Roles and responsibilities within a lean six sigma organization

Just like martial arts use belts with different colors to indicates the level of expertise the person has, lean Six sigma relies on belts of different colors to indicate the level of knowledge of a person.

The requirements to get a belt can differ from company to company and training center to training center. Often in order to get your belt you have If you to complete a course, pass an exam and do one or more project to show that you can apply the tools learned during the training. 

Getting a belt should not be seen as ticking off a check box or as a status symbol. the goal of getting a belt is to come up with cost savings and solve problems on their own next improvements.

There are many roles and responsibilities in order to successful implement a lean six sigma organization.

At the top of the pyramid, you can find organizational support which consists out of management, champions, and sponsors. The main goal of the organizational support is to set the vision for selecting, deploying, and monitoring projects. At a high level, they create a framework in order that projects succeed, add value, and are in line with the goals of the business.

Under the organizational support in the pyramid, you find the project level, there are master black belts, black belts, green belts, yellow belts, and white belts. These are the people who do the actual work, they execute the projects and implement the action in order to get the required improvement.

The role description hereunder is a general guideline to who dies what. Be aware that it can change from company to company.


Developing a successful lean six sigma organization starts with the management. It is their role to create a clear vision and mission for the lean six sigma framework. They should define Why lean six sigma is needed and how it will be implemented. Furthermore, they have to define what would be the ideal future state to work to.

The management has to define the business goals that have to be reached.

Finally, They are accountable for integrating lean six sigma within the mindset of the organization.


Champions implement the company’s vision and mission within their working area. They are typical situated within middle management. It is their job to promote the lean six sigma initiative throughout their working area. In order to do this, they will define a deployment plan based on the goals set by the management. They have to make certain that the resources needed for running the projects are available,  they also have to look for training needs and identifying individual projects.  Finally, they have to take away roadblocks when they occur. Often these are cross-functional team issues that occur due to different priorities or visions within the departments. You can summarize it as follow, they ensure that projects add value and all resources are in place to let them succeed.


Each project has to have one sponsor. The sponsor is responsible for clarifying the problem statement and defining the team’s objectives. He makes certain that the team objectives are aligned with the business goals. In order to have a good commitment, The sponsor should also benefit from the improvements the project has to reach.

The sponsor coaches the lean six sigma team. They participate in all the project reviews, approve the different tollgates between the phases and ask critical questions to make certain that the project is executed correctly.

The sponsor is the liaison between the project team and the champion. The sponsor secures the resources that are needed to have a successful project. Sponsor and champion can be one and the same person. He monitors that the project stays on track.

Master Black Belt

The master black belt is an internal specialist. He has followed extensive training in lean six sigma and has executed several projects. Often he has followed also training on how to train people.

 On the one hand, he provides advice and counsel to the organizational level. On the other hand, he is responsible for the Training and coaching of Black Belts and Green Belts.

Together with the organizational level, he facilitates cultural change and helps to implement the lean six sigma mindset. He Motivates the people to implement and use the lean Six Sigma tools.

The master black belt makes certain that the lean six sigma method is used correctly within the projects.

Black Belt

The Black Belt Leads big complex problem-solving projects in a cross-functional environment. Also, they can coach multiple green belt teams that are focusing on a smaller project in applying Six Sigma methods.

 In order to do this he needs to have the necessary project management, statistical and people skills.

Next to leading projects he often trains green, yellow and white belts.

Green Belt

A Greenbelt has been trained in lean six sigma technique upon a level that they can Assists with data collection and analysis for Black Belt projects or  Lead their own projects or teams which are situated within their functional area.

During the training, all phases of the DMAIC cycle are seen, but the focus of the training lies on the definition & measurement phase. Therefore they are involved in identifying improvement opportunities and running continuous improvement efforts.

Yellow Belt

A Yellow Belt has a basic knowledge of lean six sigma. Yellow belts can Participates as a project team member or subject matter expert, but will not lead a project. They support the project with their own specific knowledge or skills.  Yellow Belts often drive smaller process improvements within their process.

White belt

White belts have a basic understanding of lean six sigma. They can solve small problems in their own work environment and they can support bigger projects by lending extra pairs of hands and eyes.  They can help to collect data and get insight into how the process is working, but are typically not part of the lean six sigma project team.

A white belt has a basic understanding of the terminology used in lean six sigma from an awareness perspective.


Independent of the level, there are some general behaviors you should expect from everyone within a lean six sigma organization. These characteristics are: Being rigorous and disciplined, Making data-based decisions, Embracing change and continuous learning, and finally sharing best practices.

This article was updated on November 30, 2022