If you’ve been searching for ways to improve business processes, you’re sure to have encountered the term “Six Sigma,” and you may have seen that there are various levels of Six Sigma specialization. There’s also training available, and you’re wondering whether it’s worth sending a few of your staff on a course. But you’re not someone who spends on training just for training’s sake. You want to know how Six Sigma Green Belt certification is going to benefit your business and what you should expect from trained Six Sigma Green Belts.
Six Sigma: An Overview
Six Sigma tools and techniques are used to identify and eliminate the causes of defects. By instituting set processes, Six Sigma also seeks to reduce variability, so that you can produce a predictable level of quality whether you are manufacturing products, providing services, or are performing internal business processes. To apply Six Sigma methodologies, you need a team of trained people who know how to use empirical and statistical methods and apply them to quality management.
But why the “Sigma”? A Sigma rating indicates what percentage of defect-free products or results are achieved by an organization. A Six Sigma statistical designation indicates that 99,99966% of results are defect-free.
Six Sigma relies on:
- Ongoing efforts aimed at producing predictable results from all businesses processes.
- The definition, measurement, analysis, improvement and control of business processes.
- Organization-wide commitment to quality improvement.
There’s no formal standard for Six Sigma Green Belt certification, but most of the organizations providing training agree about what a Green Belt should be able to do after the training is complete.
How a Six Sigma Team is Structured
You might be wondering how to structure a Six Sigma team. After all, we’re looking at a precise methodology rather than an ad-hoc drive. And you’d like to know where your certified Six Sigma Green Belts will fit into the picture.
Executive Leadership, the CEO of the organization and his or her upper management team, will empower the Six Sigma team, allocating resources and authority as needed so that they can investigate opportunities for improvement. Leadership must have absolute commitment to the Six Sigma process and should share the vision of achieving Six Sigma success.
Champions, who are usually also Master Black Belts or Black Belts, will integrate and implement Six Sigma in the organization. They will be members of the upper management team.
Master Black Belts spend all their time on Six Sigma. They support other champions and coach Black Belts and Green Belts. They evaluate statistical measurement tasks and follow up to ensure that Six Sigma is consistently applied.
Black Belts also spend all their time on Six Sigma. They execute Six Sigma and lead Six Sigma tasks. This sets them apart from Master Black Belts and Champions who primarily identify Six Sigma projects.
Green Belts continue with their regular job responsibilities but will implement Six Sigma according to guidance provided by Black Belts. Although they might give input elsewhere, measurement and analysis are primary tasks. Let’s take a closer look at what you should expect of your Green Belts.
What the Six Sigma Green Belt Does
A Six Sigma Green Belt is trained to analyze and solve quality problems. Apart from their Green Belt training, these employees need at least some background in the Green Belt knowledge base and at least three years of work experience. To obtain certification, the employee must show that he or she knows how to implement Six Sigma tools and processes. There is no need to lead projects. This task is undertaken by a Black Belt or Master Black Belt.
So far, so good. But just what are these tools and processes? They are included in sub-methodologies summed up with two acronyms: DMAIC and DMADV.
DMAIC and the Six Sigma Green Belt
The DAMAIC sub-methodology consists of five elements which are represented in the DMAIC acronym:
Define: To clearly define the Six Sigma intervention, the problem must be named. Next, we need to know who is affected. This will be an internal or external customer. Finally, the critical outputs required of the targeted business process should be clarified. Although the Green Belt will usually be presented with a definition, he or she can contribute to the process involved in defining the issue requiring intervention.
Measure: Here, the Six Sigma Green Belt will have a big contribution to make. During this step, a baseline representing the current state of affairs is determined. The step requires data collection, and the Six Sigma team will decide on which critical elements will be measured, and how the measurement will be expressed. As most business people will know, a meaningful measurement system is needed in order to get results. Or, more simply put: “What you measure is what you get.”
Analyze: Knowing what a problem consists of is one thing but determining the real root cause is somewhat more complex, at least in most instances. Root cause analysis tools such as fishbone diagrams will help the team to pinpoint the top three to four potential reasons why the quality issue occurs. Once again, the Six Sigma Green Belt will provide valuable data and analysis input.
- The team lists all possible reasons why the problem arises and prioritizes them from most significant to least significant.
- It decides on the priority order which the “Improve” step will follow.
