Six Sigma Black Belt Body of Knowledge

Internationally Recognized, Open Source Six Sigma Standards

This respected Six Sigma Black Belt Body of Knowledge represents the minimum required standards set by the Management and Strategy Institute (MSI) for understanding of Six Sigma principles at the Black Belt level.
Elements do not necessarily need to be presented in the order shown below.  Trainers and organizations are encouraged to teach additional information above and beyond these standards at each level.  All knowledge levels should be taught/demonstrated to the Bloom’s Taxonomy level of Apply, unless otherwise noted. 

The MSI Six Sigma Standard has been adopted by organizations around the world.  These standards are completely independent of other standard-setting bodies.  Practitioners involved in continuous improvement should be familiar with the following standards:

  • MSI standards:  MSI 01.2.115 & 01.3.115
  • ISO standards:  ISO 13053-1:2011 (multiple ISO standards may apply). Visit
  • ANSI standards (multiple ANSI standards may apply). Visit
  • Additional standards may apply, depending on industry / company / job function.  Certified entities are responsible for the research and identification of any and all appropriate standards based on their unique roles and job functions.
Body of Knowledge:
  1. General Topics
    1. History and overview of Six Sigma
    2. y = f(x)
    3. Process Variances
    4. TQM and other competing quality process improvement methods
    5. Understanding and recognizing opportunities to use Six Sigma within an organization
    6. Managing and understanding Quality as seen by the customer
    7. Deciding when to start a Six Sigma project
    8. Organizational Roles and Responsibilities of project members
  2. General Topics 2
    1. DMADV (Design for Six Sigma) variation
    2. Critical to Quality (CTQ)
    3. Cost of Poor Quality (COPQ)
    4. Project Leadership & Mentoring
    5. Understanding of Six Sigma Champion role
    6. Defects per Million Opportunities (DPMO)
  3. DMAIC – Define
    1. Defining a project
    2. The project charter
    3. Developing the business case
    4. Developing the project team
    5. Voice of the Customer
    6. SIPOC
    7. Define Phase Review
  4. DMAIC – Measure
    1. Process Mapping
    2. Basic Six Sigma statistics
    3. Cause & Effect
    4. Basic data collection
    5. Variation
    6. FMEA & Gage R&R
    7. Bias
    8. SWOT Analysis
    9. Normal Distribution
    10. Baseline Performance
    11. Statistical software options
    12. Measure phase review
  5. DMAIC – Analyze
    1. Charting Data (Run Chart, Pareto, Histogram)
    2. Root Cause Analysis
    3. Correlation and Regression
    4. Multi-Vari Analysis
    5. Hypothesis Testing
    6. Analysis of Variance (ANOVA)
    7. Design of Experiments (DOE)
    8. Verify root causes
    9. Analyzing opportunities
    10. Analyze phase review
  6. DMAIC – Improve
    1. Brainstorming
    2. Improvement opportunities
    3. Multiple Regression Analysis
    4. Plan for implementation
    5. Improve phase review
  7. DMAIC – Control
    1. Control plan
    2. Statistical Process Control Plan
    3. Xbar-R Chart
    4. U Chart
    5. Cost Benefit Analysis
    6. Impact of Variation, Frequency of Sampling
    7. Final tollgate or closeout report

Lean Six Sigma Black Belt Body of Knowledge

The following components are required for Lean Six Sigma certification.  This only applies if Lean methodology is being taught.

  1. Lean Components
    1. Basics of Lean
    2. Muda, Mura Muri
    3. Kanban
    4. Just-in-time
    5. Kaizen
    6. 5S
    7. Push vs Pull
    8. TIMWOOD
    9. Seven Elements of Waste
    10. Poka-Yoke (Mistake Proofing)

Industry Recommendations:


The following recommendations apply to Six Sigma initiatives within the healthcare sector.

