Having reviewed how Six Sigma is defined and its key components, process flow and methodologies, let's now focus on the "who" of Six Sigma. This is the cadre of players with martial arts monikers: black belts (BBs), green belts (GBs) and ­– the most accomplished of all –­ the master black belts (MBBs). What does a breakthrough management strategy have in common with karate?

Legend has it that the martial arts metaphor originated in the mid-'80s when a plant manager reported to Mikel Harry and his Motorola team that Six Sigma tools were "kicking the heck out of variation" in production. The Six Sigma black belt does, in fact, parallel its martial arts counterpart in numerous ways:

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