Six Sigma

Six Sigma is a philosophy and a set of disciplines designed by Motorola to improve quality processes. Its objective is to control errors within plus or minimum six standard deviations from the mean.

What is DMAIC and what does it stand for?

DMAIC is the structured methodology for process improvement within the Six Sigma framework. It stands for Define, Measure, Analyze, Improve, and Control.

What are Six Sigma Black Belts and Green Belts?

Six Sigma Black Belts are experts in the Six Sigma methodology. They learn and demonstrate proficiency in the DMAIC methodology and a variety of statistical process control (SPC) techniques within that methodology. Green Belts learn a subset of the Black Belt program with emphasis on the DMAIC methodology and intermediate-level quality tools. Black Belts and Green Belts implement the Six Sigma methodology on high impact improvement opportunities in their organizations to drive prioritized business results.

What is a Master Black Belt?

The criteria for attaining Master Black Belt status can vary by organization but generally, these individuals have a few years of experience as a Black Belt, have executed several projects with documented and sustainable results, and have mentored other Black Belt candidates. They typically receive additional training in advanced statistical tools, business skills, and team/leadership skills. Master Black Belts mentor and teach others in their organization, and lead large-scale projects.

Are there any prerequisites for Six Sigma training?

There are no formal pre-requisites for our training. We (Motorola) do ask that Black Belts become familiar with the MINITAB software prior to attending class and Green Belts should be familiar with Excel.

How Good is Six Sigma?

The official Six Sigma literature states that a process operating at six sigma levels will produce 3.4 parts-per-million nonconformance. A normal distribution table, on the other hand, indicates that expected nonconformances are 0.002 parts-per-million (two parts per billion.) The difference occurs because Motorola assumes that the process mean can drift 1.5 sigma in either direction. The area of a normal distribution beyond 4.5 sigma from the mean is indeed 3.4 parts per million. This represents a very conservative upper bound on the nonconformance rate.

(Excerpted from The Complete Guide to CQE by Thomas Pyzdek. 1996, Tuscon:Quality Publishing Inc., courtesy of my Villanova instructor Kathleen Donahue of the Delaware Valley Chapter of PMI. Norris Goff)

Six Sigma Training & Certification

Common levels of Six Sigma training and certification are Green Belt, Black Belt and Master Black Belt. Unlike the PMP certification, there is no central authority for granting certification, and it is questionable that a single standard exists. Generally, each training organization conducts examinations and grants certifications.

Motorola University ( quotes $2,950 and $12,950 respectively for 1-week green belt classes and 4-week black belt classes.

The nonprofit organization American Society for Quality ( has supplied the following information. ASQ Membership costs $85 per year. The following standard paragraph accompanies each of their course descriptions:


"The American Society for Quality is the world's training source for Six Sigma because we continuously keep our programs fresh and up-to-date. We accomplish this based on feedback from our students and client companies. ASQ has been very successful in Six Sigma due to our approach. We have trained companies that wished to go organization wide with Six Sigma as a Business Initiative. And we have trained companies that wanted to add Six Sigma Methods to their existing Quality Initiative. This dual approach to program design and modifying our training programs (with customer assistance) to meet your needs is why ASQ has succeeded. We have over 55 years of experience in training companies. This experience has been married to Six Sigma, and delivered at no additional fee."

ASQ Green Belt Training: (Prerequisite: A process improvement project, Good computer / people skills and knowledge of project management is a plus.) This ten-day course (one week a month - over two months) teaches the Green Belt candidate how to implement Six Sigma as an integral part of their respective processes.

Some Green Belts will work on projects as helpers of their Black Belts. Others will assume the role of the Process Improvement gurus within their departments, or processes org-wide within the enterprise. Still other, are from the Company's Management roles.

Long thought to be the domain of subordinate to Black Belts many companies are sending their middle and front-line managers not only to immerse the management team in Six Sigma, but to have their management use Six Sigma on appropriate projects strategically aligned with core business goals.

Members: $3,500; Others: $3,850

ASQ Black Belt Training: (Prerequisite: A process improvement project, Good computer/people skills and knowledge of basic statistic and project management is a plus.)

This twenty-day course (one week a month - over four months) teaches the novice Black Belt how to assimilate his or her business process (their project) into a comprehensive understandable model for improvement.

Knowledge of the Six Sigma Methodology is transferred to your candidates (having two from your company increases understand during and post training).

Each Black Belt Process Improvement project is discussed and compared, and emphasis is placed on which the "how to." Each Student Black Belt will learn how to meet a company's business objective through a thorough understanding of the MAIC process.

The training starts with objectives to teach the student how to get the best data; how to MEASURE; ANALYZE; IMPROVE; and CONTROL any process; and build, validate, and implement the results. Each step is approached in relation to the business goal and its affect on the outcome.

Members: $16,200; Others: $17,800

Minitab Software

Minitab statistical and graphical analysis software, Release 13, is the standard used in Six Sigma courses. The price when last chedked was $1,195, or substantially less for students or instructors. A full-featured free 30-day demo copy was also available.