Fact Sheet #11a) Interest-Based Systems

Level 2

Outcome: Alignment of Policies and Processes

Outcome: Additional options/mechanisms for managing human rights issues are explored and tested.

Indicator 11a): Options providing for the prevention, management and resolution of human rights issues are designed/introduced.

Possible Measures and Data Sources:

  • Proposal to develop interest-based dispute resolution system.
  • Pilot of early resolution process (e.g. ICMS, ADR).
  • Record of interest-based options in an informal conflict management system.
  • Record of discussions of discrimination prevention.

Indicator Description

The words “interest-based system” describe a method of cooperative problem solving based on the work of Roger Fisher, William Ury, and others. In cooperative problem solving, people work side by side to resolve their conflicts. Rather than negotiating from opposing positions, problems are identified in terms of interests rather than positions or rights, and solutions are sought for in a collaborative manner rather than using an adversarial approach such as litigation.

A key concept in collaborative problem solving is working with interests. An interest is the underlying need or concern that a person is attempting to have satisfied. It is the concern that is motivating someone to seek a solution. A word that describes one possible solution to fulfill that need or concern is a position. When parties move beyond the position to meet the needs and concerns, they create an opportunity to explore a variety of options that may not have been previously examined. By expanding the alternatives in this way, it is far more likely to be able to move beyond agreements that are marginally sufficient, to agreements that maximize solutions, meet more of everyone’s needs and are win-win rather than win-lose. This process has the potential to create greater substantive, procedural, and psychological satisfaction[1].

Interest based systems have been developed by organizations to offer a collaborative problem-solving approach in order to prevent, manage and resolve conflict internally or with external stakeholders.  These systems generally offer a variety of structured options that provide for an interest based analysis rather than a decision from athird party, and include such techniques as negotiation, mediation, facilitation, and conciliation, among others. There are a certain number of assumptions that underlie interest-based systems:

“In interest-based, mutual gain, collaborative, or win/win negotiations, the qualities each side really cares about are not lost in the quantities each side is fighting to achieve. Instead of viewing financial success as a limited quantity to be divided in a win/lose fashion, it becomes an unlimited quality to be shared based on consensus and win/win goals.

The unstated assumption of interest-based processes such as mediation, collaborative negotiation, and teamwork is that sharing power and rights automatically increases participation, responsibility, competency, partnership, motivation, and effectiveness. The true goal of mediation, though often unstated, is to achieve these outcomes on an individual-by-individual, conflict-by-conflict basis[2].”

The Canadian federal government has embraced collaborative problem-solving processes by making it mandatory for all departments and agencies to have in place an Informal Conflict Management System (ICMS)[3]. An ICMS incorporates many of the features that characterize interest-based systems, such as allowing employees to move from formal processes (grievances) to informal recourse options. Other characteristics of an ICMS include: corporate commitment, structures that support implementation and institutionalization, internal capacity building, and daily practices that encourage a front-end approach to conflict management[4]. The intention is to have departments move towards prevention and better management of conflict by appointing an ICMS officer who will report right to the top[5].

Suggested Approach

  • As described above, interest-based problem solving emphasizes understanding each other’s values, rather than focusing on the positions or solutions. It means putting an emphasis on interests, rather than on rights or power-based solutions, arranging these from low to high cost, and providing the motivation, skills, and resources to make them work.
  • The difference between interests and positions is crucial to the creation of workable agreements. Why an issue is important allows others to contribute to the development of a solution. When all parties value and respect the interests, there is a greater chance that a variety of solutions will be developed. The concept of interests helps identify what part of the solution is important to each party.

A dispute resolution procedure may include[6]:

Other possible elements could be [7]:

- Appropriate negotiation

- Predictors of conflict

- Ombudsperson

- Preventative measures

- Organizational referral

- Safety nets

- Assistance points

- Outlets for expressing differences

- Process Facilitator

- Procedures for resolution

- Customized Options

- Methods for making them useful

- Mixed Panels of Stakeholders

- Mediation

- Neutral Evaluation

- Arbitration

When designing conflict resolution systems for large organizations, the processes most successful in bringing disputes to resolution include[8]:

- Informal problem solving

- Peer coaching and advocacy

- Peer mediation and coaching

- Peer review board

- Organizational learning

- Coordination and training

- Professional mediation and arbitration

The idea is to move the parties who are in conflict toward interest-based systems, such as mediation, for resolution. One of the advantages is that this will allow for win/win outcomes and encourage consultation before, facilitation during and feedback after every conflict. In most organizations, this means[9]:

-Initiating a “conflict audit” to assess the chronic sources of conflict in the organization.

