How Does a Six Sigma Black Belt Become a Certified Trainer?

In most cases, training of Six Sigma methods and procedures is done by certified Master Black Belts.  A Six Sigma Black Belt interested in offering training should first seek certification as a Master Black Belt.  It is also highly recommended that they gain a general business trainer certification.  This is because Master Black Belt training doesn’t necessarily cover the competencies needed to train people.

In addition to their education, most certified trainers have 3-5 years of practical experience.  This experience usually comes from working on, or leading, real-world projects at their place of employment.

In this article, we’re going to break down step-by-step how a Black Belt would prepare to train others in Six Sigma processes.  We need to consider several requirements, so they are broken down into three separate criteria below.  These criteria are certification, experience, and college degree.

Three people sitting at table planning six sigma project

Certification requirements:

The first requirement for a Black Belt to offer training is to gain their Six Sigma Master Black Belt certification.  We use the word “requirement” here loosely, since technically, there aren’t any requirements in the world of Six Sigma.

Master Black Belt Certification:  Master Black Belts serve as the most knowledgeable person in their organization for process improvement.  They act as a project manager, overseeing multiple Black Belts and providing training and guidance on company projects.  The Master Black Belt must have in-depth knowledge of process improvement methods to be an effective trainer.  This also means a strong understanding of statistics.  They should feel confident in teaching subjects like these:

  • Applying Lean principles of waste reduction.
  • All stages of the DMAIC process.
  • Cost of Poor Quality (COPQ) elements.
  • Understand the Sigma level, RTY, DPU, DPMO, FPY.
  • 5S, Kanban, TIMWOOD, 5 Why.
  • Gage R&R, Bias Linearity, & Stability.
  • Inferential Statistics.
  • Simple Linear and Multiple Regression Analysis.

A Black Belt should review free textbooks like Introductory Business Statistics (ISBN-13: 978-1-947172-47-0) to ensure they can understand and teach these elements comfortably to others.

Trainer Certification:  Just because you have a strong understanding of Six Sigma doesn’t mean you’re automatically capable and competent enough to teach it to others.  Understanding how people learn is an integral part of practical training.  Getting certified to train within the corporate environment means that you have an understanding of best practices for teaching company employees.  To teach Six Sigma, you should grasp Accelerated Learning (AL) principles and different instructional methods.  Your training should be properly sequenced and planned out well in advance.  Student participation is important when teaching complicated subjects, so engaging students should be at the forefront of an effective training program.

Experience Requirements:

Within the Six Sigma community, certification is generally considered the first step in a two-step process.  The second step is gaining first-hand experience.  This should come as no surprise.  For example, if you needed surgery, would you want a doctor who just graduated from medical school or a doctor with 20+ years of experience.

Experience goes a long way when managing projects since many projects fail.  Failure is the ultimate teacher, and Black Belts can analyze a project’s failure to learn from mistakes.  As a society, we often consider failure a negative.  Failure on complicated process improvement projects can be valuable lessons however. It’s even common to see a project manager list failed projects on their resume.  A smart hiring manager will immediately recognize the potential value.  A trainer who has failed at past Six Sigma implementation will have essential insight on how to prevent it in the future.

Realistically, someone should have a minimum of 3-5 years experience working on real-world projects.  In this time-frame an active Black Belt will lead 4-8 projects of varying sizes.  They may also serve at lower-levels, like a Green belt, if the company has multiple people qualified to lead projects.  Green Belt experience should still be considered as relevant when evaluating a trainer.  Project simulations are also valuable and are common with some training programs.  While they aren’t a replacement for real-world projects, they should still be considered as experience.

Degree requirements:

While there are no degree requirements to work on a Six Sigma project, the most successful practitioners hold some form of an advanced college degree.  The most common degree is a Bachelor’s in Business Management or an MBA.  The MBA is beneficial since executive MBA programs cover business statistics and finance at a higher level than a Bachelor’s degree.

Other popular degrees include Statistics, Project Management, and Finance.  These degrees cover important elements that make a process improvement manager successful.  This includes subjects like Change Management, which is essential when modifying existing business processes.

Are any of these requirements truly requirements?

As we mentioned earlier, there are no rigid requirements in Six Sigma. It’s not uncommon to find someone who has worked with Six Sigma for 25 years yet doesn’t have a formal certification or a college degree.  These professionals bring a wealth of knowledge to any project and would be highly sought-after for their past experiences.  When looking to hire a project leader, champion, or trainer, never skip a potential candidate just based on the education factor.  You could be missing out on world-class talent.