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Importantly, the authors immediately focus on the corporate interests that drive the development and implementation of alternative systems for conflict management. Overwhelmingly, the primary driver in developing alternative systems to replace litigation procedures is the belief that dispute resolution can be accomplished at less cost in dollars and time." (p.6).
"In our survey of the Fortune 1000," the authors write, "about 80 percent of the respondents told us that saving time or saving money was the primary reason the corporation had used ADR" (p.313). The implications of this finding are clear and reflected, as the authors point out, in the fact that "… the vast majority of corporations favor dispute management over conflict management" (p.313).
Having presented us with the primary drivers as well as several other contributing factors, the authors move into a discussion of alternative management systems and their components. Readers will learn the pros and cons of the main features of these systems. It is truly a handbook of elements for both the decision-maker and the designer.
The book explores who is eligible in most systems, the essential elements for judging the fairness of a system, the issues of who pays the costs, training requirements, the use of outside "neutral" parties and a host of other common design features in considerable detail. You will find the most common element, the Open Door, explored with its drawbacks and its contributions. Additionally, you will find a careful discussion of other features such as "hotlines," ombudspersons, resolution facilitators, internal peer mediation and external "neutral" ad hoc personnel. Always, the authors present the pros and cons of each of the possible components.
Professors Lipsky, Seeber and Fincher then lead the reader through the process of system design and implementation, citing key steps along the way. Always, their work is based on findings from major U.S. organizations that have engaged in the process.
As they examine the process, the authors provide the reader with another very valuable part of their work by confronting the issues inherent in evaluating the systems. Their findings will be either a comfort or a source of devastation for the planner.
The authors put the matter succinctly and critically. The frame for evaluation is necessarily couched in the key question: "As compared to what?" (p.269).
Indeed, the answer is far from easy. Rather, it may be astonishingly elusive.
The challenge of evaluation is one the authors explore in detail, showing various evaluation schemes in practice in American corporations today. Results, alas, yield data far from business case standards. "Leaders of organizations, even if they believe in conflict management," they conclude, "are often faced with going forward in the absence of any hard evidence about the benefits of the system" (p.308).
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