  1. Patient Safety.  Processes should be developed that prioritize patient safety over all other concerns, including streamlining processes and financial considerations.
  2. Lean Thinking.  Within healthcare, lean is about working with people to achieve continuous improvement activities, reducing costs, and understanding what is important to the customer.  The “customer” should be defined as both stakeholders of the organization and patients seeking medical care.
  3. Manage the Patient Flow.  In the clinical process, striving to provide the patient with added value.
  4. Waste Specific to Healthcare.  7 elements of waste (8 if discussing transportation).
  5. Hoshin Kanri:  Seven-step process used in strategic planning.


The following recommendations apply to Six Sigma initiatives within the Federal/State Government.

  1. Tax Management.  Lean methodologies should be applied to limit taxpayer funded initiatives.
  2. Interdepartmental Leadership.  Leadership across departments, regardless of seniority.
  3. Regulations.  Focus on regulation reduction and free enterprise.

Human Resources

The following recommendations apply to Six Sigma initiatives related to Human Resources departments.  These apply to projects being implemented within an HR department, as well as the role that HR plays within the broader organization to support a Six Sigma project.

  1. Change Management.  Continuous improvement requires changes within the organization such as processes and personnel.  Management of change is critical to success.
  2. Communication.  Ensure lines of communication remain open to prevent project roadblocks.

Information Technology

The following recommendations apply to Six Sigma within Information Technology departments.

  1. Support business processes.  Discuss how IT supports Six Sigma deployment through technology.
  2. IT security.  Security of project documents and proprietary information.
  3. Software & hardware review.  Continuous improvement often involves the addition of new software or hardware.  IT may need to support this with deployment and network security analysis.

Body of Knowledge Area Breakdown:

History of Six Sigma
Should be able to define Six Sigma and have an deep understanding of the history of Six Sigma and continuous improvement methods like Lean, 5S and Total Quality Management.  How and why they were developed and for use in which industries.

y = f(x)
Although Six Sigma talks a lot about statistical analysis and measurements and various other mathematical applications, at the core of the process is one simple equation.  Understand the basic function of y=f(x)

Process Variances
Should have a basic understanding of identifying where variances are occurring in a function.  It is recommended that this topic should be taught/demonstrated to the Bloom’s Taxonomy level of Analyze for Black Belt.

TQM & others
Have an understanding of the other process improvement methodologies and how they differ from Six Sigma.

Recognizing opportunities
Understand Six Sigma philosophies and how to recognize opportunity.

Managing Quality
Understand how to frame quality into what is important to the customer.

Deciding to start a Six Sigma project
Understand the “how and why” regarding a company launching a quality improvement initiative like Six Sigma.

Organizational Roles and Responsibilities
Understand how team are formed and the role of each belt level within the Six Sigma project.

The DMAIC Method
Understand and define DMAIC.  Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, Control.  It is recommended that this topic should be taught/demonstrated to the Bloom’s Taxonomy level of Analyze for Black Belt.

Why is DMAIC used
Understand why the DMAIC process is utilized.

DMADV variation
Understand the basis of DMADV (Design for Six Sigma) when you do not have an existing system or process to improve upon.

Project Communication
Understand why continual communication is critical to the success of the project.

Supporting Delivery
Understand the critical role that a Yellow Belt, or “Subject Matter Expert” plays within the Six Sigma team.

Defining a process
Determine how to define a process.  Process owners, scope and boundaries.

Critical to Quality Characteristics
Understand Critical to Quality (CTQ) measures.  It is recommended that this topic should be taught/demonstrated to the Bloom’s Taxonomy level of Evaluate for Black Belt.

Cost of Poor Quality (COPQ)
The Cost of Poor Quality is the sum of internal and external failures.  Understand the cost of poor quality.

Six Sigma Metrics
Understand the Sigma level, RTY, DPU, DPMO, FPY.  Consequential metrics, Quality Metrics, Cost Metrics, Scheduling Metrics.

