Benchmarking Help on CI Programs
Is anyone willing to tell me what their requirements are for the number of Black Belts, Green Belts, Yellow Belts, etc are for their company Continuous Improvement Programs? I am attempting to establish guidance for our sites and departments and would love some ideas.
5 Replies
Trish Borzon
1018 Posts
Hi Amy Gerdich‍ - of course it's going to depend on how large your company is. I'll tag a couple of our members to give their perspective.

Duke Okes‍ , Joseph Basala‍ , Daniel ZrymiakGrace Duffy‍ - can you share your perspective?
Years ago the rule of thumb was one black belt for every 100 employees and five green belts for each black belt. At that time yellow belts were not a thing yet so there were not rules of thumb for that. Certainly this might help point companies in the general direction of how many belts to have. However....

* Service based companies can often rely on a larger greenbelt population to meet their needs.

* Complexity should be considered. If a company has extremely complex products or processes, a larger percentage of black belts may be needed.

* Additionally having full-time belts or part-time belts would need to be considered.

* Is the site able to support a larger amount of change that a large population of belts may drive?-

Personally having approximately 1% belts has worked well.

I am inclined to bias to The More The Merrier.

In lieu of importing new FTEs or making your staff study for and write 4 hour exams, a contingency is to build up a Six Sigma Knowledge Base.

The Knowledge Base (being a Sharepoint, Wiki Site, or equivalent) can be a point of reference for employees and team members to get templates, references, and examples.
Grace Duffy
82 Posts
The ratios differ depending on how many black belts. Joe Basala gives a good answer for the rule of thumb. Green belts used to be the old yellow belts, until we realized that many Black Belts are GREAT at the statistics and details and not always the greatest communicators. We started to get away from full time black belts and no longer refer to them as the project team leaders. That roles has migrated to the Green Belt, with the appropriate enhancement of the GB Body of Knowledge. My approach is to estimate how many process level improvement projects the company thinks is reasonable to commit to during the year and make sure there are enough Green Belts to lead these projects. Black Belts and Master Black belts will be more active at the systems level projects or those that address the core business objectives. That alignment is something we decide during strategic planning and at quarterly and midyear planning reviews. Yellow belts can be estimated in a couple of ways. Initial yellow belt training should be Just in Time for new project team members. Once there is a critical mass of yellow belts, refresher training will maintain that base. The second approach is to use Yellow Belt training as employee development and to expand the base of eligible project team members.
Amy, this is a great question that I'm glad others weighed in on. My plant size is over 1000 people; we have a core CI/Lean group of 1 Master Black belt, and 5 green belts. Which is 0.7%, but we also have 12-14 additional CI practitioners throughout the plant that make up our total of 1.8 - 2% qualified personnel.

I absolutely agree that the complexity and scope of project work play a huge part, but something to also take into consideration is where you currently are in the journey of culture and practice. Depending on where you are on that journey, you may require more or less of the belts present. Nonetheless, a core group (size depending) will always be valuable.