Panel 1: Dealing with the Inevitable: DSD in the Institutional Context

Panel 1- Realplayer Video

March 7, 2008
3:45 P.M. – 5:15 P.M.
A notable DSD practitioner has explained that “conflict is like water: we cannot live with too much or too little of it.” Conflict is an inevitable part of everyday life. We encounter it in our classrooms and workplaces. Various solutions have been offered, but as these institutions become ever larger and more complex, how can we best manage our conflicts to reap benefits and minimize costs?


  • Photo of Panel 1
  • audience

    1. Michael Moffitt

      March 7, 2008 @ 3:59 pm


      Jan –

      I wonder if you could share with us an example (hypothetical or real) of a set of circumstances in which you would NOT agree to come in to work with an organization to do DSD work.


    2. Bob Bordone

      March 7, 2008 @ 4:04 pm


      I wonder how a possible design consultant would approach a project that was court-ordered differently from one that arises organically from within the leadership? It seems like there are advantages and disadvantages to each from a consultant’s point of view. Might be worth thinking about what these are.

    3. Michael Moffitt

      March 7, 2008 @ 4:21 pm


      Mary & Lisa –

      To what extent do you share Howard Gadlin’s fears about ICMS and DSD being used as instruments of conflict dampening or silencing? To what extent might systems be substitutes for other mechanisms for shaping organizational change (like collective bargaining, external regulation, etc.)?


    4. G.J. Ligelis Jr.

      March 7, 2008 @ 4:26 pm


      With respect to Mary’s third assessment tool of producing change, I am curious about the relationship between an organization’s preventative, culture-shifting initiatives and the procedures or systems that are designed to handle conflicts when they arise. Clearly an effective dispute resolution system can have a positive effect going forward by changing the range of possible outcomes of a conflict situation. I wonder if there is a way to coordinate this beneficial effect with an organizations’ other educational efforts to improve the overall level of change over time.

    5. Bob Bordone

      March 7, 2008 @ 4:34 pm


      Even if there were standards of conduct for dispute systems designers, how would it prevent “us” (experts in DSD) from doing it (bring our expertise) to them (our clients)? I wonder if Cathy can clarify a bit more what she means by this. I think there is something important here but worry that a standards of conduct might not quite answer the question between autonomy of the client and bringing in our expertise.

    6. Bob Bordone

      March 7, 2008 @ 4:36 pm


      GJ’s question is an interesting one: how does the nature of the system drive the range of outcomes and shape the kinds of conflicts that come up, fundamentally shifting the nature of the organization over time? And if systems do change the range of outcomes and therefore the kinds of conflicts, is there a change of culture that occurs over time in all events?

    7. Claire Kim

      March 7, 2008 @ 4:46 pm


      regarding respecting culture in an organization, how should a designer approach a conflict between two groups having different cultures? And if the nature of conflict based on their different culture/ or systme, Is it possible for a desinger to create an objective model respecting both conflicting cultures?
      Which factors should be considered?

    8. Dispute Systems Design Symposium at Harvard Law School

      March 7, 2008 @ 5:13 pm


      […] an appearance in print for public consumption.In the meantime,  the symposium sponsors are hosting live blogging on the presentations, and if I am able to do so, I will post a link to those as well.  Michael […]

    9. Bob Bordone

      March 7, 2008 @ 5:17 pm


      We’re talking a bit about neutrality but I think it’s the wrong word to be using. we tend to think of ‘neutrality’ as being ‘neutral’ with respect to parties, but I think what’s more interesting is whether we ought to be neutral with respect to process choices and how design gets done. And I think the answer to that question is NO. We are not neutral with respect to design principles nor with respect to process choices. I think instead we build reputations for our “style” in the same way mediators build reps for their style and then clients will hire us depending on the “kind” of design they want.

    10. Geoff Sharp

      March 8, 2008 @ 12:36 am


      Live blogging and video from Dispute Systems Design Symposium at Harvard

      Michael Moffitt from over at ADR Prof Blog reports he is sitting in the audience of an enormous symposium being hosted by Harvard Negotiation Law Review and which is set to explore aspects of Dispute Systems Design today and tomorrow.

      The symposium is hosting live blogging on the presentations and video may become available at some stage.

      Michael will be moderating Friday’s session; DSD in Times of Crisis.

