A Master Black Belt (MBB) is a Six Sigma expert who acts as an internal consultant for Black Belts and their project teams. The Six Sigma system of ranking participants by belts is similar to the belt hierarchy used in the martial arts. Therefore, the title Master Black Belt indicates that individuals in this role have completed extensive training and testing, have mastered the concepts of Six Sigma and practice their craft with exceptional discipline, focus, and skill.
The Master Black Belt role is a full-time position that is typically filled by a professional who possesses highly developed quantitative and interpersonal skills. Unlike Black Belts, Master Black Belts are not full-time members of one particular project team. Master Black Belts act as internal consultants for multiple project teams, using their education and expertise to help the teams overcome technical obstacles and to answer procedural questions.
Master Black Belts are considered experts in all of the technical aspects of Six Sigma methodology, but their most important contribution to the Six Sigma process is their ability to teach and mentor Black Belts and other project team members.
Because the success of the Six Sigma process relies as much on teamwork as it does on statistical methodology, Master Black Belts must be as adept at observing, assessing and improving people as they are with business processes. The qualities that set successful Master Black Belts apart from others are not their quantitative skills, but their interpersonal skills.
The strength of any quality improvement team lies not only in its understanding of the concepts of Six Sigma, but also in the skills and confidence of its team members. Master Black Belts must have the interpersonal skills necessary to identify and then help team members recognize areas for improvement, and they have the communication skills to provide team members the advice and counsel they need to enhance their performance. This mentoring relationship requires a strong rapport between the Master Black Belt and those they mentor.
Master Black Belts are involved with many quality improvement teams but are not dedicated to any specific project. This allows them to see the big picture of the organization’s quality improvement efforts and enables them to understand and help influence the organization’s Six Sigma efforts. Because Master Black Belts have expertise in Six Sigma methodology and experience in project management, they are also able to help organize at a team level when a project requires direction.
The first step in achieving Master Black Belt status is to obtain a Six Sigma certification. This certification serves as documented proof that an individual is competent in the key roles of a Master Black Belt. However, certification alone does not guarantee that a candidate possesses implementation skills, it simply certifies competency in the subject matter.
There is no standard for Master Black Belt certification. The requirements and certification criteria vary and are determined individually by each certifying consultancy or company. To ensure that the Six Sigma Master Black Belt certification provides the value that it implies, make sure to confirm that the certification is based on a well-documented set of certification criteria.