Brief Analysis: Wallstreet Reform Bill Has Ombudsman Provision

25 June 2010

Again, OO is following, as best possible as we are busy, the Wall Street Reform Bill developments as they unfold. In this Press Release Update on AGREED provisions in the Bill as of this week, an Ombudsman would serve as part of yet another new agency in the Investment Advisory Committee.  My immediate analysis is that once again this will NOT be effective for consumers at all because individuals called upon to serve will continue to be pulled from the ranks of the Washington “elite” in government circles of influence.  What would have been closer to meeting the needs of consumers would have been the empowering and enabling of the private sector to represent consumers to the committee from local, regional, state and organized consumer interest groups nationwide.  Instead, “independence” is lost and any “virtuous” alternative to really engaging in and creating fair and accountable policy for consumers is lost before it even begins.  Consolidation and centralization of all decisions on the behalf of the public, consumers and constituents continues without any clear perspective from lawmakers.


Integrity “Inside-Out”: Brooksley Born

2 June 2010

As I watch Warren Buffet testify today and defend the credit rating agencies for their role in the economic meltdown, I’ve had this article in draft for awhile… it’s time; and it contains another perspective on “fault” for the crisis we are in.

I am a firm believer, that most often, change, comes from the “outside-in”.  If one studies events from out in the cosmos down to and through the sub-atomic particles whipping around under electron microscopes, we notice that change is exerted by any number and types of “catalysts” operating freely and independently of structure and bodies so as to create change.  I’ve written many times that the foundation for such individuals who exert change or acts as a catalyst  in our profession; they need, more than technical certification by their “club”, they need to be ethical if not fully embody integrity.  You can simply look back through historical biographies and pick out those who posses integrity and then determine if they were operating as part of an organization or entity (inside) or operating externally (outside) in relation to the entity they impacted.

I am passionate about this topic because I “know” ethics and integrity are  in fact the key to changes in society that need to take place; especially in terms of social systems and structures including government, corporations, universities and communities in general.  It is personally alarming to me the incremental steps being taken by many organizations and in government towards consolidation of power and wealth as a means to preserve the status qou at the expense of customers or constituents they are supposed to serve.  You may, for yourself, want to take a moment to observe and reflect what’s really going on in America today and realize that wherever and whenever integrity is left out of the model towards developing a solution to critical problems… it fails to have the desired outcome; even if everyone seems to be well-intentioned.  I’ve even recently listened to “talking heads” in the media say that if you can’t review information objectively and with ethical integrity, the cost and capacity to make informed decisions  “gets lost”, to me this sounds like almost every major institution in America today.  I’ll leave this here at this moment by just saying that our own profession is trending towards dangerous outcomes if it does not restore integrity as part of the standards and principles we practice by.  It’s so easy to “mouth” this, do we do it or are we continuing to shore up and protect ideologies and paradigms long needing a change?  Are we genuine, inclusive, enabling and empowering or are we continuing to be “self serving” and thus ignoring our very own standards and principles we apply to others?

And now for the inspiration behind this months post, Brooksley Born and The Warning PBS Frontline documentary.  Once, a long time ago, a mentor of mine, when I was a young man, used to talk to me about the “disenfranchised” in society.  At the time, I didn’t really understand, not like today, what he was trying to tell me.  And so, I can tell him now, “I get it”.  I stumbled across this PBS Frontline documentary “The Warning” about how we came to this economic meltdown, which by the way was an eye opener for me, the “meltdown” is not over and my other communications reflect this; we are in for more turmoil ahead.  Brooksley Born also states this clearly and you can watch and see integrity first hand in the 55 minute The Warning documentary.  We’ve all read, watched and listened to news stories about “could it have been avoided” from 9/11 to the Challenger space shuttle and now, to the current economic crisis, name it what you will, recession, depression or whatever.  In my business practice and ombuds practice I am frequently pointing out “what ifs” and consequences for apathy or ill intentioned choices and even flat-out power grabs and greed… I’ve seen a lot of it and do my best to try and “temper” the situation and make a difference.   In this documentary Brooksley Born “acts” from the “inside-out” in the US Government’s Commodity Futures Trading Commission to try and be a change agent, a catalyst to protect and serve the American public and in the end is “disenfranchised” for it.  She’s not only working correctly “inside-out” in her authority and role in service to the American public, but she embodies “inside-out” ethics and integrity as the foundation to confront “political culture” at its worst.  If you are on the “outside-in” trying to do this, you would be labeled a “rogue” or even “social terrorist” or “activist” if taken to extremes, for even attempting to bring influence from outside the “red ocean elite” power structure.  As you watch The Warning, there are a lot of “talking heads”, but whenever Brooksley Born is speaking, pay close attention especially towards the end, when all the context of current problems, pending financial reform legislation and our future is at stake… she knows what she’s talking about, but really… are we listening?

