One of the key innovations of Six Sigma is the professionalizing of quality
management functions. Prior to Six Sigma, Quality Management in practice was
largely relegated to the production floor and to statisticians in a separate
quality department. Six Sigma borrows martial arts ranking terminology to define
a hierarchy (and career path) that cuts across all business functions and a
promotion path straight into the executive suite.
Six Sigma identifies several key roles for its successful implementation.
Executive Leadership includes CEO and other key top management
team members. They are responsible for setting up a vision for Six Sigma
implementation. They also empower the other role holders with the freedom
and resources to explore new ideas for breakthrough improvements.
Champions are responsible for the Six Sigma implementation across
the organization in an integrated manner. The Executive Leadership draws
them from the upper management. Champions also act as mentors to Black
Belts. At GE this level of certification is now called "Quality Leader".
Master Black Belts, identified by champions, act as in-house
expert coaches for the organization on Six Sigma. They devote 100% of their
time to Six Sigma. They assist champions and guide Black Belts and Green
Belts. Apart from the usual rigor of statistics, their time is spent on
ensuring integrated deployment of Six Sigma across various functions and
Experts This level of skill is used primarily within Aerospace
and Defense Business Sectors. Experts work across company boundaries,
improving services, processes, and products for their suppliers, their
entire campuses, and for their customers. Raytheon Incorporated was one of
the first companies to introduce Experts to their organizations. At
Raytheon, Experts work not only across multiple sites, but across business
divisions, incorporating lessons learned throughout the company.
Black Belts operate under Master Black Belts to apply Six Sigma
methodology to specific projects. They devote 100% of their time to Six
Sigma. They primarily focus on Six Sigma project execution, whereas
Champions and Master Black Belts focus on identifying projects/functions for
Green Belts are the employees who take up Six Sigma
implementation along with their other job responsibilities. They operate
under the guidance of Black Belts and support them in achieving the overall
Yellow Belts are employees who have been trained in Six Sigma
techniques as part of a corporate-wide initiative, but have not completed a
Six Sigma project and are not expected to actively engage in quality
In many recent programs, Green Belts and Black Belts are empowered to
initiate, expand, and lead projects in their area of responsibility. The roles
as defined above, therefore, conform to the older Mikel Harry/Richard Schroeder
model, which is not universally accepted.