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Is your Green Belt Orange?

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I wanted to reach out to my community on LinkedIn and get some feedback. As many of you know, the original purpose of Black Belts and Green Belts back from the 1990’s was to deliver completed projects to benefit the organization sponsoring the Belts. To this end, the traditional Green Belt (that I was told Jack Welch himself completed) was two weeks spread out over two months. The break between training weeks was to allow time to work a project to benefit GE in Jack Welch’s case. The traditional Black Belt was four weeks of training spread out over four months. Again, the break was to allow practical projects to be worked on and completed in a four to six month timeframe. In my first Las Vegas Black Belt program I delivered over ten years ago, I had seven students from a variety of organizations, and all seven attendees were able to present their final project presentation on the fourth week of the training.

There have been numerous Lean Six Sigma organizations entering the market with the goal of solely making a profit. These organizations understand the value in the job market the title of Six Sigma Black Belt and Green Belt provides. If this trend continues, I am concerned there will be an erosion of the meaning of Green Belt and Black Belt. To help counteract this, should the belts levels of White, Yellow and Orange be considered as training belts and we reserve the belt levels of Green and Black for certified professionals that have not only attended training, but perhaps passed an exam, and more importantly demonstrated they have applied the skills upon completion of a project? I see a three to five day Green Belt more Orange than Green.

The purpose of Lean Six Sigma is completion of projects, and not just training. Certainly, the training is a good standalone and many people that attend the training can greatly benefit. Perhaps the individual attending the training is not in a position to have a leadership sponsored project. We have seen projects completed for churches, small businesses and numerous nonprofits like Habitat for Humanity. A quick Google search of “certificate versus certification” will provide numerous websites that explain the difference between Professional Certification and a certificate program. From one website I found the following distinction. 

Professional certification is the voluntary process by which a non-governmental entity grants a time-limited recognition and use of a credential to an individual after verifying that he or she has met predetermined and standardized criteria.

certificate program is a training program on a specialized topic for which participants receive a certificate after completing the course and passing an assessment instrument.

Organizations that are looking for Black and Green Belts want individuals with proven performance. A Certified Belt must have demonstrated they can and in fact have already performed the work required to be a Six Sigma Black or Green Belt. In my view, simply passing an exam or even attending a training program is not enough. Traditionally for White Belts and Yellow Belts, there has only been a training or a test standard plus training as a standard to claim certifications. One of our consultants suggested we should consider changing our five-day Green Belt Jumpstart to a Six Sigma Orange Belt. The primary reason for the Orange Belt designation is to distinguish between completing a five-day training program and completing a two-week Green Belt, which requires a project to be delivered. When you look at the martial arts designations the belts levels are White, Yellow, Orange, Green and the final belt is Black.

I see too many organizations claiming to certify Green Belt and Black Belts only after completing a three to five day training class and perhaps a test. I see 100% pass rate guaranteed as an advertisement. I had my admin go through one “Highly Accredited” provider and in only 48 minutes was able to fill out the registration form, make payment, successfully pass the exam and yes receive the certification certificate by email. For the same “Highly Accredited” provider I saw an online review with the following comment:

“This course is okay if you just want a certificate and to say that you’re a black belt. It really didn’t teach anything and some questions on the tests weren’t even covered in the material. If you’re looking for real 6 sigma training, this isn’t it. If you’re looking for a certificate, you can get this done in about 2 hours.”

I heard Jack Welch once say something like, “Six Sigma was the best human resource tool I ever had. You provide training, a project to work on and those who succeed are the ones that are promoted.”

Your thoughts and comments are appreciated to this post. Are many of the Green Belts really Orange?

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