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1.2 Roles in a Six Sigma Organization

The roles of senior executive (CEO or president), executive committee, champion, process owner, master black belt, black belt, and green belt are critical to the Six Sigma management process.

The senior executive provides the impetus, direction, and alignment necessary for Six Sigma’s ultimate success. The most successful, highly publicized Six Sigma efforts have all had unwavering, clear, and committed leadership from top management. Although it may be possible to initiate Six Sigma concepts and processes at lower levels, dramatic success will not be possible until the senior executive becomes engaged and takes a leadership role.

The members of the executive committee are the top management of an organization. They should operate at the same level of commitment for Six Sigma management as the senior executive.

Champions take a very active sponsorship and leadership role in conducting and implementing Six Sigma projects. They work closely with the executive committee, the black belt assigned to their project, and the master black belt overseeing their project. A champion should be a member of the executive committee or at least a trusted direct report of a member of the executive committee. He or she should have enough influence to remove obstacles or provide resources without having to go higher in the organization.

A process owner is the manager of a process. He or she has responsibility for the process and has the authority to change the process on his or her signature. The process owner should be identified and involved immediately in all Six Sigma projects relating to his or her own area.

Master Black Belt

A master black belt takes on a leadership role as keeper of the Six Sigma process and advisor to senior executives or business unit managers. He or she must leverage his or her skills with projects that are led by black belts and green belts. Frequently, master black belts report directly to senior executives or business unit managers. A master black belt has successfully led many teams through complex Six Sigma projects. He or she is a proven change agent, leader, facilitator, and technical expert in Six Sigma management. It is always best for an organization to develop its own master black belts. However, sometimes it is impossible for an organization to develop its own master black belts because of the lead time required to become a master black belt. Thus, circumstances sometimes require hiring master black belts from outside the organization.

Black Belt

A black belt is a full-time change agent and improvement leader who may not be an expert in the process under study [see Reference 4]. A black belt is a quality professional who is mentored by a master black belt, but who may report to a manager for his or her tour of duty as a black belt.

Green Belt

A green belt is an individual who works on projects part-time (25%), either as a team member for complex projects or as a project leader for simpler projects. Most managers in a mature Six Sigma organization are green belts. Green belt certification is a critical prerequisite for advancement into upper management in a Six Sigma organization.

Green belts leading simpler projects have the following responsibilities:

  • Refine a project charter for the project.
  • Review the project charter with the project’s champion.
  • Select the team members for the project.
  • Communicate with the champion, master black belt, black belt, and process owner throughout all stages of the project.
  • Facilitate the team through all phases of the project.
  • Schedule meetings and coordinate logistics.
  • Analyze data through all phases of the project.
  • Train team members in the basic tools and methods through all phases of the project.

In complicated Six Sigma projects, green belts work closely with the team leader (black belt) to keep the team functioning and progressing through the various stages of the Six Sigma project.

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