What is Lean Six Sigma and Why Does It Matter?

Lean Six Sigma is a data-driven methodology used to improve quality and productivity. Here's how it works and why it matters.

As the business world continues to evolve and globalize, competition between companies continues to increase. To remain ahead of the competition, today’s corporate teams across industries must adopt methodologies like Lean Six Sigma to improve their operations and agility.

Often left to the manufacturing world, this methodology for continuous improvement and business process optimization can help organizations in virtually every industry.

With the increasing trend of employees leaving the workplace, organizations must revise and improve their processes and systems to fulfill increasing product or service demand. If they don’t do it, someone else will.

Companies strive for maximum efficiency and quality, yet the best solution may only sometimes involve technology or automatization.

Sometimes revising operations and processes can help attain and surpass desired results.

Even when adopting technology, you must ensure that your processes and systems are optimized and that your people can sustain the transformation.

What is Lean Six Sigma?

Lean Six Sigma (LSS) is a proven methodology that emphasizes streamlining and simplifying processes. The methodology also minimizes mistakes and simultaneously focuses on customer satisfaction.

The result is a company-wide mindset of improvement and optimized operations. This translates into reduced operational costs, improved business outcomes, and greater agility.

The Lean Six Sigma methodology approach marries two powerful philosophies: Lean’s philosophy to improve agility and Six Sigma’s focus on improving quality through defect reduction.

When employed together, these tactics create an unbeatable combination for optimizing productivity and bottom-line results.


Defining Lean

Lean is a set of principles that focus on eliminating waste, streamlining the flow of activities, and improving efficiency.

Lean identifies eight types of waste:

  • overproduction
  • waiting time
  • excess inventory
  • over-processing
  • motion/transport
  • over-processing
  • defects
  • underutilizing intellect (e.g., personnel capabilities, knowledge, and skills)
Types of waste identified in lean

Defining Six Sigma

The Six Sigma methodology enables process optimization and defect elimination by targeting variations in performance. Drawing from statistical principles, the approach emphasizes measurement and monitoring to accurately evaluate process fluctuations and variability.

This way, businesses can eliminate waste or redundancies while increasing efficiency.

Certified Six Sigma professionals use the five-step DMAIC process to assess and improve overall business performance.

This financial evaluation and data analysis system is perfect for pinpointing any deficiencies in a company’s operations. It includes;

  • defining the problem they wish to address,
  • measuring its current condition (including identifying the root cause)
  • analyzing it for solutions,
  • improving any areas of concern
  • and ultimately controlling them in order ensure successful long-term outcomes.
The 5 steps of DMAIC

Six Sigma certifications are often pursued by manufacturing operations leaders. These certifications are often provided by professional educational organizations abiding by international certification standards.

These criteria include educational qualifications and job standards to acquire belt rankings similar to those in martial arts.

LaSalle Group believes that Lean and Six Sigma drive the best results when they work in tandem.

Combining Lean and Six Sigma

Lean Six Sigma

By unifying Lean principles and the Six Sigma methodology, you increase the speed and quality of results. It’s a holistic system that allows businesses to achieve greater efficiency, cost savings, quality assurance, and customer satisfaction, all while creating a better workplace culture.

Most organizations see LSS as a set of tools to improve processes and help achieve greater results.

They often lose sight of an incredible benefit: Lean Six Sigma focuses on providing value to the customer and engages everyone in the process.

Wouldn’t it be remarkable to enable 100% of your team to participate in driving better results and delivering customer satisfaction?

The Lean Six Sigma approach to problem-solving is popular among large companies, small businesses, and individual freelancers alike.

LSS is an all-encompassing system that doesn’t require complete overhauls or expensive investments — it simply calls for improvement in existing processes. Once you start to embed LSS in your way of working, it never ends.

Lean Six Sigma Belts

Lean Six Sigma can be applied to any organization, small or large, and in any sector of the economy. Although Lean Six Sigma is well-known in the manufacturing industry, not everyone knows about the methodology’s benefits or its belt rankings in the general business world.

This methodology has five distinct belt levels.

  • White Belt
  • Yellow Belt
  • Green Belt
  • Black Belt
  • Master Black Belt
Lean Six Sigma Belt Certifications

White Belt: General Understanding

The Lean Six Sigma White Belt (LSSWB) is the first and most fundamental level of the LSS belts. It provides a general understanding of Lean and Six Sigma’s principles and how they work together.

The white belt certification introduces basic principles so team members can support and participate in lean six sigma initiatives.

