Thinking ahead, on a smaller scale
Major, industrywide examples of our work can be found throughout this site. But not every client needs help on such a scale. Here are a few smaller examples from our experience:
- A New Problem
- A consortium of twenty electric utilities, covering much of the Eastern seaboard, routinely sold power to each other but endured for years a series of disputes over transmission and other issues. The members wearied of litigation and regulatory approaches and decided to set up a system that would ensure speedy and highly qualified mediation and arbitration. But this raised the question—how to find the best mediators and arbitrators, for such a new and specialized setting? The consortium retained CONVENOR consultant Christopher Honeyman to identify and recruit the strongest possible roster for these complex, highly technical and high-dollar matters.
- Thirty Texas dispute resolution organizations needed a coordinated approach to statewide ethics and qualifications issues—notoriously difficult problems to get agreement on, in any profession. A series of discussions revealed the need for someone to help the members crystallize the issues and options. But the members realized that no member organization could take on that role. The group retained Chris Honeyman as facilitator-advisor, and achieved an unprecedented consensus—in a single day's meeting.
- Team-building and strategic planning
- Dispute systems design, strategic planning and team-building can overlap, particularly when the disputes are internal to a working group. For example, the department of urban and regional planning of a major university realized that its strategy was obsolete. But attempts to devise a new one ran into an obstacle that was, from other points of view, a strength: the high qualifications and independence of individual faculty members. Even getting the faculty to set aside enough time for an in-depth discussion was a challenge. The department convened a retreat for two days and retained one of our consultants as facilitator. The result was a cost- and time-efficient meeting at which not only was a new strategic plan agreed on by all members of the faculty, but the department's culture of individualism was respected: all agreed on which member would take individual responsibility for carrying out what aspect of the plan.
- Re-examining quality in an established program
- A Pennsylvania state agency with a long-established and well-regarded mediation program began to realize the implications of the fact that in this field, user satisfaction surveys often praise too lavishly (this is well-established by the research.) The program's managers asked themselves: How can we be sure we're doing the best job we could? The program retained CONVENOR for an in-depth analysis and consensus-building process. This sharpened the existing mediator group's understanding of what "quality" means in a mediator, helped each individual mediator broaden his or her individual approach, and improved the "mutual recognition" of styles which had long lived in uneasy coexistence within the same program.