What is Dispute System Design?

How to resolve organizational conflicts with an effective dispute system design

By on / Dispute Resolution

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Dispute System Design (DSD) is the process of identifying, designing, employing, and evaluating an effective means of resolving conflicts within an organization. In order to be effective, dispute systems must be thoroughly thought out and carefully constructed.

In their article in the March 2005 Negotiation newsletter, “Early Intervention: How to Minimize the Cost of Conflict,” Frank Sander and Robert Bordone lay out the four steps to creating a successful dispute system design in your organization.


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First, you must diagnose your company’s dispute symptoms by examining several key factors such as the types of disputes, who is involved, how disputes are currently handled, and the role power plays in the resolution of current conflicts.

Next, you must apply the principles of DSD with the primary goal of minimizing cost and emphasizing less invasive approaches before you explore other methods. Your new procedures should be built upon a process that emphasizes concern for shared interests. Successful dispute systems address the incentives, motivations, talents, and assets of those who will use it.

Third, you will implement your new dispute system, a negotiation in and of itself. Initially you must ensure that relevant stakeholders in your organization are on board. Inviting them to elect representatives for a design committee whose primary responsibility is to research the motivations of members of your organization and to create a system that will please everyone is an excellent way to ensure buy-in.

Finally, you need to evaluate your new dispute system design. Questions to consider in your evaluation include: Are those in conflict more satisfied with conclusion than they were in the past? Has the reappearance of disputes diminished? Are relationships better among company employees?

It is important to note that an increase in disputes after the new system has been put in place may not be a sign of failure but rather a sign that the organization is recovering as more conflicts are being addressed constructively.

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