Online Master of Engineering Management

The 7 Roles of Six Sigma

Six Sigma is a detailed and disciplined methodology for improving processes in many aspects of business management, while boosting leadership skills, saving time, and promoting cost efficiency for managers. One of the major objectives of Six Sigma involves reducing error and deficiency. By increasing performance and decreasing variations in processes that lead to mistakes, organizations can reap the benefits of greater profits, higher quality services, and better employee morale. Read on to learn more about the seven key roles of Six Sigma.

1. Executive

Executives represent the most senior level of leadership within the Six Sigma hierarchy. With the most training and experience, Executives are best equipped with the leadership skills to establish strategies and to focus the Six Sigma program in accordance with an organization’s specific culture and goals. By overseeing the Six Sigma process and providing support regarding methods and organization, Executives ensure that projects add value and succeed.

2. Champion

Working in conjunction Executives, the Six Sigma Champion assumes a critical role at a senior or middle executive level. It is the duty of the Champion to understand the details and idiosyncrasies of a company — such as its vision, mission, and metrics — and use this information to tailor the Six Sigma plan to fit the corporation’s goals. Another responsibility of a Champion is removing roadblocks that could hinder process success. Roadblocks could include resistance from employees to changes, and any factors that may prevent a project from realizing timely financial benefits.

3. Master Black Belt

The Master Black Belts are experts in the methodology, resources, and practices of Six Sigma. The main objective of a Master Black Belt is to coach and train Black Belts. Using their advanced skills in problem solving, leadership, resource management, and project deployment, they work hand-in-hand with the Six Sigma leaders to make sure that company initiatives stay on track. Master Black Belts also have the ability to train and certify others in the methods of Six Sigma.

4. Black Belt

Certified Black Belts are full-time professionals whose main responsibility is to be a team leader for Six Sigma projects. The Six Sigma Academy states that Black Belts have the ability to save businesses an estimated $230,000 for each project they lead — and they can complete four to six projects a year. While Executives, Champions, and Master Black Belts focus on finding the best-fitting Six Sigma projects, Black Belts are dialed into the details. They have training in the core Six Sigma principles, an understanding of project models DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control) and DMADV (Define, Measure, Analyze, Design, Verify), and a knowledge of lean enterprise. They know the ins and outs of statistical experimental design, and so can identify with confidence reasons for process failures that would otherwise remain hidden.

5. Green Belt

Green Belts are often part-time professionals with a variety of duties, which include assisting on Black Belt projects and leading smaller projects. They are trained in problem-solving techniques and the tenets of the DMAIC project model. When involved in Black Belt projects, their duties include gathering data, executing experiments, and analyzing information. Their work on smaller, focused Six Sigma projects allows them to devote less time than the Black Belt’s full-time commitment. Their knowledge of statistical experimental design is not usually as robust as that of Black Belts, so they may require assistance in identifying causes of process failures.

6. Yellow Belt

Yellow Belt certification signifies an understanding of the basic metrics and improvement methods of Six Sigma, plus the ability to integrate these tactics into an organization’s production systems. Their role in the Six Sigma process is that of a core team member. Often, their focus on an area of knowledge can lead Yellow Belts to be subject matter experts, with the responsibility of running smaller improvement projects. Utilizing the Plan-Do-Check-Act methodology (PDCA), Yellow Belts are responsible for identifying certain processes that need improvement. The Yellow Belt is an introductory position within Six Sigma that is often called upon to assist Green and Black Belts with projects.

7. White Belt

At the novice level of Six Sigma, the White Belt provides the most basic introduction to the principles and methodologies of the program. They can work locally to solve problems and support projects, though individuals who have White Belt certification sometimes are not members of the Six Sigma team. The White Belt level provides a foundation for those who are deciding whether they plan to continue within the Six Sigma process.

The Power of Six Sigma

Implementing Six Sigma practices brings a host of potential benefits for managers and their organizations. According to General Electric, which started implementing Six Sigma in 1995, the processes produce yearly cost benefits of more than $2.5 billion. It is safe to say that managers and company leaders who learn the analytic processes of Six Sigma can enhance their careers, and the success of their organizations, no matter the industry or business.

Six Sigma for Engineering Managers

Engineering managers oversee projects that require significant technical accuracy and attention to detail. There are often multiple opportunities for error within each complex stage from planning to completion. Applying the methodology of Six Sigma can aid engineering managers in reducing inaccuracies, while strengthening their ability to lead their teams in all aspects of a project.

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An advanced degree program for engineers who want to become leaders without losing their foundation in engineering, the online Master of Engineering Management from Ohio University focuses on leadership and management skills and their direct relationship to engineering process improvement, project management, effective communication, and innovative solutions.


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