Six Sigma follows a certification process that is not too different from what you’ll find in many traditional martial arts. Learning Six Sigma involves climbing through a ladder of progressively more challenging levels, each one awarding a belt of a certain color. And while you’ll gain a deeper and deeper understanding with each new belt color, it’s actually not advisable for everyone in a leadership position to be striving towards a black belt as their momentary goal.
The thing is, there are different levels of leadership within any organization, and Six Sigma actually recognizes that to a large extent in its belt colors. Thus, a black belt would be capable of handling large-scale projects that involve lots of complicated steps, while someone with a lower-level belt will be better suited for smaller roles.
Looking at the Bigger Picture
That doesn’t mean that a yellow belt is objectively “worse” than a black belt, however. Sometimes, a position requires a person with a very specific overview of the way things work at a lower level within the organization. These skills can stagnate a bit if you don’t practice them, which is usually what ends up happening as you keep climbing the Six Sigma ladder.
Thus, someone who’s used to handling black belt projects might find themselves a little out of their element if they’re tasked with optimizing the way the company works on some intermediate level. And while it’s pretty much guaranteed that the leader will brush up on the necessary skills quickly enough to get the hang of their job in a reasonable time, it’s questionable whether this is an appropriate utilization of the skills of a Six Sigma Black Belt.
If you’re currently climbing that long, difficult ladder, you shouldn’t constantly compare yourself against professionals with multiple years of black belt experience. Everyone has to start somewhere, and the important thing is that you’re climbing.
Fit for the Job?
And on the other hand, depending on the size and complexity of your organization, a black belt may not even be the most appropriate level for you specifically. It might be better to focus on managing the company with a different set of skills as it grows, while still keeping your aim on improving your profile and eventually climbing up to a black belt in the future.
A great thing about Six Sigma is that you ultimately decide your progression rate, and if you don’t feel comfortable moving up above your current level yet, you can safely keep practicing and improving your currently necessary skills. This will actually help you out in the future once you decide to go for a more advanced belt level, as it will give you a solid foundation of knowledge for learning the skills necessary going forward.
In addition to that, staying at a certain level for longer will also make you a more valuable asset for teaching new leaders in the future. The more familiar you are with your current belt and the way to properly utilize it, the faster you’ll be able to transfer those skills to someone new who’s just reached that level and is looking for a good mentor.
There are many benefits to taking things slowly when learning Six Sigma, and even though every leader should ultimately be striving to reach the highest possible level on the progression ladder, it can sometimes be quite beneficial to stay at a lower level for a longer period of time.
Join the Community!
You should also consult other experts who’ve gone through multiple Six Sigma levels in their careers, as they should be able to give you some valuable insights about the way you should be building up your profile, and the kind of research that each level requires. Remember that Six Sigma is a field that’s constantly evolving and there are new developments on a nearly weekly basis, so you can always benefit from someone else’s knowledge and experience.
And of course, don’t forget to give back to the community – if you feel like someone around you is struggling with some specific concept of Six Sigma that you consider yourself more knowledgeable about, it’s never a bad idea to try reaching out to help them. In the least, you’ll end up learning something new yourself.