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Conflict Avoidance and Resolution

Resolex was initially founded on the belief that the huge sums of money wasted in resolving the legal disputes arising from project failure could be avoided. In the 16 years since we started, we have assembled a range of processes for helping teams manage conflict to minimise the damage to the project.

We should emphasise that having conflicting views within a team is not in itself a bad thing. Indeed, a diversity of opinion has been found to be important in building the creative tension that stimulates innovative thinking. Conflicting opinions cease to have a positive influence on the project when there is no recognised mechanism for reconciling polarised views, or when the conflict become personal.

Conflict can arise suddenly as a consequence of some form of crisis. Alternatively, it starts with a small series of implied promises being broken, creating an underlying sense of mistrust between the parties. Interpersonal disagreement is often initially discrete, and only surfaces as open hostility in the later stages of the conflict cycle. Conflict avoidance is therefore about creating an environment where a difference of opinion is to be encouraged, and steps are put in place at the start of the project to encourage dialogue and early acknowledgement of difficult issues that may arise between members of the project team.

Stages of conflict management

Managing conflict requires different interventions depending upon the level of tension between the parties.

1. Relationship Management

We help teams develop the process and protocols that enable them to anticipate conflicting situations and agree between themselves the steps necessary to maintain open dialogue.

2. Resolution of Internal Issues

Many issues can be resolved by the team themselves, without the need for external intervention. We can equip the team with a range of tools and techniques for managing a conflict at an informal level based around a process separating emotion from fact.

3. Dispute Resolution

There are times when an issue cannot be resolved quickly, and yet the team needs to continue to function effectively. Rather than default into the legal process, we can provide parties with a range of potential options to suit the particular circumstances. We believe the most important element in our conflict management approach is who own the process and the outcome.

We work with the principals involved to help them achieve the most commercially beneficial outcome for all. To achieve this, the approach will;

A. be bespoke to the situation
B. be owned by the parties
C. outcomes will address the needs of those involved (not necessarily their legal rights)

The following are typical dispute resolution approaches taken depending on the situation:

Facilitated negotiation

We can appoint experienced mediators who will help the parties facilitate in a relatively informal setting to overcome differences.

Mediation

We can facilitate bi-party or multi-party mediations. We have model mediation rules and agreements along with a panel of highly experienced mediators.

Early Neutral Evaluation

Often used in conjunction with other processes, Early Neutral Evaluation (ENE) gives parties the chance to test their legal positions with an experienced arbitrator or former judge to receive a completely unbinding view of their positions.

Combined approach

Many disputes are multi-dimensional and different approaches can prove successful on different elements of the dispute. It is possible to separate out elements of a dispute to help find a settlement. For example if a dispute has a technical element, contractual element and resulting commercial impact it would be possible to get an independent expert to give non-binding determination on the technical elements, use early neutral evaluation to give non-binding determination on the legal positions and then take that knowledge into a mediation to negotiate a commercial solution.

The key to conflict avoidance is to act early, rather than hope that an issue will resolve itself. The more entrenched the parties become, the more work is required to find resolution. You should never give up hope, however difficult the position. In our experience, most people have an underlying desire to find a solution to any disagreement which is hindering their progress. The objective is to give them a pathway to an outcome that allows then to feel they have made choices that are fair and reasonable.

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