Life After Black Belt?

Today’s question comes from the realm of business etiquette. Since I didn’t think Miss Manners would have the answer, I’m asking in this forum.

Traditionally, when an organization begins deployment of Six Sigma, “Black Belts” are hired, trained, and certified by their company or an outside vendor. After some years of service, some Black Belts rotate back out into the world of operations.

When this happens, are you a Black Belt (ret)? Former Black Belt? Still a Black Belt, even if it’s not still your official title? If you’re certified, do you still put your credentials behind your name? Or is that just a vanity, if you’re not in a Black Belt position?

Inquiring minds want to know! If you’ve made the transition from a full-time Black Belt role into a different position, or know someone who has managed this move, please share your opinions & experiences!

Thanks on behalf of future former Black Belts!

Comments 9

  1. Kanai

    Dear Sue,

    A Black Belt is always a BB. His/her credentials never goes out of him, wherever he may work. Black Belt always think to reduce waste. Its inherent.

    Balck Belt always should be called as Black Belt.

    Best regards

  2. Sue Kozlowski

    Thanks to all for your comments. I have gotten used to the Black Belt title (in spite of the comments that continue to come my way, such as "do you karate-chop your way to quality?" and "you’re not a REAL Black Belt, are you?"). I hope to continue practicing Lean Six Sigma in all my future roles.

    I wonder if anyone uses stricter guidelines in their organization, relative to what former Black Belts can title themselves?

  3. deepan

    what i feel is black belt as a title is more of a degree that has been earned due to whatever u have done in the past..though ur not in the role of a black belt but of course u have all the skills and knowledge that u can be called a BB…however even if BB moves to other roles it is better if they do six sigma in whatever they do….six sigma needs to be intergrated in whatever u do then ur a true black belt..

  4. Jay Fedora

    Your always a Black Belt as long as you keep practicing your skills.

    Since the term comes from the martial arts we should probably use their guidance. You’re a Black Belt as long as you’re coming to practice.

    You’re not a Black Belt if you achieved your First Dan in 2002, haven’t attended a school since 2004 and are now 40 pounds overweight.

    Oddly enough, those used to be’s will still claim their a Black Belt right before they stumble into a drunken and losing bar fight.

  5. Marty

    Hi Sue,

    I know one company that uses the business cards this way:

    Here’s someone who was a Black Belt, and now is in a new role.

    John Doe
    VP of Marketing
    Certified Six Sigma Black Belt

    Here’s someone who is currently in the Black Belt role:

    Jayne Doe
    Six Sigma Black Belt

  6. Mike-Carnell

    They earned the Black Belt so we still refer to them as Black Belts.

    We have never had a successful part time Black Belt so even though they carry the certification when they retrn to the organization they return into a green belt role. Projects in their natural work team and two per year.

    Just my opinion.

  7. JG

    Does anyone know how many Master Black Belts there are in the US? In the world??

  8. Sue Kozlowski

    Thanks Marty for the examples of current & former Black Belts. I may soon be among the ranks of Black Belts moving into other roles, so I had both a personal and a general interest in my question!

    Mike, I like your idea about moving to a Green Belt role when the BB is no longer in the full-time improvement function. They are using the same skills, but with a different time-dedication.

    JG, I can’t answer your question – the closest research I can think of is the iSixSigma salary survey, but that’s self-selected so I don’t believe it represents total numbers. If anyone has any info on that query, feel free to chime in!

    Thanks to all for your posts.
    –Sue K.

  9. Jeff Sewell

    Once a certfifed Black Belt…Always a Black Belt. The difference is with a new role you need to be able to integrate what you have learned into your new disciplines and MBO’s. If you love the process you will always find a way to work into your new career. The disciplines of Six Sigma transfer just about anywhere…

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