Infusing a Culture of Mediation into your organization

Organizations with long-standing success often have difficulty in shifting their members culture, when the need arrives.  Bridging the old and new ways requires skilled facilitation and ‘bridging’ skills.   Mediators are specialists in facilitating conversations and building bridges between people.

common ground

illustration by Tanya Gadsby

The need for mediation

The attributes associated with mediators are often the attributes in short supply by the professionals, working with those organizations.

Let’s take the IT project management for example.  It’s a domain I know well.  In this article last week, The Top 5 Reasons for IT Project Failure, notice how the top 3 reasons for failure are the very skills that mediators bring to the table:

  • ability to question and test assumptions
  • helping others find common ground (busting silos)
  • facilitate difficult negotiations between people, stuck on their positions

Change is difficult for 99.99% of us.  Yet, we can change, especially when we embrace change, as lawyer and legal educator David Bilinksy reflects.  I can’t tell you how many recent articles I’ve come across on the need for changing how the legal, and justice system in general, operates.  It’s a lot.

An influx of people with mediation competencies are needed.  Why?  Because, mediators help people change. The process of change is at the core of mediation; from positions to interests, people-focus to problem-focus, impasse to resolution, etc.

The resilience to accommodate continual change lies in the habits of effective, collaborative-minded, mediator types; welcoming paradox, being unconditionally constructive, immersing in the process, improvisation, letting go of outcomes…

What can your organization do?

Here are 3 things your organization can do to nurture a culture of mediation:

  1. Acknowledge that there is a problem, and that there is a need for teaching an old dog, new tricks (Harold Jarche shares his experience)
  2. Assign a person to be accountable for leading the challenge (e.g., in form of chief mediation or collaboration officer or similar), and commit; i.e., fund the position
  3. Work with training organizations such as Mediate BC to train management and staff, to advance their individual and group capacities for: effective negotiation, mediation, dealing with difficult conversations…   (Disclosure: I contract with Mediate BC.  I only use them as an example as they are local, to me. There are many other competent training resources out there)

The culture of mediation is a culture of collaboration

The culture of mediation is also a culture of collaboration.  It’s about making connections, balancing interests, relationships and sustainability.  Do you need another reason?



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