    11. Karen Solstad

      March 9, 2008 @ 11:58 am


      With regard to Michael’s comment about fear that a DS might be used as an insrument of conflict dampening or silencing, or as substitutes for other mechanisms of change. I did my Master’s Thesis in Conflict Resolution looking at how the union grievance process at a major airline did indeed marginalize, silence and transform disputes so that they were “manageable” by both union and management (I was a shop steward in the union for many years.) Union members are told by both the union and mgmt that the grievance process- “The Sanctioned Dispute System”- is their vehicle for justice. The grievance process also leaves out many classes of disputes.
      I believe that DSDs are needed to dovetail with Grievance Processes. The issue of silencing or marginalizing is huge in any system. Who designs the system may determine whose interests are being served. Which raises Power and Ethics.

      Great conference! thanks.

    12. David Moss

      March 16, 2008 @ 10:33 am


      The discussion of addressing resistance to change within an institution is very interesting. It is apparent that often the person who invites you in is not the only decision maker. Even when they are the party in power it is often preferable to initiate change through consensus and bridge building instead of force-feeding from the top-down.

      I have always found it to be most effective to tell parties that I am there as a means of obtaining their feedback. In other words, I am there to give them a chance to have their voice heard and for them to take an active role in and ownership of the change process. With this approach, many people feel some ownership even when only small pieces of their recommendations ultimately are included in the final proposal.

      Personally, I would use discussing a party’s BATNA as a means of encouraging their participation in the discussion only as a last resort. Every time I think about that discussion it sounds to me like an ultimatum, and potentially could make an already wary individual even more defensive.

      In response to Bob’s comment on court-ordered change versus internally-driven change…In a project I am currently working on, the client initially instituted change in response to a related court order. In response to that related order structural, policy, process, and system changes occurred, but cultural change has been slow. In other words, while the process for dispute resolution has improved it has led to a significant reduction in the cultural cause of disputes. This may be because you do not necessarily have the support of many key internal parties. On the other hand, where change in sought without external motivation, I believe it is often because key internal decision makers want that change to occur. Thus, a challenge for a court-ordered change agent may be to develop a strategy for not just dispute systems design, but cultural change, that will garner the support of key internal personnel.

    13. David Moss

      March 16, 2008 @ 11:11 am


      It is interesting that after my first note, the discussion proceeded to discuss whether or not the goal of a system’s design should be to change a culture. The comment that “if the system wants to change it will” ignores that there may be competing interests within a larger culture.

      At an airline for example, labor may have one set of interests while management has another. Where those interests are competing disputes are inevitable. It sounds that Ms. Constantino believe that the goal of a systems designer should only be to help develop a process to resolve those disputes, without addressing the underlying causes of the dispute. This is highlighted by the comment that the “culture is a constraint” that systems designers must work around.

      While I agree that it can be problematic for a systems designer to attempt to change a client’s culture, I also believe that systems designers should attempt to design systems that prevent and reduce conflicts, rather than simply addressing them once they arise. This may be a tremendous challenge, and my opinion is skewed by my view of a systems designer an adviser, but it is a challenge I believe systems designers are equipped to address. We are trained to understand conflict and its root causes; who better to address those root causes?

      An aside: back to the question of court mandated versus internally desired change…it is probably much more difficult for an outsider to drive cultural change where the client is being “forced” to take action, rather than taking it voluntarily. If senior leadership viewed the conflicts as a significant problem they probably would have sought an adviser and change agent before a court mandate was handed out.

    14. David Moss

      March 16, 2008 @ 11:30 am


      I wish there would have been more discussion of trying to design systems within a culture where people tend to resolve disputes “on their own.” Mary briefly commented on this before the open Q&A session, but this seems to be a major challenge; particularly, when a client or potential client has no formal (or formally used) system in place.

      Maybe this all ties into the question of cultural change, and raises another reason why systems designers may want to address cultural change.

    15. Law Bites » Videos of Dispute Systems Design at Harvard

      April 21, 2008 @ 2:06 am


      […] to the theory and promise of dispute systems design by Professor Robert Bordone>Panel 1: Dealing with the Inevitable: DSD in the Institutional Context >Panel 2: Dispute System Design on a Global Scale>Panel 3: DSD in Times of Crisis>Panel 4: […]

    Log in