-Identifying from the organization’s culture the metaphors for conflict and informal mechanisms already in place for resolving it.

-Analyzing the systemic causes of conflict and their connections to organizational structure, decision-making, communication, vision, culture, organizational design, values, morale, and staffing.

-Expanding internally the number and type of resolution options.

-Continuously improving the quality of the system.

-Shifting the paradigmatic thinking patterns that block use of these new procedures.

 
When using an interest-based system in your conflict resolution process, here is an example of steps that can be followed[10]:

- Pre-problem solving

- Criteria Development

- Problem definition

- Generating Alternatives

- Products of the Process

- Decision Making

- Analysis

- Follow-up

In conclusion, when interests are used as a basis for problem solving, there can be a compromise reached that takes into account every interest. This enables two or more parties to search for common solutions while maintaining their own values and interests. This process secures long-term satisfaction, workable agreements, and improved results.

Promising Practices

  • Integrate conflict resolution skills modeled on interest-based systems into your managers’ job competencies and offer training to senior leadership as needed.
  • Share information on interest-based systems on your organization’s intranet system and make it part of your organizational learning culture.
  • Organize speaking events within your organization for professional mediators and arbitrators who incorporate interest-based principles in their work.
  • Ensure that interest-based principles are adopted by your resolution services division as part of its alternative dispute resolution process.
  • Create a peer-based system, such as peer coaching, peer mediation, and a peer review board that will allow participants to apply interest-based principles to cases.
  • Establish procedural agreements (ground rules) when using interest-based systems.

Useful links and tools

Canadian Human Rights Commission

Employment Equity Act

Canadian Human Rights Act

Interest-based problem solving process and techniques - WREP 134. Partnerships in Education and Research. Web, Gray, Kelsey

Getting to know Informal Conflict Management Systems Better - Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat

7 Elements of Principled Negotiation - Carla Qualtrough

Are your organization’s conflict management practices an Integrated Conflict Management System? Mediate.com, Lynch, Jennifer 2003

Does your organization need a system? Mediate.com, Lynch, Jennifer

First Component of an Integrated Conflict Management System: Dispute Resolution Models - Mediate.com, Lynch, Jennifer, 2003

Innovations in Integrated Conflict Management System: Dispute Resolution Models - Mediate.com, Lynch, Jennifer, 2004

New Conflict Management Systems Section - Mediate.com, Lynch, Jennifer

References

Cloke, Kenneth, and Joan Goldsmith. “Conflict Resolution That Reaps Great Rewards.” Journal for Quality & Participation 23, no. 3: 27. 2000. Business Source Premier, EBSCOhost. Web

Cloke, Kenneth. “Mediating Dangerously: The Frontiers of Conflict Resolution.” San Francisco: San Francisco Jossey Bass, 2001. Net Library. Web

Kandola, Pearn. “Managing Diversity.” Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, 2006. Print.

Keating, Colma. “Facilitation toolkit: A practical guide for working more effectively with people and groups.” Department of Environmental Protection, 2003. Print.

Mason-Draffen, Carrie. “151 quick ideas to deal with difficult people.” Career Press, 2007. Print.

National Food Service Management Institute and the Steritech Group Inc. “Dealing with Difficult People and Situations.” University of Mississippi, 2001. Print.

Whitear, Greg, and Geoff Ribbens. “Handling Difficult People and Difficult Situations.” Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development, 2007. Print.

[1] Gray, Kelsey. “Interest-based problem solving process and techniques.” WREP 134. Partnerships in Education and Research. Web.

[2] Cloke, Kenneth. “Mediating Dangerously: The Frontiers of Conflict Resolution”, San Francisco: San Francisco Jossey Bass, 2001. Net Library. Web.

[3] “Getting to know Informal Conflict Management Systems Better.” Treasury Board of Canada Secretariat. n.d. Web

[4] Lynch, Jennifer. “Are your organization’s conflict management practices an Integrated Conflict Management System?” mediate.com. 2003. Web.

[5] Lynch, Jennifer. “Innovations in Integrated Conflict Management System: Dispute Resolution Models.” mediate.com. 2004. Web.

[6] Lynch, Jennifer. “First Component of an Integrated Conflict Management System: Dispute Resolution Models.” mediate.com. 2003. Web.

[7] Cloke, Kenneth, and Joan Goldsmith. “Conflict Resolution That Reaps Great Rewards.” Journal for Quality & Participation 23, no. 3: 27. 2000. Business Source Premier, EBSCOhost.

[8] Id.

[9] Id.

[10] Gray, Kelsey. “Interest-based problem solving process and techniques.” WREP 134. Partnerships in Education and Research. Web.

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