Avoiding an expensive dance

In the video below, I observe that disputes are a fact of organisational life and need to be dealt with swiftly and constructively.

They do not disappear through some peculiar process of osmosis, as some might wish, because this process does not exist.

Typically disputes have a particular shape or architecture - a series of spikes that grow and are amplified as the dispute spins out of control and various procedures take over.

I conclude with some thoughts on how this expensive dance can be avoided.

From here to there.

This article was originally prepared for my friends at Changeboard and is © Changeboard.




Innovation and adaptation

I occasionally lecture on this subject which I find endlessly fascinating, using a definition from Wikipedia -

Innovation is a new idea, or more-effective device or process. Innovation can be viewed as the application of better solutions that meet new requirements, unarticulated needs, or existing market needs.

Wikipedia is itself a wonderful innovation which we now take for granted some 15 years after it was founded.

I try to distinguish between innovation and adaptation, using Shazam as an example.  It was very innovative when launched in 2002, if a little clunky on my brick of a mobile phone, but is now almost unrecognisable in its depth and sophistication as a result of constant adaptation and the arrival of smart phones.

When I ask for examples of innovation during my lectures, the vast majority of replies focus on technology and apps whether it's in music, banking or lifestyle.  

But the speed of innovation and perhaps the excitement of technology distracts us from what is happening elsewhere.

back to the future

And what is happening elsewhere is some exciting stuff relating to customer service.  

To some extent this is taking us back to a time when customer service rather than technology was a source of competitive advantage along with the possibility of having a face-to-face, more intimate relationship with the customer, rather than one mediated through a call centre or a smart phone.

but it just won't shake off,

I can use the subscription service at Lutyens and Rubinstein to deliver books to friends and loved ones solely by offering up some themes, e.g. travel, Brighton and food, before the lovely folks make a selection on my behalf and mail the books on a monthly basis, complete with a suitable card.

It is difficult to move around London without bumping into long lines of street food stalls and farmers' markets delivering all sorts of goodies to queues of folks keen to have Lebanese felafel for lunch or take home freshly baked bread. 

And for those of us who have watched the return of vinyl to record stores with something approaching awe and amazement, there is any amount of good news. My favourite recent example, borrowing from the approach taken by Recommended Records in the late seventies, allowed me to subscribe to the wonderful new Lail Arad LP, complete with signature, number and handwritten quote.

None of this level of service comes cheap and neither should it, given the amount of effort, expertise and sweat involved. At the same time, it is difficult to see how these types of business can be scaled up.  But perhaps that is no bad thing for the moment.

From here to there, with great customer service along the way.

It's Good To Talk



I have been thinking, writing and presenting on the subject of resolving disputes using mediation skills and processes in advance of the dispute requiring formal mediation.  

Thanks to Felipe Bustos Sierra at Debaser Filums, I have now committed my thoughts and observations to video.

The experience was an enjoyable, if rather nerve wracking one.  

It's not the new Bond movie, but it might be the start of a habit.

Comments and reflections very welcome.

Climb every mountain to resolve disputes

I have been thinking about employment disputes for some time, trying to find imaginative ways of capturing the issues involved and exploring how mediation might be used to resolve disputes before they escalate.

Last night, courtesy of Laura Devine, a group of employment lawyers, mediators, coaches and HR practitioners watched Paul Tinto perform a dramatised version of a dispute which sought to capture the emotional trajectory as experienced by an individual  - frustration, puzzlement, righteous anger, exhaustion, resignation and, ultimately, defeat.  I then facilitated a discussion which explored how mediation skills might be used to intervene at key stages of a dispute to prevent further escalation.

It was a high risk approach to a formal presentation, but one which seemed to work in terms of provoking discussion, debate and some consensus.

After many years struggling with PowerPoint presentations, I concluded they are best avoided.  This was a liberating decision, but a rather unimaginative one because a good graphic or diagram can quickly and clearly convey a complex issue.  

I have worked with Martin Conradi to create the graphic below, which neatly combines two of my interests - getting to the top of mountains and dispute resolution.

It captures the difficulty of managing an employment dispute in the usual way.  

It also captures the real difficulties faced when mediating, informally or formally, recognising that getting to the top of any mountain is always going to be a struggle and will never be risk-free.

From here to there.