Six Sigma Team

  • Post last modified:18 March 2023
  • Reading time:32 mins read
  • Post category:Lean Six Sigma
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An organization needs to prepare itself for implementing Six Sigma. Preparation includes the establishment of proper infrastructure. A Six Sigma project usually includes infrastructural elements.

Six Sigma Infrastructure

Let us now understand the composition and role of each infrastructural element as follows:

Core Team

The core project team is central to Six Sigma implementation. This team is responsible for defining and reviewing the progress of a Six Sigma project. The team acts as an executive leader, with the primary objective of clearing roadblocks (if any) for project teams.

Master Black Belt

Master Black Belt (MBB) holders fulfill the responsibility of providing technical guidance and coaching to Six Sigma teams. The project MBB is considered to be a repository of knowledge of all quality tools for the project team. 1:1000 is the usual ratio of MBB to employees and it is adopted as an industry standard.

Black Belt

An employee/consultant with a certification in Black Belt (BB) is considered to be the controller of the project. 10 (or 20):1000 is the usual ratio of BB to employees and it is adopted as an industry standard.

Green Belt

A Black Belt is supported by a team of Green Belt (GB) holders. A project team generally has 3 to 5 GBs to support one BB. As an industry standard, the ratio of GB to employees is 300:1000.

Yellow Belt

The remaining employees of the project form the Yellow Belt (YB) group. The role of this group is primarily to act as a source of information and provide support to the Six Sigma team. YB holders form a resource pool for Green Belt holders.

MAIC Discipline

The MAIC discipline program establishes the protocols to facilitate communication within the organization.

Incentive System

The incentive system within the Six Sigma project helps in the facilitation of results and outcomes.

Roles and Responsibilities of the Six Sigma Team

The roles and responsibilities of the personnel engaged in Six Sigma projects and their training requirements are discussed as follows:

Core Team

In a Six Sigma project, the core team functions as a spearhead that cuts across barriers within the organization. The team provides a roadmap to achieve the organization’s strategic goals. Six Sigma projects are usually implemented using a top-down approach. The core team is constituted by engaging representatives from the top management.

The main objective of this team is to identify projects that can yield maximum financial gains. Such projects usually arise from the strategic plans of an organization. The core team also performs the intermittent review of a project. For the benefit of all, it is generally recommended that the organizational leadership should undergo a training program to understand the approach of the Six Sigma methodology.

The Six Sigma course for organizational leadership can be based on four major modules, namely the overview and implementation methodology of a Six Sigma project; process improvement and activity-focused knowledge; introduction of descriptive statistics and success factors for Six Sigma; and approach to implementation.

Master Black Belt (MBB)

This group forms the technical lead of the Six Sigma project in an organization. MBBs steer the project technically, function as in-house technical experts, and create self-sustaining training culture within the organization. The roles and responsibilities of an MBB are as follows:

  • Preparing and delivering the Six Sigma training within the organization
  • Providing project selection decision support
  • Engaging with project champions
  • Identifying and establishing best practices

For MBBs, it is recommended that they undergo at least two one-week MBB training sessions that focus on advanced lessons on advanced quality, statistical thinking, and related topics. MBB training can also cover a revision and critique of BB training.

Black Belt

Black Belts function as change agents for rolling out the Six Sigma improvement projects and methodology adoption. Their roles and responsibilities are as follows:

  • Act as technical leaders for process improvement projects that are critical and of a high strategic value.
  • Achieve proficiency in understanding and use of advanced quality tools and statistics.
  • Implement techniques of measurement, analysis, improvement, and control (MAIC).

It is recommended that Black Belt training programs should be spread over four months, comprising four weekly modules. Revision of application concepts should also be carried out in between workshops with person-to-person coaching on the application of techniques to their respective projects.

Green Belt

This group is made up of the Subject Matter Experts (SMEs) of respective processes. Green Belts also function as change agents within their teams. The roles and responsibilities of a GB holder are as follows:

  • Provide leads for process improvement projects.
  • Provide support for process improvement projects that are critical and of high strategic value.
  • Drive continuous process improvement efforts.

