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Role of Facilitators, Mediators and Arbitrators in Six Sigma Projects

Sep 16, 2008
In situations where disputes arise, for the Six Sigma project to be successful, a facilitators or mediator can help the Black Belt and their team. The need for a facilitator is not necessarily for dispute resolution, but may be for the purpose of support from a third party who is neutral and not involved in any way with a specific team member - or anyone from the organization.

Facilitators, arbitrators and mediators have different roles but may have to undertake any or all of the roles according to the situation.

Mediators are neutral members who work towards reconciliation in any arbitration or litigation. Arbitrators act as neutral parties to hear the evidence and decide on a given case; their decision may or may not be binding. A skilled facilitator can be of immense help to a Six Sigma project leader.

Both mediation and arbitration can have legal significance, and the assistance of the facilitator is better to sort out such matters. A simple facilitation of conversation between the two disputing members may prove to be helpful in arbitration.

Facilitators can help drive the Six Sigma project towards progress.

Common Factors

Facilitators, mediators or arbitrators all have some responsibilities in common. All of them have to be unbiased and specific about their role. They should not have a hidden agenda or notions about the project at hand. They should have some formal training in conflict management.

Additionally, they should be sensitive to the concerns of the parties. As an intermediary, they should listen and make careful conversation with everyone involved. They should ensure that the two parties are clear and sincere in their point of view. They should also be able to prove that the conversations they have are not disclosed to anyone and avoid making derogatory remarks.

These professionals should have an in-depth understanding of the point of view of everyone before coming to a conclusion.

The Differences

There are a few differences in the roles of these three professionals. The facilitator's role is to make the parties involved collaborate. It is important to stay calm in tough situations and neutral as well. They should be able to encourage the parties to voice their opinions freely. They have to avoid statements that may be seen as judgments.

At the end of their role, they should leave the team well-informed and energized for further projects.

Mediators have to be good negotiators as well as facilitators. They need to have good analytical skills, and should be able to maintain poise when the parties are disagreeing and bring them on track to sort out the issue.

When mediation is required, it generally so happens that the two parties are aware of the problem areas, whereas a facilitator makes discoveries for the two parties.

Arbitration is different from mediation in certain ways. It resembles a court proceeding, where the two parties present their arguments. Prior to arbitration, the parties may have to sign a document that states that the decision will be accepted. It is less expensive than going to a court and is becoming more popular as a result.

The role of each person is valuable - and depending upon the dispute, the parties can get help from the appropriate person so as to take their project to its logical, successful conclusion.
About the Author
Tony Jacowski is a quality analyst for The MBA Journal. Aveta Solution's Six Sigma Online offers online six sigma training and certification classes for six sigma professionals including, lean six sigma, black belts, green belts, and yellow belts.
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