The White Belt certified employee has a basic understanding of LSS and can use terminology to engage in conversations and communicate potential issues or relevant points when working on process improvement projects.

When LSS is first introduced to an organization, it’s common for everyone involved in LSS projects to receive White Belt training.

White belt-certified employees can be a great resource to help gather data and provide insights into specific processes and activities they execute daily.

Who can benefit from a White Belt certification?

This course is intended for every person within the organization. It is commonly used to initiate an LSS strategy deployment. This fundamental course is usually deployed in one day. It can be delivered in a virtual or in-person format and will help gather support for your bigger LSS strategy and projects.

When do you want to pursue a White Belt certification?

You want to pursue an LSS white belt certification in your team or organization at the early stages of Lean Six Sigma deployment.

LSS White Belt

Yellow Belt: Active Contributors

Yellow Belts have a firm grasp on the fundamentals of Lean Six Sigma and are qualified to participate in process improvement projects. They function as allies for more experienced LSS practitioners.

Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belts (LSSYB) are involved with projects in some capacity but not as the leader.

They usually participate in Kaizen events, collect data and contribute with their knowledge in workshops, conversations, and when collaborating in the execution of tasks related to a project.

In addition to this role, they are expected to have knowledge of basic Lean Six Sigma tools, such as DMAIC and PDCA, and understand how they can be used across multiple initiatives.

After completing the certification course, individuals are expected to be able to understand processes and identify opportunities to meet customer expectations and company goals.

Who can benefit from a Yellow Belt certification?

This course is intended for everyone in the organization who will participate in an improvement project.

It is commonly used to develop shop floor, engineers, and professionals at the early stages of an LSS strategy deployment whose assistance and support in improvement projects and discussions is important and even crucial.

When do you want to pursue a Yellow Belt certification?

You want to pursue an LSS yellow belt certification in your team or organization’s early stages of LSS deployment. Yellow Belt is ideal when leaders can commit 10% of their team’s time to drive improvement initiatives.

Supervisors will greatly benefit from becoming Yellow Belts.

LSS Yellow Belt

Green Belt: Project Managers, Quality Assurance, Investigators, process improvers, process and systems owners

The Lean Six Sigma Green Belt (LSSGB) is the most sought-after certification within the Lean Six Sigma family.

It is an ideal fit for those in Project Management, Quality Assurance, Investigations, Process improvement, business excellence, and Process and Systems owner roles.

The role of the Green Belt is to help business operations move forward. Companies typically need more than one individual with this credential on their team.

Lean Six Sigma Green Belts often manage their own Lean Six Sigma projects and are expected to bring the Lean and Sigma mindset and tools into their company’s day-to-day operations and conversations.

These leaders provide the methodology to help their operational business counterparts achieve success.

By becoming Lean Six Sigma Green Belt certified, you can catalyze the process improvement your business needs. This certification is ideal for young and senior leaders looking to deliver remarkable bottom-line results.

Who can benefit from a Green Belt certification?

Every person who is responsible for supporting the business strategy and driving bottom-line results. This certification is ideal for leaders focused on improving processes and operations.

Green Belt certification is ideal for Project Managers, Quality Assurance Leaders, Investigators, Process Improvement and Business Excellence team members, Process and Systems Owners, Software QA, and Development, and many more.

When do you want to pursue a Green Belt certification?

You should pursue a Green Belt certification when participating in the deployment of an LSS strategy or leading improvement and operational efforts within your company.

A Green Belt will be capable of leading process improvement and becoming a business partner to help solve challenges and problems that prevent the organization from achieving its business goals.

LSS Green Belt

Black Belt: Mentor and Strategist

Lean Six Sigma Black Belts (LSSBB) are highly skilled professionals that deliver cross-functional process improvement projects to the highest standards.

These specialists take cost savings and productivity enhancements to a whole new level while also serving as mentors for White, Yellow, and Green Belt learners.

Black Belts are typically LSS Green Belt holders with the know-how and expertise to design and deliver successful LSS strategies efficiently.

Armed with a vast array of tools, Black Belts possess invaluable skills that allow them to masterfully execute process improvement projects.

Among many others, a Black Belt should be capable of the following:
  • Teaching others the LSS methodology
  • Facilitating workshops
  • Coaching the organization on the right use of LSS and improvement tools.
  • Managing complex and large improvement initiatives
  • Designing a project’s deployment strategy
LSS Black Belt

Master Black Belt: Strategic Planning for Strategy

Master Black Belts (LSSMBB) are Lean Six Sigma’s top-tier practitioners. They focus on the bigger picture of Lean Six Sigma and organizational strategy. This is the highest ranking in the methodology.