- Root causes, or key process inputs, affect your business’ process inputs. The team analyzes data to understand how much each key input affects outputs. This finding should indicate how much these inputs affect the project metric or baseline that was determined in the “Measure” step. The team is likely to use statistical methods using p-values, histograms, line plots and Pareto charts and the Green Belt should be able to compile and present the data.
- Process maps will help the team to see where errors tend to slip in when the process is performed.
To be effective team members, Six Sigma Green Belts must be able to understand and perform these analytical tasks.
Improve: Now that the groundwork has been laid, the Six Sigma Team knows where to focus its energies. With the key root causes having been identified and their contribution to the baseline metric having been determined, it’s time to address the problem by identifying and implementing solutions. The Green Belt will help to find solutions, and it will be up to the more senior team members to decide which solutions are worth implementing.
Often, complex problems have fairly simple solutions, and this is where the team will usually begin. The PDCA Cycle, or Plan-Do-Check-Act Cycle will be used to test solutions. The Six Sigma Green Belts will help to implement this process and record results. Once the team has the results of the PDCA, it needs to be sure that it has identified any potential problems. It will use a Failure Mode and Effects Analysis (FEMA).
Using all the information gathered so far, the detailed improvement plan can be formulated, and the improvements can be instituted.
Control: The penultimate step (in some literature this is the final step) is to ensure that the gains the Six Sigma Team has worked towards will be sustained. Six Sigma Green Belts are deployed to gather control information and report to the rest of the team. Often, control charts are drawn up and used to ensure the stability of the improvements that have been implemented.
Remember to thank all contributors: At last, the Six Sigma team has completed its improvement intervention. It has implemented changes with success, and the “new” way of working has officially adopted and consistently applied. The Six Sigma Green Belt will receive the thanks of the Six Sigma team, but he or she will also want to convey thanks to the staff members who have helped with data gathering and with implementing and sustaining the changes.
DMADV and the Six Sigma Green Belt
Six Sigma methodology isn’t only used to identify and solve problems in existing processes. It can also focus on developing new services, projects, or business processes. In this case, the DMADV sub-methodology is applied.
Define: Once again, we begin with a definition that should answer key questions:
- What is the purpose of the project, service or process?
- What are the goals that must be reached?
- What schedule will be followed?
- What risks will the company face?
The definition must align with both the company’s and the customer’s needs and expectations, and although definition lies with the upper echelons of the Six Sigma structure, the Green Belt must be ready to provide input or gather information as needed.
Measure: Certain factors will be critical to quality, and they’re often termed “CTQs”. A trained Six Sigma Green Belt should be able to help with identifying and defining the relevant parameters that can be used to measure CTQs and may be called on to design scorecards to evaluate the elements that will make a difference to quality. Risks, in-house process capabilities, and the capabilities of the product itself are determined, and relevant metrics that will be used to assess progress towards the defined goals are chosen.
Analyze: This phase includes several activities. Can the company consider design alternatives? What are they? What will the requirements that the company must comply with in order to achieve value be? What components will the company require to execute design concepts? After generating a list of alternatives, it’s time to select the best ones and determine what the design will cost the company throughout its production lifecycle. In this step, the Green Belt collects and analyzes data to guide decision making
Design: The new product or process design can now be finalized ad prototyped. The Six Sigma team now creates a model of the new introduction and looks for places where errors could occur, modifying the design accordingly. Since organizations select Six Sigma Green Belts based on their knowledge of and involvement in business operations, their contribution will be important to the success of this step.
Verify: Now it’s testing time. The new process can be run on a test-basis to see whether it’s achieving what it set out to do. If stakeholders are satisfied, the new project can become part of normal operations, and control measures will be implemented to be sure that it is stable. Green Belts will do much of the legwork here, reporting to their superiors using the predetermined checks, balances, and measurements.
Green Belts Don’t Direct Six Sigma, but They Make It Possible
When implementing Six Sigma, companies need the input and expertise of people who are well-acquainted with the practical side of things. Master Black Belts and Black Belts use all their time working on Six Sigma, but Six Sigma Green Belts are at the coalface. They see first-hand how Six Sigma interventions play out, and their involvement in a Six Sigma project ultimately secures its success. Six Sigma Green Belt Certification shows that your employee understands the process and can use Six Sigma tools to help higher level Six Sigma team members make appropriate decisions.
Seriously, are you ready to conquer your processes?