One book has influenced my thinking deeply. It is Steven Covey’s classic “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People.” In the opening pages of this book, Covey refers to Thomas Kuhn’s “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,” in which Kuhn shows that the most significant breakthroughs in the field of scientific endeavors have been preceded by a break with old paradigms, that is, the traditional thought on the matter. He called it a “paradigm shift,” a term that is now trite. Steven Covey, in his classic “Seven Habits of Highly Effective People,” asserts that this can be applied to all aspects of life and needs not be limited to scientific endeavor.
The above serves as an appropriate bridge from my last post. For what I am inviting my readers to prepare for, and embrace, is a paradigm shift. A shift from the paradigm of Mediation as simply an available dispute or conflict resolution method or process to a new paradigm wherein Mediation and the mediatory mindset is a culture and lifestyle, of individuals, communities, and corporate organizations.
I am driven by the firm conviction that the principles of mediation best achieve their goal, when founded on the right mindset, i.e. a right inner mind attitude. Time and time again, it has been shown that, against a wrong paradigm, two people can see the same thing and yet disagree, regardless of pertinent reason or logic. In my experience, I have seen that it is in fact this differing paradigm that causes a “digging in,” where for this reason either party fails or refuses, or does not care to see what the other is seeing. Therefore, in such cases, my consistently successful strategy has been to reconcile the paradigms to help parties close this mindset gap. My favorite tool has been a calm, respectful, unambiguous (specific, definitive, clear) communication, and gentle, yet firm re-framing, as necessary.
A good proportion of commercial transactions and relationships are conducted through corporate organizations. I believe that the time has come when companies should be able to celebrate minimum or no-down time for dispute resolutions as we have today with HSE policies which celebrate accident free or minimal down time from accidents. This can be achieved by policies which make a mediation mindset part of the corporate culture in much the same way as safety-consciousness has become a lifestyle.
A possible starting point is in establishing and sustaining guidelines for inter-personal communication and relationships. For example, Non-Violent Communication can be entrenched in corporate policy. Employees are enjoined to be courteous and considerate in their verbal and written correspondences, both within and outside the organizations. And yes, you guessed my next thought: etiquette and respect for the other person. This, for example will undergird the policies around sexual harassment and other such behavior and communications.
Leaders will be encouraged to employ effective listening skills. They will be encouraged to develop a passion for becoming bridge builders, team players. Disciplinary process must be reviewed away from being mini-courts and tribunals, often imitating the adversarial models of dispute resolution. Instead, they can be modelled more after conciliation and mediation. The organization itself must be a listening organization. Staff should be encouraged away from a culture that regards employees as rivals, fighting each other for promotions and rewards, in a pyramid structure. A win-win mind set becomes a daily way of approaching transactions and the relevant negotiations. Balanced agreements tend to be less prone to defaults. Cost benefit analysis becomes an integral part of the process for addressing disputes and suits.
Members of the in-house legal team responsible for the organization’s disputes portfolio can be encouraged using incentives to promote and integrate the use of mediation and other ADR methods. These incentives can be in the form of bonuses or targets attached to these members who obtain additional Mediation and other ADR training and/or who use those processes to resolve disputes. Since organizations can track cost-savings and external legal expenses, ADR usage and ADR related cost-savings (direct and indirect costs) can also be tracked. As a result of this tracking, cost-saving targets which are attached to bonuses can be set for the disputes portfolio legal team.
In Part 5 of these series, we will consider more specific elements of the Mediation or Mediatory culture and mindset, and its adoption as an effective corporate (and individual) conflict and dispute resolution strategy.
I am eager to know what you think. Please share your comments in the section below. Meanwhile, please subscribe so that you do not miss developments as this is advanced over the next few weeks.