Building a Six Sigma Organizational Infrastructure

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Successful implementation of Six Sigma requires people who are trained for and capable of filling a number of key roles in the organization.   These roles typically include Executive, Champion, Project Sponsor, Master Black Belt, Black Belt, Green Belt and Yellow Belt.

The Executives are the senior leaders responsible for the vision, mission, strategies and policies of the organization.  The most dramatic way that Executives can support Six Sigma is by educating themselves and then getting directly involved in the implementation of Six Sigma.  Some organizations have a Steering Committee or Strategic Planning Group that is involved in evaluating and selecting Six Sigma projects.

Executives provide the formal authority for change.  They stimulate improvement by communicating why the organization is using Six Sigma.  Executives select projects, provide resources, and select Champion and Belt candidates.  They set aggressive goals and monitor and reward achievement of those goals.

Champions are mid to upper level leaders who proactively lead, coach and support Six Sigma Belts and project teams.  Champions communicate about Six Sigma at every opportunity.   They understand the methodology and use it in their day to day activities, thus demonstrating their commitment.  Champions act as change agents and help coordinate implementation activities.  In addition, Champions represent the project team to the Executive group, and work with Process Owners to insure a smooth transition at the end of each improvement project.

Project Sponsors (also known as Process Owners) own and manage the processes and systems in the organization.  They accept responsibility for ongoing performance measurement and control of processes, and help identify improvement opportunities.

Master Black Belts possess the highest level of Six Sigma technical and organizational proficiency.  They possess skills beyond those of the Black belt in areas such as project management, statistics, coaching and training.  Master Black Belts mentor, coach and teach employees at all levels about Six Sigma.  They also lead organization-wide improvement efforts.  Master Black Belts are engaged full time in Six Sigma activities.  Larger Six Sigma organizations will have one Master Black Belt for every 1,000 employees.  Smaller organizations will typically rely on a consultant to fill this vital position.

Black Belts are highly competent employees who should be expected to move upward into more senior management positions.  This upward mobility helps to institutionalize Six Sigma into the culture of the business.  They must be very comfortable with high school level mathematics and with using statistical analysis software.   Mature Six Sigma programs will have approximately one employee in 100 who is a Black Belt.  Black Belts are engaged full time in process improvement and will complete several major projects each year.  In addition, they are expected to mentor and guide Green and Yellow Belts.  Black Belts manage advanced Six Sigma projects, perform statistical analysis using appropriate software, and are actively engaged in organizational change activities.

There are typically five to seven Green Belts for every 100 employees in a mature Six Sigma organization.  Green Belts manage basic Six Sigma projects in their own area of responsibility, and may assist Black belts on larger projects.  Green Belts usually devote five to ten percent of their time working on improvement projects and will typically complete one or two major projects each year.

Yellow Belts serve as members of process improvement teams.  They use basic problem solving tools and techniques, and support Green and Black Belts by collecting and analyzing data and by providing insight into how processes work and how they should be improved.   Yellow Belt training and certification is appropriate for anyone in the organization.

Your comments or questions about this article are welcome, as are suggestions for future articles.  Feel free to contact me by email at

About the author:  Mr. Roger C. Ellis is an industrial engineer by training and profession.  He is a Six Sigma Master Black Belt with over 45 years of business experience in a wide range of fields.  Mr. Ellis develops and instructs Six Sigma professional certification courses for Key Performance LLC.   For a more detailed biography, please refer to

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On August 27th, 2015, posted in: Six Sigma by Tags: ,

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