It is recommended that Green Belt training sessions should be at least two weeks long and include subjects and topics of relevance from the four-week BB training.

Yellow Belt

YB holders constitute the remaining population of the Six Sigma project team. They are at the grassroots of the Six Sigma process. They provide support to the Six Sigma project team in data collection and are the key source of information on issues that require investigation. It is recommended that YB employees should be provided training of at least three days with a focus on the application of the basic statistical concepts of problem-solving.

Six Sigma Teams

A team is defined as a group of people who possess complementary skills. The team members come together to achieve a common goal. They often have similar performance goals and approaches. The team members are accountable to each other and the entire organization. Various characteristics of a successful team can be summarised as follows:

  • The efforts of the team are directed toward the achievement of a common goal.

  • Team members empower each other; in this way, all the members become empowered.

  • Leveraging the expertise of all team members

  • Open communication

  • Resource adequacy

  • Strong leadership

  • Leveraging the diversity within the team

The following considerations can help in the creation of a successful team:

  • Focus on problems that need resolution. These problems include the problems that have the potential to influence business outcomes, the problems that are challenging, and the problems that can be solved with available resources.

  • Engaging the right team members which may include those who have adequate knowledge of the process that is to be improved.

  • Use of scientific techniques such as Six Sigma for process improvement initiatives

  • Actions based on evidence-based methodologies

Some fundamental principles of team selection are as follows:

  • The team selection activity must be focused on problem resolution. The skill set and knowledge of the identified team members should be in alignment with the project needs.

  • The selected team members should be well-versed in the process that needs improvement. There should be an adequate number of SMEs (subject matter experts) on board.

  • Sufficiency of the skills matrix including technical, interpersonal, practical, and analytical skills. It is necessary to have a team with diverse skills.

  • The size of the team is an important factor to consider as the number of team members should neither be very small nor very large.

  • Inputs from project champions must be included.

Stages in Six Sigma Team Formation

Let us discuss the activities and characteristics of each stage as follows:

Forming Stage

In the forming stage, the team is formally announced and all team members are introduced to one another. In this stage, the team members usually have the feeling of being individual contributors, and sentences in their conversation usually begin with “I”. For example, I am, I feel, I want…. etc. Some evidence of an effort to define the task at hand and decide how it will be done is seen in this stage.

The team members may collectively seek to decide as to what kind of information should be gathered. There may be some attempt at abstract discussion of concepts and issues at hand. Sometimes certain members may also display impatience with these discussions. This stage may also witness the discussion of symptoms or problems that may not be truly relevant to the task at hand.

Storming Stage

In this stage, the team and ideas are organized. At this stage, there may be some impatience in some team members about the lack of progress. Restlessness and arguments over the actions that the team should take can also be seen. A feeling of impatience about individual roles, rules, and team leadership is present.

Some evidence of resistance to the task and discomfort with project concepts may also be seen. Sometimes the members also display fluctuations in their attitude toward the team and there could be signs of a lack of confidence about the project’s chance of success.

Norming Stage

In this stage of team formation, the members begin to help each other and their mutual criticism slows down. An amicable environment sets in. There is evidence of membership acceptance, constructive engagement and communication, and acceptance of criticism.

The members start focusing on questions like “Who can be approached for help? Are mistakes acceptable? etc. By this stage, the team members become pally and start trusting each other. A sense of cohesion within the team and a feeling of working towards a common goal develop. In short, it can be said that in the norming stage, communication among the team increases and a set of team rules is developed.

Performing Stage

This is the stage in which “I” gets replaced by “We” in the team members’ talks, and the team members’ questions now revolve around the task at hand. They feel comfortable and the team atmosphere becomes non-threatening due to increased and open communication within the team. Performance optimization becomes visible due to team collaboration. A constructive self-change becomes evident. Team members now become attached and a lot of work gets done.