Master Black Belts are Lean Six Sigma experts who have a deep understanding of Lean and Six Sigma tools and the ability to identify process improvement opportunities and design fit-for-purpose solutions.

Beyond being subject-matter experts in LSS and continuous improvement, the best LSSMBBs are transformational leaders.

Guiding, coordinating, and collaborating with Black Belts and top-level executives in the organization, they strategize to ensure successful process improvement that benefits all areas of an organization.

LSS Master Black Belt

Champions and Sponsors: Support and Nurture

Leadership engagement is paramount to a successful Lean Six Sigma program. A Lean Six Sigma Champion or Sponsor is an integral part of the organization’s leadership team.

Whether the leader is certified in LSS or not, their support is vital to ensure projects can be executed and obstacles addressed in a timely manner.

For LSS to thrive, certification and awareness of the methodology throughout the organization are vital. Champions and Sponsors often come from a business or executive background with a deep understanding of Lean Six Sigma tools and techniques.

The campion’s role involves providing guidance, support, and resources for Lean Six Sigma practitioners.

Ultimately, Lean Six Sigma Champions are the driving force behind an organization’s Sigma success that remove the roadblocks that prevent Lean Six Sigma deployment success.

The best champions have vast experience driving projects and initiatives within your organization.

Why Does Lean Six Sigma Matter?

With no uncertainty, Lean Six Sigma is a powerful technique for streamlining business operations.

Through its mindset and tools, organizations can not only advance in terms of progress but also become more cost-efficient while simultaneously improving customer satisfaction ratings.

Lean and Six Sigma can transform every person into a business improver and increase employee engagement and retention levels. The way of thinking that these methodologies provide has proven effective in removing the obstacles that prevent business success.

Individuals in Lean Six Sigma roles are considered highly valuable assets to the organization.

As Lean Six Sigma practitioners, they hone their skills to bring added value to the company and implement LSS principles into all aspects of the company’s operations. Yes- LSS can be applied to accounting, HR, marketing, procurement, and event facilities & maintenance!

LSS Roles

Why are certification projects important?

The Certification projects ensure that the practitioner understands the principles studied in the courses. Anchoring the knowledge is crucial for effective execution.

In our experience, having students lead a real project enhances their learning process.

The project aspect of the certification program allows Green Belt, Black Belt, and Master Black Belt practitioners to go through the challenges of data collection and navigating their organization to complete their improvement projects.

Certification projects also provide immediate value to the sponsoring organization or, in the case of individuals, allow them to start positioning themselves as key leaders immediately.

When organizations pursue certification projects as part of LSS courses, their investment has an immediate return on investment (ROI).

Beyond the immediate benefits of improving the business, organizations, and leaders end up with teams with an improvement and problem-solving mindset and the tools to provide compounding benefits.

How to Decide Which Lean Six Sigma Role Best Suits You

Whether you’re a business executive, process manager, or project owner, Lean Six Sigma allows individuals to make a real difference in their organization.

To decide which LSS certification best suits you, it’s important to consider your current experience and strengths.

It is crucial to anchor any Lean Six Sigma initiative in the business strategy. Deployment of LSS as a strategy or individual projects will require sponsorship and stakeholder support.

Lean Six Sigma practitioners in all roles bring different skills to the table, so make sure that you are playing to your unique strengths when selecting the right certification for you within your current role, career aspirations, and growth opportunities.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • How familiar are you with LSS methodology? Do you currently have one of the certifications mentioned in this article?
  • What experience have you acquired through your previous positions? Have you implemented projects, led strategic initiatives, collected data, provided support, etc.?
  • What qualifications do you possess? A project manager or someone with management experience might find completing the projects required for advanced LSS certifications easier.
  • Are you seeking to gain proficiency in Lean Six Sigma implementation or just a general understanding of the concepts?
  • How do you plan to leverage the power of LSS?

After answering the questions above, you will be better positioned to choose the right belt certification to start your LSS journey.


We suggest you contact other LSS practitioners within your organization or professional network and see how LSS has helped them professionally and what they suggest would be a good starting point for your LSS journey.

Lean Six Sigma is a team effort to reduce waste, limit variation and defects, and build a better-performing, more efficient, and agile organization. How have you seen LSS used in your professional experience?



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