Like many companies in the world, my company has a focus on the Continuous Improvement Process (CIP) and we have multiple "belt" programs. The "belt" program parallels that of karate to some degree. We have Yellow Belts, Green Belts, Black Belts, and Master Black Belts. In this blog post, I'll talk a little bit about my company's CIP program and where I fit in so far, but I won't get into much detail on any of the tools.
Our Yellow Belt program gets you introduced to the program and gives you a taste of what six-sigma is, what tools are used in the CIP world, what Lean Practitioning is, etc. The trainers try not to go into to much detail, but they give you a good overview of a lot of the tools and try to hit the key points on some of the easier tools to understand, like 6S and 7W (aka. Muda). The yellow belt class is a good way to get people interested in improving things within the organization. It helps people think about things they may have normally taken for granted and gives them some ideas around tools they can use in their area.While the yellow belt class typically doesn't get people to go out and start doing projects, the Green Belt class is designed to get people out and applying some of the CIP ideas to real projects. I just finished week two of my green belt class, so I'll reserve some judgment for the completion of my project, but it has been pretty interesting so far. The green belt class requires that you work with a project champion, process owner, black belt mentor, and team members to do a project that applies the CIP tools to improve something. Unlike the yellow belt, the green belt class teaches you some specific tools that can be used and there is an expectation (and requirement for certification) that you use the tools to make an improvement on your green belt project. The green belt class gives more detail on statistical analysis (Control Charts, Variation, Sampling), processes (SIPOC, Process Map, Fishbone), some basic project management / organizational behavior skills, and more. As I mentioned above, I have completed both weeks of the green belt coursework which are spaced about a month apart from each other and I am in the middle of working on my green belt project - looking forward to getting certified.
The next step of the CIP ladder would be Black Belt and Master Black Belt certifications. Our organization highly respects the opinion of black belts and master black belts. It was once said that if our CEO had a problem that he wanted to make sure was solved, he would first turn to his black belts and master black belts as he knows they have the right tools and track record to get things fixed. As I don't have enough personal experience with this area yet, I'll refrain from going into much detail about it. The black belts within the organization are typically very heavily statistics oriented, understand how to break down processes, and are great project managers. After completing my green belt, I plan on working on my black belt. If I understand our interpretation of the Master Black Belt role, it is someone who is more focused on managing and administering CIP throughout the organization from a high-level. They typically have many blackbelts under them and look at things from a 30,000 foot view.
If you have any questions or comments about CIP, belts, or any of the tools please post a comment below.