Dispute Resolution - Mediators to the rescue
Updated: Oct 8, 2021
Following on from my earlier posts, if the dispute is more than you can deal with on your own, don't leave it; get some advice or involve someone who can help you faciliatate a solution. Accountants, lawyers, business advisors all have their role. But often, depending on who you engage, the dispute can become more entrenched, progress can be slow, the costs escalate beyond your control and finding an agreeable solution becomes even harder than before. Seriously consider involving a third party independent mediator or facilitator who may act as a referree or umpire, with as much or as little involvement as you dictate.
A mediator can provide a listening ear, can test your realities, explore solutions and generate options with both parties involvement and buy-in. The mediator takes control of the process and facilitates the discussion, promotes information sharing and allows the problem to be assessed constructively with any emotion being managed on the way. Many people only see mediation as the step before, or instead of, going to court. Whilst it still has that place, mediation and facilitation is so flexible that it can be used at any step of a dispute.
Internationally, it's common to have a Disputes Panel set up with any large infrastructure contract so that any dispute, no matter how minor, is resolved quickly and efficiently through the Panel. This allows the contract to flow rather than halted until issues are resolved. It de-escalates and normalises conflict so it can be nipped in the bud, rather than shoved in the bottom drawer. This panel approach has value for all sizes of contract.
Dispute resolution is a business tool. Admittedly not an on-going overhead most SMEs want in-house, but one that should be viewed much like HR or IT. Buy-in the expertise when you need it. Have a trusted dispute resolution practitioner or mediator at your finger-tips so that you can jump into facilitation or mediation quickly before issues become problems. Write into your business contracts a facilitation process you want to use in the event you have a dispute. Front-foot disputes - it will pay dividends in the long run.