A Six Sigma project team usually comprises the following people:

  • Project Sponsor
  • Project Champion
  • Master Black Belt
  • Black Belts
  • Green Belts
  • Yellow Belts

Each member of the Six Sigma project team has a different set of skills and experience. Also, each member is assigned specific roles and job descriptions depending on his/her skills, training, and experience. One of the foremost and important steps in the successful management of the Six Sigma project team is to establish the roles and responsibilities of project team members.

The project team is managed by the top management of the organization because appropriate resources and access to company information can only be provided by the top management.

The choice of Six Sigma project team members can be made in two ways:

  • The team selection in charge can identify organizational employees and get them trained and certified in the Six Sigma methodology.

  • Outside consultants can be hired. These consultants provide training to the organization’s employees. In this way, a combination of internal and external Six Sigma people can get the process rolling much more quickly.

Hiring Six Sigma consultants from outside is a cost-effective and swift solution as it can make a big difference to the project’s success when the organization is just starting. However, having Six Sigma-certified and trained employees on the organization’s payroll has its benefits in the long run due to the availability of these employees for taking care of any process or quality issue all the time.

Appropriate training in the Six Sigma methodology may be the only necessary consideration for lower-level employees of the organization. But the MBBs (Master Black Belts) and the BBs (Black Belts) have to be carefully selected and must be made to undergo further extensive training in the domain of Six Sigma methodology.

They must also remain abreast with the updates in the industry as well on the project methodology. In addition, these employees should have interpersonal skills of being change agents to ensure enthusiastic participation by all those involved in the process improvement initiatives.

The involvement of the upper management in hiring the Six Sigma team is important as they need to invest their time in making the team members understand the organization’s goals which would eventually help them achieve good results.

The successful implementation of a Six Sigma project depends on a carefully selected project team. A project manager should have an understanding of the roles, selection parameters, and team development to ensure a successful project execution.

Answers to questions such as “While selecting a football team, what parameters should be used for player selection?”, “What are the parameters for the selection of a dance team?”, etc. may seem to be simple. Similarly, it would be much easier if the parameters to choose the members of a process improvement team were the objective.

However, the different tiers of the Six Sigma belts can sometimes actually complicate things. Creeping in too much politics and management control can destabilize a team’s harmony.

Standard Rules for Coordination and Cohesion

Some standard rules that can help maintain coordination and cohesion among the members of a Six Sigma team are:


The team composition in a Six Sigma project changes over time and it might be different by the time the project reaches the improvement stage. Even though the core team might remain intact and continue with the same composition till the end of the project, changes may take in the project team depending upon the specific team needs.

Categorization of the Team Members

The project team members are generally categorized as regular, resource, and ad-hoc members. Regular members routinely participate in all project activities including meetings, demonstrations, addresses, etc. Resource members may attend meetings, addresses, etc. at the discretion of the project leader. Resource members are those employees who are the source of information or act as resource coaches.

For example, a representative of the finance department may be a resource member and be present in meetings where the financial impact of some activity needs to be discussed. Sometimes teams require assistance from experts in a specific area. Members who act as advisory experts are ad hoc members.

Right Talent for Right Need

In its composition, a process improvement team may also include members such as process owners, process Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), budget and accounting representatives, engineering representatives wherever applicable, and an external stakeholder or customer whenever possible. This helps create buy-in from those people who can otherwise act as a source of resistance if left out of the project activities.

Identifying Common Grounds

The project team should be created to build common identities. Business and organizational expectations should be spelled out to each team member as well as the expected constraints and project limitations.

Creating a Culture of Mutual Respect

While it is easy to establish objective rules for the working of a team, leaders often face many subjective challenges. For example, how should a team leader handle a team member who tries to sabotage the work of the team? The answer to this challenge is not usually the removal of the member. Most of the time, creating an environment where members maintain respect for each other and help resolve any interpersonal problems is the appropriate solution.

Appreciation of others’ efforts and consideration of their needs helps create an environment of trust, fosters positive behavior, and increases mutual respect. Team cohesion increases with mutual respect among its members. A lack of mutual respect also may lead to team stagnation and disintegration. The environment of a team is similar to that of a society in a microscopic form.

