The New Ombudsman: An “Open Letter” To Our Profession

Last Saturday morning I woke up from a pleasant sleep and began to remember an unusual dream.  I’m adrift in the middle of the ocean, looking around as I effortlessly tread water and look around the horizon for land.  I don’t see any, but the sharks near me get closer and closer, though I’m not afraid in the dream, in real life Jaws pretty much did it for me along with the fact at age 7 I witnessed a shark attack on a little girl at a beach in California.  Anyway, back to the dream.  So, I notice I feel confident and am not afraid of the sharks and a huge gray battleship comes cruising by and all of a sudden I’m on the stern of a Destroyer looking aft and a “battle group” of war ships is chasing my ship now.  The COMM signals “battle stations” and I purposefully began to move and take my station.  It’s here the dream ends and at the time it was very confusing and out of context from my normal peaceful life.  Ever so subtly this would signal change and make sense.

It’s not lost to me that I’m “open and vocal” as an independent consulting organizational ombudsman in his first year of formal practice.  I have nothing to hide about this, but I also know from decades of experience in business, it isn’t long until you attract others to you who do not see things the way you do and feel that you are rocking the boat and creating problems.  I would in fact say that the problems are already there, have been there and the time is here to wake up and make changes.  This is what the “new ombudsman” is about.

So, I wake up Monday morning and proceed to begin my day and open an email titled “abc INQUIRY” all in capitals with a straightforward message from a board member of the organization.  He asks me to call his office at a specific time and date to discuss an issue that’s best dealt with over the phone.  Keep in mind I embrace this organization and a handful of its members have been mentors for me, but my direct experience is less than satisfactory.  To make this long story short, I’d placed my call, left a message and last Tuesday got the courteous call back.  In my mind I “forgot” the battleship dream and began to talk with them as if it were a social visit and I was wrong.  It seems this individual was “elected” by the BoD of the organization to approach me about misuse of their copyrighted material.  I listened to the case and the less than black and white verbal description of what prompted the BoD to take a focus with me on such an issue and when all was said and done I “capitulated” and said I’d remove the copyrighted content from my web site.  No, I’m not willing to “argue” the copyright fair use laws with them, which in my defense here was within my rights as I didn’t “hide” the author of the material, but rather used it in full display.  A violation would be if I had used the material and “extracted” it from their material and “made it my own” and this was not the case.

My battleship is going to maneuver now, not for a broadside, but simply to watch and see what will happen next, but in addition to all my “blog material” here on this site that advocates innovation and change and new methods, I’m going to now make some “direct” observations.

First, the world is in the biggest chaos of change ever seen in a long time.  Our profession is OBLIGATED to move and change and get into serving people, organizations and communities rather than keeping to themselves in their historical and bureaucratic ways.  In business strategy you are a “silo” unable to effect any impact or difference for your members let alone the broader external communities that you are in position and chartered to serve.  Yes, there are economic and legal constraints, but you accepted them early on and made the ABA your “master” even over the distributed network of offices and members you serve.  There are plenty of ways to be proactive and empower and enable people into the profession if you would but open your doors and at least look like you are interested in supporting “ombudsmanship” in the broader scheme of life.  My personal experience with your organization is mixed.  Again, I can’t tell you the respect and admiration I have for several members who in their work reach “outside” the bounds of the organization and inspire and educate and promote the organizational ombudsman profession.  If you don’t know who they are, call me, I’ll be glad to differentiate them from the rest.  The rest are the ones who “keep the gate closed” and communicate with extreme dysfunctional and patronizing fashions only to waste time and energy and worse, convey a false sense of interest in anyone from “the outside” participating with them regardless of their published “guidelines” which convey a false openness.  The project that was at one point in time earlier this year on the table with them resulted in a complete “out of context failure of collaboration”.  My proposed contributions were within context to open and published “discussion” materials on their web site.  Me, being the experienced consultant I am, had a solution and was offering it free including a simulated model and the replies with “nays” attached were so out of context and the excuses so absurd I just couldn’t believe it.  There are other issues I’ve read about and observed, but I can only speak for myself here and will now stop… but you all need to wake up to your service and obligations rather than “nit pick” my copyright violations of your material and accept the legal “fair use” practices.

In reply to some of the other questions and discussion, no, I’m not interested in getting certified by any organization that has essentially “resolved” to accept the “resolutions” of the legal profession where consumers are trying to find alternatives.  In the end, every professional organization in the ADR field is the same and aligned with the legal profession, consumers want more choice.  Create your own standards and get “unconflicted” so as to differentiate “true” ADR mediation from what is now ingrained in consumers as legal mediation.  Help to define it and differentiate in the face of “opposing” views of competing organizations that took the terminology and “skewed” it to their strategic advantage in dominating all other related professional organizations and individual independent practitioners.  No, I’m not interest in your training programs, I’ve been “trained” multiple times and ways and am “experienced” beyond any benefit.  My confidence and “know how” comes from years of “travails” in very tough situations with 10s of millions of dollars and families livelihoods sometimes at stake.  At this moment, you’ve not endeared yourselves to me and while I was waiting and watching with many others like myself, boomers looking for a new career option asking me how to get started, we are all currently considering entering into this profession… I won’t be aligning with you, but still do hold to the admirable standards and ethics you advocate for “our” profession.

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