Ombudsmanship and The Family Business

15 May 2011

In my “other practice” I just completed an 8 month-long “turnaround” of a small family owned manufacturing and distribution business.  Key to the final success was the smoothing out of a bumpy road at the beginning of the project by utilizing ombudsmanship with stakeholders by the owners. I’ve written in previous articles and defined “ombudsmanship”. Ombudsmanship is being asked for more and more in job descriptions and is similar to “sportsmanship” in that it’s a “soft skill” or quality that the individual brings with them and is aware of at all times in their functional responsibilities of their role or position.  Ombudsmanship is usually delivered “incognito” by the individual utilizing ADR style skills with individuals, teams, groups both intra or inter organization in terms of the individual and group dynamics.  In this business “case” I’ll go over some of the key methods and techniques where ombudsmanship was utilized as part of the engagement and was the “key difference” to success versus the absolute collapse and loss of a three decades old family heritage.

My role was as a business coach, consultant, ownership advisor and conflict management coach to owners. I’m also very aware, from mistakes I made in my “apprentice” years that focused only on the financial bottom line, that changing any business culture is more about conflict management than just business “metrics” and that focusing on conflict management as a priority in all “engagements” will get the metrics or results needed “indirectly”.  It’s a “given” that in any organization there is a culture with regards to the dynamics of intra and inter personal relationships that employees have based on their personality characteristics.  This is even more so for a family business operating for three decades.  So the balance to be struck is to use the inherent culture of the business and resulting conflict as the OPPORTUNITY to “shift the paradigm” towards a consistent “in the black” financial outcome while PRESERVING stakeholder relationships critical to function and revenue.

My point of contact was the oldest son with some ownership meetings with the mother and father who also worked day to day in the business.  The son had worked the business for many years and had an accounting degree, but now, parents had declared they wanted to “retire someday” and make the transition.  Unfortunately they made this declaration one full year AFTER the “economic collapse” began and the books started going “red” in gross revenue.  They tried for one year, all of 2009 to get back in the black, but couldn’t and turned to their son.  This “set the stage” for some real conflict and drama on a daily basis and is most likely the same for thousands of businesses today.  Armed with a business case history interview we began.  Some, not all, of the concise steps below:

  1. Put it on the table that there is going to be a shift in the culture of the company to “survive” and that there will be conflict in the chaos that will result in profitability IF “management” can apply new methods in functional systems CONSISTENTLY day to day.
  2. Map the organizational “dynamics” and structure for purposes of awareness in an informal internal family operating environment.  Recognizing that there are functional business structure as well as informal familial, age and gender dynamics evident where older employees and newer younger staff conflict (generations) where employees are treated as family; and where formal education is replacing informal apprentice style training and applying of skills, knowledge and wisdom.
  3. The map had intra-organizational structure of: son and both parents core administration, manufacturing and distribution department, marketing and sales with external road warriors and internal sales staff.  This map was typical in that manufacturing and sales rarely socialized or communicated “intra-department”.  Each employee was subjectively “assessed” for personality characteristics at the beginning and during ongoing changes so as to provide situational awareness and decision support regarding “status” and needed outcomes.
  4. The map had inter-organizational structure with partners, vendors, suppliers, stakeholders in the immediate community.  The “linkage” or nexus was identified again for purposes of situational awareness on identified potential conflict as changes unfolded.
  5. Provide conflict management information and coaching of the son as the new President and General Manager including keeping a journal of conflict events as they arise.
  6. Discussion of “applied” techniques and emotional support for management including identification of incremental successes, though they may appear to have a “negative” outcome.  This included KNOWING when to let events play out with employees, immediate intervention versus “sleeping on it” daily cycles and then observing over two week increments the decision results.
  7. A very favorable “ad hoc” look at results where several staff simply left the company in the exact departments and slots where the “next generation” of educated employees could fill gaps and form new “blended teams” with long established family business “members”.
  8. Key was incremental success with recognizing conflict is in the moment, to let it play out, identify employees who cannot adapt and work with them on “what they wish to do”. Identifying employees as “champions of change” and giving them influence roles. Adopt formal communication, cooperation and coordination cycles in the form of projects and monitor individuals behavior.  Getting confirmation from “parents” that the chaos has turned out well at various stages and the company is evolving while the bottom line returns to profitability again.  This provides “confidence” in the son to lead and was directly discussed and kept in focus with relation to “desire to retire someday” as a goal while demonstrating “real life” favorable bottom line outcomes.

