Which is best for your career? Yellow Belt, Green Belt or Black Belt
Chad Smith
4 Posts
I was travelling through the Milwaukee airport last evening and an Air Force service member noticed my name tag on my bag.  He asked, "do you do Lean Six Sigma?  I just got my Yellow Belt.  Do you think this will hep my career?"

Being a practitioner of this side of the world, I was happy to reply and share as much insight as I could in our short walk through the exit of security and to Ground Transportation.  Here's what I said...

"Heck yeah- Yellow Belt is a great place to start, and opens one's eyes to the problem solving methodology, DMAIC.  In fact, even more, it positions you to start making small improvements on your own and even help out others doing this kind of work.  But be careful; you're likely to be poached from your current role and moved into a higher position.  Leaders love people that can solve problems!"

As I reflected on the conversation, it got me thinking.  Is this a good career move?  What about Green Belt or Black Belt?  Is there an optimum level for an organization's needs?  Is it good enough to simply be on the journey?

My thoughts have congealed around the idea that it is enough to start where you can and work to build your value to the organization by elevating your problem solving skills.  Admittedly, this class the individual attended was more of a mandate than an honor, but his enthusiasm is what will set him apart in his journey to develop his skills.  And for each of us, that is the challenge I think.  Be more tomorrow than you are today. 

So what do you think?  Is there an optimum level?  Should we continue to strive to be more?  I look forward to hearing your thoughts...
1 Replies
Yellow Belts are super-charged team members and can accelerate a project.  I whole-heartedly support the Yellow Belt as a starting point.  So much so, I even wrote a book on the subject a couple of years ago. However as a career goes, the Yellow Belt should just be the first step.

I think taking a look at the ASQ Yellow Belt BoK gives one a perspective on what a Yellow Belt should be capable of.  For simplicity, if we consider the Bloom's taxonomy levels of Remember and Understand as a low level, Analyze and Apply as a medium level, and Evaluate and Create as a high level of understanding, the breakdown is clear.  Almost 87% is at the low level, approximately 13% at the medium level, and 0% at a high level.  Most of the BoK is around remembering and understanding.

For the 13% at the medium level, we would expect a Yellow Belt to be able to :

* apply basic quality tools like C&E diagram, histograms, check sheets, etc.
* apply Six Sigma metrics like DPU, DPMO, RTY, etc.
* apply SIPOC.
* apply basic stats like mean, standard deviation, etc.
* apply data collection techniques

These are great foundational skills.  However for Six Sigma to really impact a career I think one needs to move to at least a Green Belt level.