What Is Six Sigma?

Updated October 10, 2022

An infographic that shows a person and six icons representing the Six Sigma process.

The understanding of six sigma principles can be useful to amplify your skills and performance in the workplace. Receiving a six sigma certification can develop the way you complete projects and solve problems that occur within a project's cycle. Overall, it's key that you apply the six sigma concepts you learn to meet your company's goals.

In this article, we will discuss what six sigma is, why you should get a sigma certification and how to get a six sigma certification.

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What is six sigma?

Six sigma is a concept launched by Bill Smith in 1986. Smith worked as a senior engineer and scientist at Motorola, and he intended on creating a standardized approach to focus on concerns related to the effectiveness of processes in all areas of an organization. Since the concept's introduction, it has been used by many global organizations to scale their operations and improves business performance.

Today, you can get a six sigma certification that highlights methods to enhance the quality of your output. You can get different types of certifications based on your skill level. Let's review the various levels of certifications you can get to upgrade your workplace performance:

  • White belt: This is the introductory certification that you can receive, and it reviews the basic principles of six sigma. Five of the basic stages of six sigma include design, measure, analyze, improve and control. An individual with a white-belt certification assists with change management projects for an organization. They also help solve short- and long-term problems a team may encounter as well.

  • Yellow belt: A yellow belt gives you full knowledge of six sigma concepts and the areas in which you can apply them. You can also explain to your coworkers how implementing six sigma concepts can benefit them in managing their workload and meet the goals set out by their manager.

  • Green belt: Obtaining a green belt shows that you have advanced knowledge of six sigma concepts. In other words, it means that you're capable of providing a detailed analysis of each concept that addresses problems tied to the quality of their work.

  • Black belt: Black belts demonstrate expertise in six sigma terminology. Once you earn this level of expertise, you can lead other organizations in making changes that benefit their company. You'll be adept at navigating organizational challenges and tailoring training methods to the skill level of each employee. There may be times where you need to take the initiative and lead a project that must be completed by a certain deadline.

  • Master black belt: A master black belt is the highest level of certification that you can achieve. Earning this achievement can put you in charge of producing a strategy from scratch, developing it and coming up with key performance indicators (KPIs) that can determine its success. Consulting firms look for this type of certification so they can trust your expertise in establishing change within a company. You can also mentor black and green belts that need additional training and advice.

Read more: Operations Management: Everything You Need To Know

Why get a six sigma certification?

There are several reasons to get a six sigma certification. A few of them include:

  • It can provide sustainable improvement. After you complete all six stages of the certification process, you'll know where to identify problems and take corrective measures to magnify business performance. The important note is that you can apply these sustainable changes that can show increased results over a longer period and with little to no deviation from the initial objective of the project.

  • It increases your job prospects. The more success you have with being a change agent for an organization, the larger the chance you have to receive an offer for positions that can advance your career. Organizations look for problem-solvers that produce quantifiable results, so your performance can be transferable to multiple industries such as human resources, information technology and marketing. Make sure you narrow down your choices of industries and companies you want to work for before applying to open positions.

  • It enhances your earnings potential. The completion of certifications can show your earnings potential, and it can be a sign for a company to pay you a higher salary based on your experience. Open positions for a six sigma black belt have a salary of $75,000 a year or more. Therefore, it's worth the time and effort to gain the necessary skills and position yourself to get paid later on for the effort that you put in.

Read more: Understanding the Basics of Strategy Development

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How to get a six sigma certification

Check out the steps below to help you get your six sigma certification:

  1. Evaluate your current position and review your career goals.

  2. Select the certification program that matches your experience.

  3. Find and enroll in relevant programs.

  4. Complete and pass your written test.

  5. Finish the final project in your certification program.

1. Evaluate your current position and review your career goals

Before you identify the right certification, you need to examine where you're in your career and if the available certifications align with your career path. For example, if you're a project coordinator, then you're still in the early stages of your career. However, a project manager has years of preexisting experience working for a company in a particular industry.

If you're seeking to make a career in project management, you'll know that your career goals match your desire to advance within a company. If you're looking to switch positions or industries, then you might want to take time to identify the right career path and why it's the right fit for you. This approach allows you to establish priorities and network with professionals to find out if you see yourself working in a certain role.

2. Select the certification program that matches your experience

Once you know the type of experience you have and the level at which you want to employ your project management skills, identify the right certification course to take. A black belt or a master black belt is recommended if you plan on making a career in project management or if you want to use it to receive an offer for your desired occupation. A white, yellow or green belt can be a practical choice for a project coordinator that's beginning their career, and it gives them more exposure to solving workplace problems.

Read more: Setting Goals To Improve Your Career

3. Find and enroll in relevant programs

Localize the search for certifications, so you can begin taking classes at the program's location. Begin by researching search engines to save yourself time and gain more leads on applicable programs. Ask for feedback on professional networking websites to see what experiences working professionals have had in getting their six sigma certification. It may give you more knowledge about which one to take, and if they're accredited.

4. Complete and pass your written test

After you take courses, you must take a written test to earn your certification. Remember that the length of the program and the final test varies on the type of certification you're receiving. For instance, a master black belt program and exam should take longer than a green belt.

5. Finish the final project in your certification program

The last step to getting your certification is to finish the last project assigned to you. You may have to complete more than one project depending on the program you enrolled in. This process can be seen as your lab as you're executing on the ideas that you learned to show you can institute them in the workplace.

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