In conclusion it’s important to note that the business related methods and solutions were not discussed here, but that the constant awareness for the potential for conflict in key functional positions would “trigger” emotional events.  We also gave owners the message to constantly motivate employees is that, “we have to do this or there won’t be a company anymore and thus a job either”.  I’m certain “variations” of this message were constantly given, including recommended “memos” with each employee signing off that they acknowledge the gravity of the situation in today’s economy.  Keeping this as the ‘prime goal’ for employees to focus on at all times, while monitoring conflict related to implementation of solutions that forever changed the organization resulted in 13 jobs saved, 2 new jobs (one in each department), 1 outsourced function, restoration of 4 figures “in the black” net profit monthly within 2 months of launch and new-found “confidence” for EVERYONE in the company as to what they achieved is a favorable end result… is it not?

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The New Ombudsperson: Per Se, Pro Se & Economic Austerity

28 November 2010

In the last quarter of the year everyone, from individuals to the largest corporations take stock of the current year, put at least some thought into tax obligations, but also budgeting is now more important than ever; and for once “holding to it” once set.  It’s the time of year where our clients often make a formal or casual call to get our take on what’s ahead and how they can continue to survive given what I am monitoring and seeing is a severe continuance of current economic conditions.  This provides both opportunity and a demand for dispute or conflict resolution services in 2011 for all ombud’s working with individuals, groups and small organizations

The trend is going to continue and has already begun exponentially escalating where complaints and grievances from lower and middle-income Americans need a voice with government and corporate entities.  The paradigm shift from expensive and damaging formal legal services to ombudsman ADR is well underway and beginning next year we will see more formal groups and structures advocate and develop access for informal mediation. We are experiencing and observing a flood of legal issues people are facing as attempts over the last two years by governments, state and federal, to provide a system to resolve economic hardship issues failed or there was never enough capacity in the system to provide equal access.

In my own recent conversations, where corporate America and government continue to demand payment and use their coffers and legal staff to force their will and redefine the law and policies “on the fly”; individuals are screaming for someone to help.   It used to be that legal aid offices would provide legal services for anyone qualifying.  Now, what we are hearing is that many legal aid offices have cut staff and some will close in 2011 forcing individuals to represent themselves.  Indeed, for a few clients I’ve found myself contacting the court on behalf of a defendant to see if there isn’t some other venue to resolve the issue.  Court staff have commented to me that they are taking more and more “legal aid” type calls where gaps in services are rapidly appearing.  The issue now though is will a court empower self-representation including providing pro bono court mediators or allow a case to be dropped if the plaintiff will agree to informal mediation.  Usually, once in “the system”, the case stays in the system.  Given economic conditions and the increased intrinsic demand for self-representation in circumstance where no assets are available (house, car, job gone) the courts seem to be quietly ignoring “non asset” related cases and keeping asset based pleas.

The result is a good level of systemic chaos and dysfunctional limbo as complaints and cases overwhelm the legal system from people with no means to pay for services.  This means individuals will either find an attorney to legally coach them through their civil case or find a system informal and external to the courts to resolve “guilty” issues.  While local government and private benefactors may have provided financial support for legal aid the clear shift must now be to shift efforts to funding and developing local networks or groups for referral by the courts where a quick and “audible review” will allow plaintiff and defendant to have an “informal hearing” as recommended.

To do this, again, it will take courage and foresight in that if you are contacted by a plaintiff or defendant you could advise them to include in the plea or answer a request for an ombudperson to handle the issue.  You would get agreement, consensus, and then contact the court thus taking proactive initiative.  I know this is not traditionally accepted, but if change is to happen and stability and economic well-being restored, we must recognize we cannot depend on government alone.  How this is to be paid for requires the same collaboration that’s taking place now for “recovery” and that would include soliciting the court for partial payment, while possibly seeking grants from foundations and other corporate institutions.  At the same time, where individuals are seeking “debt relief” concerning unsecured assets or lines of credit, this should not be open season for “junk debt collections” and only “real assets” where loss of a business or family are in jeopardy and are a priority.  For “collections” cases Pro Se coaching is the most effective and efficient method as individuals need and seek “relief” to start their lives over.

And finally, IF you are a corporate, legal or university institution and currently not at “capacity” per the charter of your organization, why not consider expanding your scope and doing community outreach, be of service to others “outside” the organization and at least take some temporary initiative during these austere times.  Coach, mentor, consult, advise, call it what you will… it’s needed more than ever and provides a great “social responsibility” opportunity to at least help individuals represent themselves or sponsor a move to resolve their issue informally though your entity may even be party to the complaint.  Change is here… it has to happen…


The New Ombudsperson: Career Choice And The MBTI Instrument

28 October 2010

I have the distinct pleasure this year, several times, to talk to many individuals contemplating becoming an Ombudsperson.  Some were offered a volunteer position of some sort in elder care, others recognize they have played a similar role consistently in their previous or current job; and still others are simply curious.  To help evaluate this personal decision you may want to consider taking the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator or MBTI to determine if your innate personality characteristics are suited to the profession.  This is but one step to help come to a decision; and could assist with guidance towards any type of career consideration.

I bring this into the equation because in my “other practice” in 2009 I had bid a project and then was asked to take the MBTI online and submit the results for purposes of “team makeup” they said, which I did.  I’d also taken this, as many of you also probably have, as an undergrad in college where requirements to be a “lab rat” to graduate were also required.  What I noticed is that in the approximate 30 year time span from my original MBTI and the 2009 “test”, I’d kept consistent with my “assigned category” from then to now, which can be good or bad depending on how one wants to look at it.

Below are some raw links to further investigate for yourself and even take the “exam”.  It can also be administered in person professionally, please Google for yourself to explore dozens of resources online:

https://www.mbticomplete.com/contents/learnmore.aspx

http://www.myersbriggs.org/my-mbti-personality-type/take-the-mbti-instrument/

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myers-Briggs_Type_Indicator

To spike your interest even further here is a table of personality type categories below:

And if you’ve stayed with me this far, nope, didn’t win that bid, but rediscovered “why” I took the degree program I did 30 years ago and “why” I continue to be what I am today.  I hope this helps everyone select a potential new career for 2011 that is in alignment with your “core” disposition; or confirm your present career choice. Oh, and in case you are wondering… INFJ.


Ombudsman ADR: “Factual Context” Technique

22 August 2010

Normally, by June or July, I like to do something on trends for the year and 2010 trends are something very different from 2009 and all my my previous experience with dispute or conflict management “internally”.  Contacts with individuals is up, but actually getting to the table or taking an engagement is down considering the ratio of contacts to intakes.  There is a variety of contributing factors, but I’d like to take this moment to focus on something to help anyone in our “craft” keep a handle on the turmoil and chaos they may be experiencing with “potential” clients.

It’s no secret by now that there is a lot of economic chaos happening as we speak and this adds exponentially to individual and group stress resulting in conflict.  My projections for small and medium sized business at the beginning of the year, unfortunately, are proving to be even more serious than I could have “existentially” imagined.  Large corporations are another situation all together currently, with both positive and negative impacts on individuals and communities “they serve”.  It’s tough, it’s hard for everyone, even the “elite” are complaining they didn’t get their full “due” when they had to step down, getting only half their millions instead of all that their interest was worth two years ago.  Currently, as I’m contacted, the issues revolve around “survival” of the business, employees as “family” now, while maintaining some, I repeat, some level of courtesy and decorum.  Regarding partner relationships between contracted employees, long time customers or supplier companies they had contracts or agreements to do business with, these are simply dissolving rapidly.  As I read the news and “listen” to what comes in, clearly there is a split down the middle and the normal bell curve one would expect to reflect the middle class income bracket is now inverted, but it’s more than just a “dip” in the road.

Our frustration has been to communicate clearly, get a good intake, listen carefully, but invariably emotions, anger, tension are more at the “surface” of what someone may have to say about their struggles and establishing any form of “factual context” concerning what basis they have for a complaint is exaggerated, embellished and misrepresented oft times.  Continued “cycling” with a focus on “lesser emotional struggling” and pointing out that perpetuating the “struggle” will not get to a goal they want.  I find myself, in trying to be altruistic and proactive for them, becoming more of just a “listener” while refusing to take the role of “anger management” counselor.  Keeping with “factual context” can circumvent the individuals emotional struggles, anger and even depression and provide the context to focus on their goals as a solution to the problem and establish again or learn to “own” an ethical approach again.

As a technique towards a “permanent” solution, it doesn’t always work, but to cut through the emotional chaos of the moment, we find the following has helped:

  • Frequently remind them in the interview that we need to document the factual context of the dispute.
  • More patience is required at this moment, but they can speed things up if they can just relax and focus on our exchange.
  • If I hear something potentially out of context, make a note and check it again after some time has passed.
  • Ask them to slow down and “reflect” on their statements and determine if they “ring true” or is something else happening.
  • Can they produce any material that supports a factual context versus their emotional declaration in the moment.
  • If detected in the “cycling”, ask them to check themselves to see if they are reverting back to “emotional struggling” again.
  • Asking if they see themselves contributing calmly to a solution and even questioning if they want that or something else.
  • Creating “factual context” list as their constant reminders prior to “shuttling” and/or them contacting the other party.
  • Ask them to meditate or contemplate in quiet, their situation and then contact us again after 48 hours.

Yes, I’ve written about the “blue ocean” of opportunity many times and it’s certainly over flowing currently, not just on the OO side, but in my other business consultancy also.  I have to admit, as busy as things are, it can get or am overwhelmed lately and for the first time I have to watch my energy, not get drained or let “burn out” take over.  I have to watch my own “tensions” with family and friends more, how about you?  Focusing on and firmly addressing and discovering the facts about their issue related to the context of their situation has proven a good technique or method to help keep a sustained focus; thus bringing “order from chaos” as best as possible.  It prevents excessive levels of “complexity” being introduced also, because often individuals want to discuss more than what can be handled and go out of “context”.  I hope these trend observations and discussion will help all who read it here as we are going to be more challenged than ever in months and years ahead to “make a choice” to peacefully resolve disputes/conflicts or polarize and damage personal, business and economic relationships; possibly beyond repair.


Ethical “Disconnect”: Corporate Business Models, Universities & Student Plagiarism

2 August 2010

What I’m about to set forth here is my opinion based on years of business experience, being a part-time university instructor and more recently an “independent” ombudsperson separate from any formal affiliation with “institutions”, be they universities, corporations or government.  I sometimes, not frequently, get propositioned with e-mail and phone calls to participate with college students by mentoring, tutoring, expert opinion interviews, mock ADR sessions etc.  I also get requests to take online tests, complete homework papers, make capstone or thesis proposals and other forms of “cheating” and plagiarizing of course work.  I also recently took an anonymous call from a student who’s on campus ombudsman office, due to policy, would not “take the case”, but they seemed “guilty” as charged because they had difficulty disclosing details while engaging in anonymous guidance?  It’s this last call that’s prompting this article.  As the fall school cycle approaches I must point out, more than any other situation and issue facing America today, this is the most critical and damaging to all areas of our society, especially business, the economy and commerce.  Here’s why…

I have had, on occasion, the opportunity to bring up the topic of cheating and plagiarism with associates and colleagues and to my own astonishment, the topic of discussion is quickly diverted and participation “shunned” and even warnings or caution given not to bring it up again.  In fact, this moment, I’m well aware that the only reason I can discuss this here in my own blog is I’m not employed by an institution that would most likely view this content as politically incorrect; and I’m ethical and confidential about my “sources” at such times as this.  Nevertheless, here is just a tiny pinch of interesting Internet and media “discussion” I’ve picked up so as to have my perspective and some background on this issue IF you’ve been lifting the rug and sweeping it away yourself.

In a recent study by the Center For Academic Integrity it was discovered that cheating by university students is a “pandemic” at this time.  Some highlights of the study:

  • 90% of students surveyed said they didn’t believe cheaters would be caught.
  • 85% said cheating is necessary to get ahead
  • 75% of students admitted cheating.
  • 90% of foreign students at New Zealand universities admitted plagiarizing work in an anonymous pole.

Here’s a story and video about a university “pulling degrees” ad hoc after investigating “complaints” from employers.

Here’s a CNN story showing how the Internet enables plagiarism and the International listings for thousands of on-line libraries of papers for students and custom writing of papers guaranteed free of plagiarized content… clearly the definition of plagiarism has a new liberal shift.

You too are probably familiar with the very early Harvard Law School and University of Virginia media publicized scandals and I won’t detail those, but there is a lot happening now that the Internet enables the “seamless” work group business model between students, professors/instructors and corporations.  I researched these and others and discovered that back then, like now, this moment, the majority of university ombuds offices will not take any case where there is a dispute between faculty and students regarding “unethical” test or homework practices.  They have to stay politically correct while the reputation of individuals and media scandals “damage” the innocent and honest students that worked hard to maintain the quality and standards of their alma mater and employer, not to mention their own self-esteem.  A huge gap here in ethics, morality and doing the right thing.

Some of the attitudes I’ve run into, not from a handful, but dozens of MBA and Ph.D educators is very lax and liberal to say the least.  I’ve heard of and watched them doing work for students on-line, believe it or not, under their own names when the obvious thing would be to create a “pseudo” personality to do such unethical practices.  To them it’s “okay”, they give a variety of “rational” arguments, my favorite is that President Clinton “redefined” what sex is and isn’t, they realized that applies to other “ethical” areas also.  No harm done they insist and in this economy they say they need the income if they are unemployed.  For me personally, in these conversations, I refuse to “breach” my personal ethics and take a steadfast “death before dishonor” stance.  With one person I argued back that this was all fine until one realizes that the new CPA had their exams and tests taken by someone else and the law shields them from liability between their client and the government.  Or how about the engineer that builds in a design flaw on a new car or worse yet and aircraft resulting in recalls, waves of financial loss and even crashes that kill people by the family or whole plane loads… disgusting.  This last week a scandal regarding FBI agents cheating on a “legal knowledge” test is also adding to my personal bias now in getting this post out.  Again, this is just the tip of it all and I lose more “friends” this way…

I’ve also talked with university students that told me it was the unspoken yet accepted “culture” in certain circles in the university to work on projects that a professor was project lead for that a corporation was outsourcing to the university for because it’s cost-effective in that the “donation” made to the institution is tax-deductible, they get the results needed for their next product innovation and funds for R&D have dried up and are not tax-deductible or have policy limits.  This is fine, a competitive strategy indeed, but passing down work this way and then “making issues” or holding the student responsible is a the typical negative end result.  In this “power structure” the student is at a severe disadvantage. The students then describe the “pressures” from professors if they don’t produce, effect on grades and so they know they can go “outside” and on-line to get published “ideas” AND employ the Web2.0 model linking to anyone globally that can do the work.

The corporations themselves want to be profitable for shareholder quarterly earnings statements, if public, or if private, stakeholders in a joint-venture have a lot of power and “outsourcing” of jobs cuts labor costs to bring projects in on-time and on budget. Unfortunately students have told me that this business model and philosophy is well learned by students who “outsource” their own work, once they learn how, on basic subjects that they can’t do too because they don’t have the time or skill to learn or do the work, but have plenty of money for from student loans, scholarships, family trusts and even under the table stipends that are more linked to college athletics in the media than what we are discussing here.  Mixing up “priorities” gets in the way too of proper decision-making and is another factor I see personally.  Additionally, there’s a huge “ego” problem as students go to their party and brag how their work is being done as they speak, they outsourced it, just like the company they want to work for when they graduate.

To wrap this up, from my “arm-chair”, it’s already too late and it will take “ethical individuals” establishing a reputation that differentiates them from the majority of unethical student/university/corporate society to “make it right”. Surely such ethical individuals will soon be scapegoats and become disenfranchised quickly as they go against the grain of the “accepted cultural practices”.  Add to this a VORTEX of increasing or doubling of tuition to prop up faculty retirement funds from recent Wall Street loses, raising or holding to large salaries for existing faculty or corporate executives, no job for them “as promised” after graduation because it’s outsourced; and the corporate, university, government sponsored capital all link together in “cycle” to keep the status quo at tax payer expense in a severely economically contracting market.  NO ONE has the answer or is facing the reality of this mess because we compromised our educations choosing immediate gratification today over quality and delayed gratification based on honest work, ethics and true merit.  We wonder how Intellectual Property is “lost” to a foreign market?  The answer to that question, though outside the subject of this article, is also answered in this same relational business education “corrupt” model.  This is the conundrum.  This is the critical “big picture” mess everything is in nowadays and it’s embedded in the ever closer relationship between individuals and institutions linked directly to compromised educational and corporate business values at ALL levels of society.


The New Ombudsman and The Blue Ocean

20 August 2009

If you are a “regular” with the Organizational Ombudsman Blog you’ve noticed I weave the term “new ombudsman” into much of my commentary.  Within the context of my topics, my intent is no accident, as I am working to define new “Ombudsman ADR” in differentiation to what consumers perceive as traditional mediation, or legal ADR.  I’m “pro choice” and believe we need the legal profession to bring justice in applicable circumstances, but with the increased conflict and misery in the vast majority of societies globally, 7 plus billion people now, there should be an alternative for individuals seeking PEACE AND STABILITY versus material greed and punishing vengeance for less than criminal issues.  I could write forever on all aspects of this topic, but instead, let’s keep it to clarifying the definition of the “new ombudsman” and the “blue ocean” we can swim together as peace builders for groups of individuals in our organizations and communities.

First, the “new ombudsman” is a progressive philosopher and an eclectic thinker.  They are most likely a “boomer”, born of the 60’s movements and now, today, wise to the ways to not only live peacefully, but able to articulate, “practice what they preach” and technically translate education, knowledge and wisdom into a “new profession” to the benefit of others.  Yes, some are lawyers, some are psychologists, some are social workers, teachers, retired from the profession they now “mediate” to; it’s an “inclusive” mix of professions and people.  They didn’t know it, but looking back on their career and life they were using “ombudsmanship” all along and now want to make it their calling.  They are technologically savvy, can grasp and get a handle on complex (Gordian Knot) circumstances and issues, they can do mental analysis faster than a computer, they are skilled “generalists” in their life and profession, their degrees and certificates are “translatable and applicable” in terms of value towards peace making regardless of what “others” tell them and they know it and are not deterred.  More than anything else, they can “see outside the legal box” and let themselves guide clients to resolve conflicts in “their own self directed paradigm” with their own goals, values, morals, “relativistic” ethics and terms as the only basis that matters.  While this is highly idealistic the process helps “synergize” the exchange of culture, ideas, “different from mine” perspectives and thus provides the process for change and understanding.  In the end, the case may never reach the “consent” stage in The 6 C’s of Sociocratic Peace Building and the “new ombudsman” may never have “personal validation”, but in the end the “measure” is the practical outcomes or results of the process; or at least the cessation of conflict where they had the courage to “give it a try”.

As New Ombudsmen we will always have opportunity and clients everywhere we go, we are, capable of neutralizing opposing polarizing actions in formal “informal” processes, incognito and helping to harmonize life wherever the opportunity presents itself.  In Buddhism the first Noble Truth of the Four Noble Truths is:  life is suffering.  Indeed, there are all forms of suffering, some beyond our control, but what the Zen Buddhist knows, “if you see him”, is that we mostly make our suffering with each other.   In psychology my favorite “master” is Maslow because he was the only guy in the field to study “happy people” versus “anomalies and mental disease” that consumes practitioners to this day.  He discovered happy people get their needs met in his hierarchy of identified basic and optimal human needs model.  In our role as “new ombudsmen”, we might want to keep this in mind, you’d be surprised how this can reduce “suffering” if we can mediate with clarity for the employer and the employees, for example, or the corporation and the local community.  These types of issues don’t need “the law” to tell us what the solution must be.

When I wake up each day my job is to look at “The Blue Ocean” in my local community and through the “Windows” of my computer globally for my own practice and my clients.  Blue Ocean Strategy: How to Create Uncontested Market Space and Make the Competition Irrelevant is a Harvard Business School published book by W. Chan Kim and Renee’ Mauborgne.  The contrast to the Blue Ocean in the book is the Red Ocean.  The definition is complex and ever evolving but basically Blue Oceans are markets, opportunities and as yet undefined industries that are evolving and “paradigm shifting”.  In Red Oceans, these are the traditional industry segments, clusters, targets, products, services that have a life cycle and are “controlled” by government and big business.  If you want to “contrast” this first hand for yourself as it relates to “our” industry, I STRONGLY recommend you read the Blue Ocean book AND Making Peace Making Money: Economic Analysis of the Market for Mediators in Private Practice  (January 2009) by Urska Velikonja a member of the Red Ocean “legal elite” and the Harvard Law School.  Her analysis is complete, accurate, concise and 100% valid for legal mediators… but I don’t swim in that ocean and the new ombudsman does not either.  I live in the Blue Ocean, the symbology of the color is very relevant for me personally and the vastness of the opportunity for all of us “new ombudsmen” is needed for decades to come in service to others who do not have “elite” access.

Lately, the new ombudsman in the “blue ocean” faces “establishment” challenges.  There are plenty of “traditional institutions, agencies and organizations” around to tell them “you don’t fit and you are not qualified”.  To get even more critical about it, the “red ocean sharks” would say we are equivalent to “quacks” in the medical profession… they too told “alternative medicine” for decades, “your methods are not valid, not approved or tested, not based on the laws of science and are against the law”.  In the handful of cases I’ve had so far in my new practice the last 11 months I had to “first hand” face a lawyer as a “party” in a complaint.  The lawyer was “mediation certified” and loaded with degrees and had “tried and tested” experience.  The “new ombuds” must be prepared and have the courage to face such scenarios towards peaceful resolution of disputes where legal practitioners get “entangled” or even instigate everyday “suffering” and “polarizing” as the legal, social and economic landscape shifts for “common people”.  These are just a very few examples, but this is going to go on for decades and makes up a small segment of the “blue ocean” for the new ombudsman.


The Long Term Care Ombudsman

16 April 2009

The following 2 videos give an excellent overview of Ombudsman Services provided by San Mateo County of California under the national program. I’m often asked how to make the transition into an ombudsman career and while many of “us” are now past an internship out of college as a way into a new career, volunteering as a LTC Ombudsman is one way to gain experience.

Video best viewed with Internet Explorer if you have plug in problems with Firefox.

Video 1 of 2

Video 2 of 2