Black Belt vs Green Belt

Within companies that are implementing Lean Six Sigma, a common issue they face is trying to determine if they should train employees as Black Belts or Green Belts. Even for individuals seeking out their own training, it can be confusing to figure out if a Black Belt Certification or Green Belt Certification is more suitable for your needs. With either of these groups, there are two things that will drive the decision – the time you plan to spend on your education and the cost.

Let’s take a step back and see why two belt levels were created. Historically these were differentiated by being either part-time or full-time project leaders. In decades past, training was done with an in-person instructor and was intensive. Green Belts required 2, maybe 3 weeks of training while Black Belts required around 4 weeks. Given the high cost of training and the lost revenue of not having people working in their daily function, many companies justified the difference by how much time they thought the person would be running Lean Six Sigma projects.

Today however many things have changed. Online training has become mainstream, introducing both flexibility and lower cost. Organizations are realizing that they hired really talented people and they do not want to lose them in their function at the company if they were to become a full time Black Belt. Likewise, most organizations are too fluid to categorize with part-time/full-time project leaders. People are able to multi-task, employees are cross-trained and Lean Six Sigma projects are often able to be incorporated into someone’s work schedule for a period of time.

It is now about what type of projects will they be running and the expectations. If you will be running a project that may last 3-6 months and is narrowly focused, Green Belt Certification is suitable. However, if the problem is more complex, cross-functional or data intensive, then you will need Black Belt Certification to be successful.

What used to be thousands of dollars’ difference in training cost between the belt levels is now a fraction of that. As a Black Belt you have more tools at your disposal, it is more globally recognized and you have better credentials. Ultimately you will be a stronger project leader for investing the extra time and cost up front. The return on investment for a Black Belt is higher and deepens your continuous improvement acumen. If you can control the decision making, challenge yourself to become a Black Belt. The added investment will pay off in the end and you will be able to meet higher expectations in your future projects.


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