Estimating the Baseline
Understand the process to estimate the baseline.

The Define Stage
The Project Definition and scoping of goals and objectives.  How the process is defined in terms of stakeholders, and the functionalities of the process.

The Measure Phase
Getting more detail into the process, what metrics and measurements are involved as well as estimating the baseline of the current “as is” process.

Six Sigma Tools
Understand the different tools that may be useful throughout the many parts of the Six Sigma project.

The Analyze Phase
Understand the value stream proposition and analysis.  Determination of the factors that influence the process output.  It is recommended that this topic should be taught/demonstrated to the Bloom’s Taxonomy level of Analyze for Black Belt.

The Improve Stage
Understand how the new process is defined, potential benefits examined and verification of the new process determined.  It is recommended that this topic should be taught/demonstrated to the Bloom’s Taxonomy level of Analyze for Black Belt.

The Control Stage
Understand the standardization of new practice, verifying the impacts /savings, and how to document lessons learned.

Valuing Six Sigma
Understand the role, like activities of a Green Belt and how that differs from a Black Belt.  Understand the communication project tasks that a Green Belt will likely be asked to undertake.

What is Lean
Understand the history of Lean and how it is used in conjunction with Six Sigma.  Understand lean tools such as 5S, Kaiban, TIMWOOD, 5 Why, 7S, and others.

Selecting Lean Six Sigma Projects
Understand how to create a project charter and build the business case.

Six Sigma Statistics
Have an understanding of Six Sigma Statistics.

Measurement Systems Analysis
Have a basic understanding of Measurement Systems Analysis.  This includes Gage R&R, Bias Linearity, & Stability.

Process Capability
Have a basic understanding of process capability.  System design, Parameter design, and tolerances.

Inferential Statistics
Have a basic understanding of statistical theories which involve inference.

Hypothesis Testing
Have a basic understanding of Hypothesis Testing.

Simple Linear and Multiple Regression Analysis
Have a basic understanding of regression analysis.

Designed Experiments
Have a basic understanding of design of experiments and factorial experiments.

Statistical Process Control
Have a basic understanding of design of control tools and statistical process control tool usage.

Leading Six Sigma Teams
Have an understanding of Project Management and the role it plays in Six Sigma for a Black Belt.

Ending Six Sigma Projects
Understand when and how to end a Six Sigma project.

Making the Change
Understand change management principles.  Understand the Black Belt role in facilitating change.


  • Students should receive 175 hours of study time or combination of study and practical application of skills to be certified at the Black Belt level.  Training can be in-class, online, or any combination of blended learning.  Self-paced training programs are acceptable as long as the average completion-time of these programs is monitored by the organization and is cross-checked for time and student experience on a semi-regular basis, determined by the organization.  Experience doesn’t necessarily need to be project-based, all work with process improvement methodologies can be considered. Certification bodies are given leeway to decide policies regarding experience reviews.
  • Students should be exposed to multiple process improvement methodologies, including Lean, Total Quality Management, 5S.
  • Students should be supplied with a certificate of completion showing their name and date of certification. Digital certificates are sufficient.
  • Students must be issued a unique certification ID#
  • Students should be supplied with a list of additional Black Belt-level books and/or courseware for continuous learning opportunities, independent of the issuing organization.  This ensures the individual has the opportunity to view multiple study options and isn’t limited solely to the organizations Black Belt study material.

Certifications aligned to this standard:

Six Sigma Black belt Certification:


Lean Six Sigma Black Belt Certification:


All MSI Black Belt Subcategories:

  • Six Sigma Lean Black Belt in Healthcare (LBBH)™

  • Six Sigma Lean Black Belt in Government (SSBBG)™

  • Six Sigma Black Belt in HR (BBHR)™

  • Six Sigma Lean Black Belt in IT (LBBIT)™

  • Six Sigma Lean Black Belt in Education (LBBE)™

Practice Tests: