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What is Six Sigma: Things You Must Know


Lead Academy

6 Mins Read

“Six Sigma” has now become a trendy term in the business sector. It is a strategy that works towards continuously improving process management and enhancing profits by minimising waste.

In this blog, we will discuss the Six Sigma methodology, Lean Six Sigma, Six Sigma tools and the belt levels in detail.

What is Six Sigma?

Six Sigma is a methodology and a data-driven approach that uses tools to improve business processes by increasing team spirit, reducing defects, improving efficiency and quality of products.

A graphical representation of two employees working in a corporate business setup
The approach of Six Sigma works towards achieving a level of quality that is almost perfect by using a structured approach called DMAIC (Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control).
Six Sigma opts to discover variations at the various stages of business progress. The tool analyses data to identify variations at any stage and then enhances efficiency through continuous improvement.

blog-star Looking for a lean six sigma certification course?

If you are a business professional who wants to gain in-depth knowledge about lean management, enrol in the Lean Six Sigma Online Training Course offered by Lead Academy. Know about the cause and effect tools and lean principles elaborately from this course and shine in your professional field.

What is Lean Six Sigma?

Lean Sigma basically combines two most powerful techniques: Lean methodology and Six Sigma.

While Six Sigma focuses on bringing down process variation, lean works on eliminating waste. Both the terms, when combined, become more powerful and bring positive results for businesses.

Lean Six Sigma focuses on defect prevention over defect detection. It minimises waste, and reduces variation while influencing the use of work standardisation and flow.

Lean Six Sigma can be applied to any sector where waste and variation exist. Nowadays, it is widely used in manufacturing, finance, service industries and even in healthcare to improve efficiency, minimise costs, and increase customer satisfaction.
Check out the following YouTube video for a better understanding of Lean Six Sigma.
Introduction to LEAN Six Sigma in 3 Minutes

The Six Sigma Tools:

The Six Sigma tools are used to support the Six Sigma methodology. Let’s have a look at the most commonly used Six Sigma tools-

  1. Value Stream Mapping- This six sigma tool uses a flowchart to outline the information and materials required for process improvement. The three core elements of a flowchart are the process map, information, and timeline.
  2. FMEA- FMEA stands for Failure, Modes and Effects Analysis. This cost-effective tool helps to find potential failures in processes and apply corrective measures before any failure can happen.
  3. Pareto Chart- This Six Sigma tool states how 20% effort can generate 80% output. It focuses on finding the crucial processes that can significantly impact the result of businesses.
  4. Histogram- A histogram is the visual representation of data distribution that helps to identify the variations in a graph. This locates where the problem exists and then resolves it by implementing correct measures.
  5. 5 Whys- This tool focuses on finding the problem by asking ‘why’ five times repeatedly. As a result, it solves complex problems by providing the most accurate solutions.
  6. Fishbone Diagram- This six sigma tool helps to find the root cause of problems using mind mapping and brainstorming methods.
  7. Kanban- A kanban is a series of graphic cards that keep track of work progress. Kanban board has a minimum of three vital parts: works completed, works on-progress, and works to be completed.
  8. Kaizen- This six sigma tool focuses on continuous improvement. Kaizen encourages improvements which lead to produce significant results. The tool is also used to reduce redundancy and increase efficiency.
  9. Statistical Process Control (SPC)- This tool uses control charts to visualise the progress of processes over time. Thus it is helpful in identifying any degree of variations, finding root cause for the variations and applying corrective measures.
  10. The 5s System- The 5s method follows five steps: Sort, Straighten, Shine, Standardise, and then Sustain. This method is related to workflow optimization.

Six Sigma Belt Levels:

There are six belt levels relevant to the position of the employees within an organisation. The Lean Six Sigma belts are earned through course-based training, exams and practical experience. A Six Sigma belt holder is highly valued by employers as it demonstrates an employee’s knowledge of operational excellence.

The Six Sigma belt levels are:

  • White belt: The Lean Six Sigma white belt is awarded to those who have completed an entry-level overview of the tools used in Six Sigma, i.e. its history, six sigma and lean practices, basics of DMAIC and the system’s structure.
  • Yellow belt: This belt is awarded to those who can assist a project at a practical level and have passed an exam while demonstrating an understanding of implementing, performing, and applying Six Sigma.
  • Green belt: This green belt works under the supervision of a six sigma black belt. This belt is awarded for learning the principles of Six Sigma and implementing them in real projects.
    The green belt awardees also need to pass an exam to demonstrate the thorough knowledge of the Six Sigma Method phases.
  • Black belt: A black belt shows the ability to explain the Six Sigma philosophies and principles along with its supporting tools and systems. They demonstrate team leadership, have a thorough understanding of the DMAIC model and can identify waste.
    As a black belt awardee, you must pass an exam demonstrating a complete knowledge of the Six Sigma Method phases.
  • Master black belt: The Master black belts possess extensive experience in Six Sigma and often act as consultants to assist in implementing Lean Six Sigma practices. They must demonstrate an expert understanding of the philosophies and principles of Six Sigma through an exam.
    Master black belts need at least five years of experience as a black belt or proof of completing at least 10 Six Sigma projects.
  • Champion: The Six Sigma champion is the highest level of Six Sigma training. The champions remain responsible for making all the high-level decisions, implementing Six Sigma across all departments and mentoring other Six Sigma candidates that include black belts and green belts.

To know about Six Sigma certification, check out our blog, “What is Six Sigma Certification.”


What is a lean six sigma green belt?

A lean six sigma green belt holder has a thorough understanding of the Lean Six Sigma method along with the DMAIC model. They work under the supervision of the lean six sigma black belts and participate in complex improvement projects.

Can you go straight to a six sigma black belt?

Yes, you can go straight to a six sigma black belt as some online six sigma courses do not have any pre-requisite. However, it is recommended to proceed step by step and do green belt before black belt.

How hard is the six sigma green belt exam?

It depends on the exam preparation and varies from person to person. You need to score 70% to pass the six sigma green belt exam. So, you should prepare accordingly.

How long does it take to get a six sigma black belt?

It typically takes 1 to 3 months to complete and get the six sigma black belt depending on the course provider. For details, you can check out this video.


Companies are achieving success by adopting Six Sigma and Lean principles. Likewise, employees are playing a significant role by undertaking lean six sigma training. Thus, Lean Six Sigma has become a crucial part of every business in modern days.

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