White Belt is the lowest level qualification in Six Sigma (they go in order White, Yellow, Green, Black, Master Black Belt).
Most Six Sigma institutes don’t bother with White Belt (a very low-level introduction to Lean Six Sigma), in fact there is some debate as to whether it should exist at all. Many organizations don’t use White Belts as part of their programme, and in their training go straight to Yellow Belt (and some even use Green Belt as their entry level).
You should be able to get to it very quickly (between an hour to a day) so it is the quickest of the courses. There is a large variety in how much training companies charge, from very little (or occasionally nothing) to hundreds of dollars, so make sure you shop around.
The way I’ve laid out my notes is essentially that the White Belt is the first part of the yellow belt, as the whole White Belt is usually covered in Yellow Belt (which often assume you’re starting from zero).
What role does a Six Sigma White Belt play in an organization?
A White Belt won’t really get involved in any Six Sigma projects (even low level Six Sigma roles such as data collection and brainstorming are usually reserved for Yellow Belts). Their ‘role’ is to appreciate the role of Six Sigma in their organization and to support those efforts by granting resources, being open to change, giving their knowledge to the staff on the projects, not resisting change etc.
It is very much passive support to the efforts, but is still important, as e.g. managers allowing their department resources to be redirected to Six Sigma can be vital to the projects’ success. Because of the need for the whole organization to get on board with the Six Sigma efforts, it is common to see the whole organization to be expected to reach White Belt level, or at very least anybody with management responsibilities.
What is the purpose of the White Belt qualification?
White Belt is a basic grounding in Six Sigma, and introduces the concepts in an overview. Its target market is people in your organization who may work with Six Sigma practitioners, but who won’t actually do any work on the projects themselves.
It will help them understand the process a bit more, and the aim is mostly to improve buy-in in parts of the organization which won’t be directly involved, but who may otherwise be tempted to introduce obstacles. It can also be used for management who may get less involved in the day-to-day, although it is likely that they will want a higher level of training so that they can help guide the changes in the business.
The other use is for individuals who want to get involved, but don’t want to commit to a large expenditure before they know it’s for them (as they may not have the budget even for Yellow Belt if it’s something they’re not going to use). This was how I got involved – I’d done some Six Sigma at work but no training, so did a white belt course to see whether I wanted to get fully trained.
Is it worth it?
If you can get it for free (or virtually free) then I think it’s worth it on a personal level; it gives you a little insight into Six Sigma and lets you know whether it’s for you. If it’s part of a company roll out though (and you’re in a position to choose the course), it’s too low a level, and I’d recommend the yellow belt be used instead, as this will let you get involved on projects, and really see if Six Sigma is for you.
To be honest, there’s a danger anything you learn past the very basics will be forgotten a few weeks later, as a quick course can be too quick to have any lasting impact. If you’re decided to get involved in Six Sigma, go for Green Belt (or Black Belt) if you can, as these will give you the knowledge that you can actually use in your day to day life. This however can be a cheap way to stop you from wasting large amounts of money on a longer course if Six Sigma isn’t for you.
How do I become a Six Sigma White Belt?
Given the length of the course (short), it should be relatively easy to pick up a White Belt certification, either through your workplace or online. There’s currently a free white belt course and exam from the Aveta Business Institute, which is where I took my White Belt course (but with whom I have no other affiliation).
White Belt courses usually are from an hour to one day of training. Obviously you would expect to pay for the day long courses, especially if they are in a classroom. The cost should be relatively low though, and the paid for courses you would expect to get more out of.
There is usually (but not always) an exam at the end of the course to show that you have retained the knowledge from the course. Once you’ve passed your exam, you’re a Six Sigma White Belt – congratulations!
What do I do after White Belt?
Once you’ve achieved White Belt status, you should know a bit more about the methodology and how it works. How you feel about that will guide your next stage.
- If you’re still not sure if Six Sigma is for you but you’re still interested in learning more, Yellow Belt is probably the best next step for you. It’s a bit more in depth, and will enable you to start taking a low-level role on projects.
- If you’re a new convert and now love Six Sigma and want to learn all the tools, you may want to look into working towards the Green Belt, which is the next big step up. You’ll learn a lot of the methodologies and tools, and even be able to help lead smaller projects.
- If you’re feeling really ambitious you could go straight for Black Belt (this is what I optimistically did after White Belt). This will give you a full knowledge of all the methodologies and tools. A lot of certification organizations will let you certify as a Green Belt when you’ve covered all the Green Belt material (which gives you a great sense of progress). It can also be cheaper to sign up for the Green Belt and Black Belt at the same time rather than doing Green then Black.
What will you learn?
The white belt is just a fairly quick overview of Six Sigma; it will depend on the course, but you will typically learn:
- The history of Six Sigma
- What Six Sigma is trying to achieve
- The basics of DMAIC, the process improvement framework
- Potentially some basic tools, like flowcharts for mapping processes, and how to reduce waste (the basics of Lean) to give you a taster of the later courses and qualifications