OO’s First Month: Updates, Recap & Trends

It’s just been 30 quick days that Organizational Ombudsman has been on the Web.  Given the support and “reciprocity” of readers, mostly from the ombuds community, I’d like to point out some discoveries, future trends and changes to better access the OO blog.

OO traffic and views are linked to 3 main “trackbacks” prior to adding FeedBurner syndication services.  These sites are listed in the Blogroll:

  • Tom K at Ombuds Blog
  • Diane L at Mediation Channel & World Directory ADR
  • Google Search Engine & Google Blog Search

I’ve been asked to provide more subscription options and the Standard RSS Feed Icon for most of the over 200 news readers on the web is available.  You can also go to the Blogroll and select OO FeedBurner Syndication and choose a specific news reader service there.  You can also subscribe, as of yesterday, by FeedBurner e-mail subscription, just click on the link in the top of the right sidebar.

The petition to President Obama is still circulating and can be found in the OO Blogroll, please “digitally sign” and e-mail out for more support.

My web support tools tell me one of the most popular searches on the web regarding key words “Organizational Ombudsman” has been the phrase, “How to become an organizational ombudsman”.  This phrase tells “us” in the profession that the downturn in the economy is driving people to seek other expansions, extensions or alternatives to their current profession or career.  I would say this is very true of the legal profession at this moment.  Indeed, my OO services are an extension of my corporate, business and organizational practice where I often negotiated and mediated “issues” inside running projects to get them completed.  This key word search phrase also says that existing business and corporate functions are seeking ombudsman solutions.  My prediction is that America and the World is “fed up” with unethical practices and wants ethical, honest and trusted relationships and “we” can help provide this.  After conversation this week with one “associate”, the problem for all of us remains the huge “gap” between desire for wanting ethical practice and actually taking action.  One example is executives that need to acknowledge the need and move from “denial and dysfunction” towards healing their organizations.  Within the last year there are “indicators” that employees in large companies are experiencing “morale issues” over the economy, their jobs and management practices.  “Resistance” to such change slows efforts and it takes persistence unless some chaotic event triggers immediate change.  Add to this, my recent experience, is that as I’ve talked with potential clients and educated them to what ombudsmen do; I later return for follow through and discover their web site content has changed to include language about how they are now ‘ethical practitioners’ and assist their stakeholders themselves with conflicts and disputes.  There was a day I’d be “upset” about this, but if it helps to provide awareness and they move towards actually improving ethics with the resources “we” have for them… then this is good.  They will discover though that you can’t be part of the conflict, be one of the ‘sides’, and mediate your own conflicts ethically.

I can’t post my full analysis of the profession and future trends here, but the opportunities are in the most “conflicted” areas of government (classical ombudsman) and business for organizational ombudsmen including but not limited to: corporate governance, corporate sustainability, corporate social responsibility, EH&S, whistleblower functions, ethical leadership training, executive ethics coaching, HR conflict management and what I call “ombudsmanship roles”.  I also detect, have no evidence yet, that “community ombudsman” models could be an early “emerging market” for ombuds services working from an “outside and penetrating in” model.  This means scenarios like contracting with individuals, groups, non-profits, public community organizations and then taking the “issue” to local government or agencies for mediation.  Why?  Bureaucracies are “embedded” with conflicted “interests” and processes and are typically very slow to evolve.  By example, homeowners who are still working, but upside down in their mortgages could engage a community ombudsman to collaborate and lead towards a solution to preserving the banks interest and the owners assets.  If you have the “courage” to get in and “surface issues” there is plenty of work in our field.  Other trends may be religious or non-secular assistance for negotiation, issue, problems, complaints, mediation and ombudsmanship roles where “groups” suffer the impact of government “short falls” in the future.  As economic contraction persists over the coming years, social models tell us communities and groups “organize” to restructure, become functioning and strengthen their local economy.  For my own self, linking back into my own 22 year career, discussions are about “ombudsmanship principles” as part of a “role” in a project with a client.  They are saying they like the “ethical quality” and want it back and want me to “preempt” problems that cost them money, time and other resources from the past.  This is a form of “risk mitigation”.  It’s also a new “social network” strategy called “leading from the middle”, which is where “we” are positioned in our profession.

Other emerging trends will come from the best ombudsman infrastructure there is, the university system in America.  Why?  Many business models are “technology transfer” models from seed programs in universities and they naturally spread out into the community.  The US is the largest “educator” and can “leverage” internal ombuds office or program “know how” into the private sector by starting a practice, groups join in a practice or take “dual hat” roles in organizations needing ombudsman ‘ethical’ approaches as a now recognized “harmonizing” business function.  Again, Laura Lonsdale with Tyco International is the best example of the potential of corporate ombudsman success.

Another major trend is to provide a “network” of ombuds professionals.  I’ve added 5 “associates” in a loose “alliance”  since the start of the year.  This capability is linked to another trend and that is WEB 2.0 technical skills in working collaboratively over the Internet.  This technical function also enables “auditing” of ombudsman performance and “ethics quality”.  Everyone should also move to be able to reach rural America on the web and bring teams together for cases.  My OO practice standards and promotions state that I am required to have at least one other ombudsman review the case with me.  The classical ombuds model for states has 3 member teams with a mandatory legal counsel on the team.  What about yours?

Finally, the association and term “conflict resolution” is getting the most web search engine recognition outside of ombudsman terminology as the public perception is that ombudsmen are not universal, but proprietary functions associated only with universities and government mostly.  This was also confirmed by an associate this last week.  Conflict resolution and ADR seemingly go hand in hand where arbitration by the legal profession is the method for solving issues when public perception is considered.  One of the goals of this blog is to “differentiate” and possibly change that perception. The third most key word searched phrase is “financial ombudsman”, which has been the topic of my most recent posts and is driven by current B2C issues that consumers read, watch and listen to in the media… so there is a shift happening now.

Again, thanks to all for your support and assistance my first 30 days.  I hope the insight provided here makes a difference for all of us in 2009.  Please add your comments regarding this post and your analysis of trends.

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