In previous articles I have provided an introduction to the Integrated Conflict Management System and have described its two components:
ICMS Component 1: A new or updated dispute resolution model that provides multiple access points, options and safeguards to ensure that disputes are resolved effectively and sustainable solutions achieved, and
ICMS Component 2: Organizational elements of skills, structure and support that foster and sustain an environment where people will feel comfortable raising any issue or concern, knowing that their concern will be respectfully heard and responsibly dealt with; namely, a ï¿½culture of conflict competenceï¿½ 
This past year has seen two major developments in the field of ICMS :
1. In Canada, the Public Service Modernization Act has been passed. Developed over two years, the Act presages a new way of doing business within the federal government, and promises to be the keystone to initiatives to foster and sustain a new culture of cooperative problem solving between management and labour.
Amongst many innovative approaches, perhaps the most significant is found in s. 207, which requires the most senior public servants in each core department or agency to establish an ï¿½informal conflict management systemï¿½ (ICMS), to be developed in consultation with employee representatives (Table 1). The basis of the ï¿½informalï¿½ conflict management system is the introduction of updated dispute resolution frameworks- Component 1 of the Integrated Conflict Management System. A recent directive clarifies that the intention is also to have departments move towards prevention and better management of conflict by appointing an ICMS ï¿½officerï¿½ responsible for the ICMS and reporting right to the top (not through levels of e.g. human resources or the legal department).
The Act goes even further to require every department and agency to establish a consultation committee consisting of representatives of the deputy head and the bargaining agents for the purpose of exchanging information and obtaining views and advice on issues relating to the workplace that affect those employees, and to ï¿½co-developï¿½ workplace improvements. (Table 1).
|Table 1 |
2. A second exciting development is the launch in the United States of an integrated conflict management system within the Department of Homeland Securityï¿½s Transportation Security Administration (TSA). Created as a result of the tragic events of Sept 11, 2001, the TSA employs over 50,000 airport screeners at over 400 airports.
TSAï¿½s ICMS moves well beyond what we traditionally think of as ï¿½conflict managementï¿½ to embrace how decisions are made and communicated, and how people treat each other on a daily basis.
The ICMS is the key initiative in the ï¿½Model Workplace Programï¿½. In developing an implementing an ICMS, TSA is providing its employees with a common language and a commitment to cooperative problem solving so that everyone asks, listens and explores options. The ICMS supports better informed and more strategic decision making by focusing on how decisions are made and communicated and on asking two key questions: who will be affected by this action and what are their interests. This very comprehensive program is building skills for all employees, structures (ï¿½the places and ways to raise issues and concernsï¿½) and support (leadership, coordination and evaluation).
Practical first steps – the ï¿½ICMS Readiness Assessmentï¿½ To prepare for the implementation of an ICMS, a readiness assessment is a logical first step. While this can take many forms, some government departments have conducted an ï¿½appreciative inquiryï¿½ coupled with a ï¿½gap analysisï¿½.
The appreciative inquiry will provide information into current dispute resolution and conflict management practices that are going well, and which can form the basis for any additions or improvements. It will identify champions from all categories of leadership: management, labour, and informal leadership amongst employee ranks.
The gap analysis can be conducted by comparing current practices against best practices. First, the current dispute resolution model is ï¿½mappedï¿½, using Mapping Symbols . This permits easy visual comparison against other best practice models. Next, the organization compares its practices against the Conflict Management Spectrum (Table 2).
The process by which this review is conducted is extremely important. Usually led by an experienced external consultant, it should ï¿½model the modelï¿½, engaging management, employees and their representatives collaboratively in the design. This process signals commitment to the use of more collaborative interest-based conflict management and is institutionalized by PSMA s.10 as ï¿½co-developmentï¿½ (Table 1).
One model used in 2002 by Public Works and Government Services Canada and in 2003 by TSA for the development of an ICMS for its 55,000 newly hired airport screeners, provides for an initial ï¿½learning eventï¿½ where a design team is trained, followed by an ï¿½alignment workshopï¿½ where the team identifies current intradepartmental initiatives, linkages with mission and values, internal best practices, and matches them against external best practices, sifting to determine which might be successfully introduced. This is followed by a ï¿½design workshopï¿½ where the updated dispute resolution model and organizational elements are customized for the particular organization, and an implementation plan is begun.
1 The term ï¿½conflict competencyï¿½ was first used in the Canadian context by Lynch, Jennifer. Listening and Learning: an Analysis of Conflict Management Practices within Correctional Service Canada, Ottawa: Correctional Service Canada, 1998. p55, to suggest a core competency for performance measurement. This was subsequently adopted by the Canada Customs and Revenue Agency and is being considered by other Canadian federal departments and agencies. It builds on Rob Robinsonï¿½s essay, ï¿½The conflict competent organizationï¿½, in Negotiation as a social process, edited by R.M. Kramer and D.M. Messick. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage.
2 The portions of this newsletter related to the Public Service Modernization Act are excerpted or adapted from the authorï¿½s article, ï¿½The Federal Public Service Modernization Act ï¿½ State of the Art Innovations in Conflict Management in Canadian Government Executive, Navatar Press, February, 2004, pp 27-30
3 The Lynch Mapping Symbolsï¿½ were first used by Revenue Canada in planning its new recourse system and have been used subsequently to assist many organizations in assessing and refining their conflict management systems. They consist of four symbols- a green circle denoting interest based processes; and red square, triangle and rectangle denoting decisions made by management, tribunals, and union/management respectively.
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