Teams whose members have mutual respect have better chances of becoming successful as compared to the ones where no such relationship exists between the members. There must be acceptance and appreciation of diversity within the team.

Effective Leadership

Another important aspect of contributing to the successful implementation of a Six Sigma project is efficient leadership. Team leaders need to have excellent interpersonal skills to tactfully handle team members with differing opinions or handle a dominating team member while ensuring that none of the team members get a feeling of indignity. A team leader is expected to not only supervise but also manage the team members.

An individual who is assigned to be the leader of a process improvement project needs to have exceptionally high leadership and interpersonal qualities. It may be important to differentiate between a leader and a supervisor because a supervisor can manage people only by the authority delegated to him/her by senior management.

On the contrary, a leader manages people by his/her ability to influence and gain the willingness of the team members. A supervisory approach that creates an environment of command and control in team management may sometimes prove to be a hindrance to the project’s success.

Individual Behaviour Patterns

Sometimes negative individual traits adversely affect project outcomes. For example, a team member views the project only as a source of earning brownie points in performance appraisal. Expecting such people to contribute to team building may not be right as they are concerned only about themselves. Often such members engage in meaningless activities and arguments that in no way contribute to the team’s success.

Some team members may just try to always remain on the seemingly correct side and in everyone’s good books. The members with this kind of “card player” mentality are usually ineffective team members. They usually side with those members who seem to be winning, and it is unusual for them to express their real opinions. This may often lead to a biased outcome and tilting of results in case of activities that require multi-voting, scoring matrices, and brainstorming.

Some members may behave as if they are representing their bosses, an attitude that may prove to be a hindrance. Such people usually follow orders and merely express the views of their bosses without expressing their own opinions. The opinion of a boss is considered to be valuable as long as it is not subversive, especially in Six Sigma projects.

Conflict Management

An important team function is to deal with conflicts that are neither avoidable nor undesirable. Due to the diversity of opinions, conflicts are bound to arise but they should be accepted as something normal. The team leader should be prepared to intervene when a conflict takes a turn that is destructive or personal.

However, managing conflicts may not always be the sole responsibility of the team leader; other members should also contribute. Establishing some rules and norms to be followed in the initial stages of the project helps the team remain focused on the end objective.

A conflict that becomes a problem needs to be taken offline with the concerned person by taking actions such as opting for a break; changing the subject or both if the conflict arises during a meeting. In a situation like this, it helps the leader isolate the conflict from the other team members. The differing parties should then agree to disagree or devise a plan to address their differences at a later time and date.

One more rule that can be set is to obtain a consensus from all team members to arrive at a team-oriented perspective in case of conflict. Here what holds importance is that the opinion is not of an individual but that of the team and in most cases, something that is good for the team is also good for the individual members.

Ground rules for dealing with conflicts arising outside of meetings should also be established in the initial stages of team formation. Persistent conflicts even outside meetings can negatively influence the efforts of the team just like the conflicts during meetings.

Weakening of the team’s efforts in the favour of individual goals happens when a member undermines either the work of other members or the team itself, especially with people outside the team. As far as possible, team conflicts should be managed within the team itself unless the situation becomes so unmanageable that outside help is required.

Conflict management also has a lot to do with respect. Teams become ineffective when members do not respect each other. Removing a team member from the team is usually unwarranted and an undesirable action. The team leader undertakes this action only as a last resort.

For the smooth functioning of the team, it is expected from every individual member of the team to stay focused on the team objectives and avoid getting involved in political conflicts. A focused team has the best chance of gaining success.

Article Source
  • Gygi, C., Williams, B. and Gustafson, T. (2006). Six Sigma. Workbook For Dummies. Hoboken: John Wiley & Sons.

  • Brussee, W. (n.d.). Statistics for Six Sigma Made Easy!

  • George, M. (2004). Lean Six Sigma for Service. New York [u.a.]: McGraw-Hill.

  • Eckes, G. (2001). The Six Sigma Revolution. New York [etc.]: John Wiley.

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