Dispute System Assessment and Design

All organizations manage conflict, and most of the time these systems work well. However, these systems can be challenged in times of high stress, organizational change, or when the structure of an organization interferes with communication or coordination.  In these situations, conflicts can multiply, escalate, expand, and efforts to address the conflict are ineffective. When conflict interferes with organizational functioning, The Mediation Group can provide two kinds of help. 

Dispute System Assessment 

We begin by understanding the nature of the problem. Are there identifiable moments in the year when conflict seems to get out of hand? When budgets are determined, for example, or when bonuses and raises are allocated, or when leadership is in transition? The tension in these moments is inevitable, but that tension can be part of a learning phase for the organization or it can be a cause of disruption and damaged relationships. 

When we do an assessment, we use individual interviews, focus groups, survey instruments, and sometimes observation. We are looking for the ways in which conflict is currently managed, where those ways are not working, and what might change. The client receives a report that includes our diagnosis and recommendations for changes that will help. We can end there, and we also take the next step with some clients and design an effective system for resolving disputes. 

Dispute System Design

Dispute system design is creating a process for resolving current and future conflicts in an organization. The process can be designed to be an integral part of the organization moving forward (such as a mediation program, ombudsman’s office, etc.) or it can be a temporary process designed to address a current question (see our work for PCORI). When designing processes we think about how what information flows to whom, who makes what decisions using which processes, how to support the voices of those not traditionally part of the process, and how the process will work within the constraints of the organization. 

Examples of our work    

The Mediation Group, in partnership with the Massachusetts Office of Dispute Resolution, designed and implemented mediation programs for the Massachusetts Superior Courts in Suffolk and Norfolk Counties as well as at the Middlesex Multi-Door Court House in Middlesex County. This was the first mediation program in the Massachusetts Superior Courts. Since then we have worked with Massachusetts Superior Courts, New Hampshire Court Mediation Programs, Israeli Trial Court ADR Program, Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and  Massachusetts Department of Highways.

In addition to our work with courts, The Mediation Group has also received grant funding to design processes. One grant was from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to design Dispute Resolution in Managed Care: A Modular Self Assessment Protocol, a tool for assessing conflict resolution systems in health plans. This work was done in partnership with New York University. Working with the University of Massachusetts Medical School on a grant from the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI), we designed and facilitated two panels to create clinical practice guidelines for screening for prostate cancer and lung cancer. 


Our Experts Specializing in Dispute System Assessment and Design