project work. However, Lean Six Sigma has some unique roles that are not found in most other project management methodologies – that is the roles of Master Black Belt, Black Belt, Green Belt, and Yellow Belt. (Some organizations have even more “belt” levels, but these are the most common.)
Lean Six Sigma projects have a set sequence of phases or stages – Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control. There are a set of deliverables for each phase, often described through checklists or templates. Because the deliverables and high level sequence of activities are so well-defined, the level of project management activity is reduced for most projects. In addition, the focus of Lean Six Sigma projects seldom is on budget or schedule but rather on the technical efficacy of the work that is being done. This makes sense for problem solving and process improvement projects, since completing a project on time or on budget - but not actually solving the problem or improving the process - completely defeats the project purpose.
One area of project management that is still emphasized is that of project initiation. The project needs a clear charter or project boundaries and stakeholder support which is often achieved through the development and presentation of a business case.
This leads to a discussion of the roles and responsibilities of the “belts”. The Master Black Belt is the individual responsible for managing the Lean Six Sigma Program (rather than projects). This individual prepares the organization’s templates and checklists, conducts training of candidates for belt certification, and coaches teams as needed. In many companies, this individual does the business case for projects and once a project is approved, they assign the belts who will run the project. Most organizations have only one Master Black Belt.
Black Belts are the subject matter experts who implement the Lean Six Sigma methodology on projects. They are project leaders on large projects and often lead several projects simultaneously. In most organizations, this is a full-time position in the Quality Assurance organization.
Green Belts are also project leaders; however, they do not have the same level of subject matter expertise as the Black Belts. They are often leading smaller projects that are based in their area of responsibility. These are not full-time positions. When a Green Belt has a question or hits a barrier, they refer it up to a Black Belt or the Master Black Belt.
Yellow Belts are important team members on Lean Six Sigma projects. They are usually subject matter experts on the product or process being improved. They need to understand the Lean Six Sigma methodology, but they don’t need to be experts in all the tools and techniques.
Hints & tips
- Many organizations require that an individual have successfully led a Lean Six Sigma project before they can apply for Green Belt or Black Belt certification. This can lead to a “chicken or egg” problem. They are not qualified to lead the project until they have been certified, but they can’t become certified until they lead a project. The organization needs to establish clear and reasonable polices in this area.
- Yellow Belts should be knowledgeable in basic problem solving and process mapping skills, even though they may not know the statistical techniques of Lean Six Sigma.
- When an organization only has one Black Belt, that person is by default the Master Black Belt.
- Some organizations do not have any Black Belts, but rather rely on a consulting firm to fill the role of Black Belt and Master Black Belt. When a Green Belt hits a barrier, they contact the consultants for coaching on what to do.
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