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lean Six Sigma developed as a set of practices designed to make industrial processes more efficient while eliminating errors and defects. The application has been extended to other areas of business and even, in some areas, into the health care industry and education.
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Bill Smith, the one who originally designed the practice for Motorola, worked on the basis of six principles which he believed were quantifiable, sustainable and which, if controlled, could eliminate both human and machine error while increasing production. The key point of the practice is that lean six sigma is a data driven process.
That is, every process performed in a production routine is broken down into a number of steps. These steps are then analyzed for waste, error and time consumption. Every project is built of smaller processes and is assigned to a small group of people. A large project could have numerous smaller projects within it with smaller groups responsible for each. The processes comprising the projects are measured, analyzed, improved and controlled.
The projects are carried out by an infrastructure of people called "champions." Those in charge of the overall project will be the Master Black Belts. Smaller subprojects are directed by individuals with yellow belts or green belts. The purpose of the martial arts terms is to create an industrial hierarchy that can be applied to all types of business functions.
Master black belts in a lean six sigma operation devote all of their time to simply implementing the six sigma methodology. Their job is to identify new or existing projects that could benefit from the six sigma methodology.
Below the Master black belts are the black belts who also devote 100% of their time to six sigma. The difference between them and the master black belts is that the black belts focus on project execution. They continuously monitor and measure processes to determine where improvement can be implemented. They could be referred to as "super quality control" individuals.
The green belts work with the black belts. They study six sigma implementation and, under the supervision of the black belts, they help make sure six sigma principles are being followed.
The yellow belts are trained in the basic application of six sigma and actually apply the principles to specific projects under the direction of black belts and green belts. It could be said that the yellow belts are closest to the actual work.
Lean six sigma is not completely without controversy, but it is a strongly implemented methodology among not only today's industries, but also in many other types of businesses. If you are already in management or intend to pursue a management career, you will enhance your resume if you know how to utilize lean six sigma. You can earn a certificate completely on line with only a few months of study. In some cases, your employer may even be willing to help fund your education.