Six Sigma Green Belt–Define Phase: Stakeholders on a Six Sigma Project

1. Stakeholder definition

 The concept of stakeholders is any person or organization that is either actively involved in the project, or whose interests may be positively or negatively affected by the execution or completion of the project.

2. Categories of stakeholders

Here are the categories of stakeholders as they relate to a Six Sigma project in an organization.

Fig. 1. Categories of Stakeholders on a Six Sigma Project


1.  The innermost circle is that of the people actually working on the project, namely the project lead, the Six Sigma Black Belt, and the project team members, the Six Sigma Green Belts.

2.   The second circle is that of the Master Black Belt or Sponsor, the person or group that provides the financial resources for the project and the one who champions the project within the organization when it is first conceived. The Sponsor acts as a spokesperson to higher levels of management within the organization, which is why I placed the Master Black Belt in the second circle. You might also consider the Master Black Belt the equivalent to a program manager that managers several Six Sigma projects, each of which is headed by its own Black Belt.

3.  The third circle contains of the functional managers from whom the resources (money, manpower) will be needed to carry out the Six Sigma project. This can be a potentially negative stakeholder in those organizations where the Six Sigma approach of Process Management strives to break down the barriers between functional areas of the department in order to get the project done. If you a functional manager who built that barrier in the first place, then your vested interest will be to impede the project.

4.  The next circle is still within the organization, but rather than the three inner circles that deal with the Six Sigma Project or provide resources for it, this is the circle of management that sets the strategic goals for an organization. The Six Sigma Project must align with the strategic goals of the organization (i.e., contribute to the bottom line) in order for it the project to be accepted by the Sponsor. Reporting of the results of the project to the strategic managers is important because it justifies the existence of the Six Sigma program within the organization, and will make the sponsoring of further improvements easier once a “track record” of success has been established.

5.  Now we get to the circle which is outside of the organization, but one in which there is a business relationship between the organization and that stakeholder, such as sellers/business partners (vendors and suppliers, for example) in the case of a B2B relationship, and customers/users in the case of a B2C relationship. In the case of customers, they are the ones through the Voice of the Customer that supply the requirements that get translated into the technical design requirements of the product. They are the ultimate arbiter of what sells and makes a profit for your organization. If your product is being produced at a Six Sigma level, and no one is buying it because the market has shifted, then it’s not contributing to the company’s bottom line no matter how good the quality of the product is.   And on the supplier side, the quality of the raw materials or components is something that you are responsible for since they are going in your product, but over which you have no direct control, only the degree of control you get through your contractual relationship with that supplier.   So this is another potentially powerful influence on the success or failure or your Six Sigma Project.

6.  The last circle consists of elements of society that may not have any formal relationship to the organization, but which may contain groups that are affected by the project or that can influence the project because they effect not only the organization, but the industry of which it is a part.  I have put an example of “Regulatory Agencies” as just one type of entity that could be considered a stakeholder. A non-governmental organization such as an environmental awareness group that is an NGO would also be an example of a stakeholder at this level as well. However, industry associations such as ASQ could also be considered a stakeholder that can influence the way a Six Sigma project is done.

These concentric circles, I believe, show a little more of the different kinds of stakeholders and why some of them have more influence than others.


These categories of stakeholders show that Six Sigma projects must be done with an awareness of the relationships of the project to the organization as a whole, and the relationship of that organization to its suppliers and customers, and the influence that regulatory agencies, industrial associations, consumer groups, etc., may have on the industry in which the organization is a part.

Also, you must never underestimate or overlook the influence of negative stakeholders, because they can negatively influence your project and its success. These negative stakeholders can come at any category listed above, but I have made suggestions in the paragraphs some of the reasons why these stakeholders might be found at any particular level.

The above analysis applies to Project Managers in general, and not just those doing Six Sigma projects.

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