Health Care Reform and the Ombudsman Role

9 September 2009

OO has been following the progress on health care reform all summer.  Nope, you won’t find me in the chaos of a town hall meeting, but you will find me reading Senator Max Baucus’ “Gang of Six” proposed framework as it changes and progresses into something worth serious consideration.

Quoting from the framework PDF: “In 2010, states would be required to establish an ombudsman office to act as a consumer advocate for those with private coverage in the individual and small group markets.  Policyholders whose health insurers have rejected claims and who have exhausted internal appeals would be able to access the ombudsman office for assistance.”

Most likely this would be an expansion of the existing National Long Term Care Ombudsman Program administered state by state and supported with federal funding.

A major problem with the proposal as it exists today are the fines and penalties to American’s who exercise their “freedom of choice” not to participate in a health care insurance program.  I’ve emailed my view on this to Washington advocating instead a “pay as you use” feature instead of fines, taxes or penalties; and this would be linked to computer systems and auditing in the framework linked to W-2 or SSN for tracking.

Let’s see what happens as America may finally catch up to the rest of the world and have coverage for all Americans finally.

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

24 June 2009

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.

Classical & Corporate Ombudsman in Corporate Governance: Conflict of Interest Case Overview

6 March 2009

This is probably one of my primary areas of interest in the Ombudsman profession.  Why?  From my experience corporate & non-profit board governance with relation to conflicts of interest has been the “root cause” of many “fraud and corruption” problems that has impacted individuals and communities in America for many decades.  I personally in my career “bumped” into situations where CEOs and Executive Directors were also the founding director and chairman of the board for their entity and ” exclusively controlled” their business in violation of state and federal laws to the detriment of the corporate entity, their employees, stakeholders, investors, contracted partners, “customers” and broader community.  The most common “fault” is “self dealing” and in non-profits and SMB/SME (Small and Medium sized Business & Small and Medium sized Entity) entities, it goes unchecked forever.  Specifically in one case I’m familiar with, the Chairman of the Board in an LLC ordered the Corporate Secretary to disregard placing a matter on the board’s monthly agenda for a formal resolution and vote.  This was  regarding a corporate level “partner supply chain”  contract and instead he asked her to “draw up” the formal resolution, that they then both signed as if it had been passed by the BoD.  It was then “sealed” and sent to the “partner” entity to complete due diligence.  The historical and current trends in the media, with regards Enron forward to the financial services industry, are just the tip of the iceberg.  While “we” can all get upset and write our congressional representatives about disclosures and transparency of public companies and the ongoing fraud, we must ask the question, “is our house in order?”

A possible solution is to have a “government ordered” or “voluntary” internally positioned Independent Director in an “ombudsmanship” role (which is what Google appears to be in the process of adopting as we speak instead of a full Ombudsman role) or a Corporate Ombudsman fully integrated and providing true independent  “oversight” at ALL levels of the enterprise including the BoD and Corporate Officers.  Very often a corporate ombudsman only works on behalf of the board of directors down through the business levels of the corporation.  Lately, a new trend called “board balancing” is making headway where the bylaws of a company are “amended” making Independent Directors a mandatory part of the BoD with the specific role of “best practice governance, oversight and compliance” as activities and meetings unfold.  This is an “ombudsmanship” style role directly linked to SARBOX “trickle down” from public companies into the private industry sector and that also affects non-profits.  This proposed “ombudsmanship” role is better than nothing at all, but what about actually bringing an external ombudsman, classical or organizational, onto the board as a part of “balancing” and “best practice governance”?

It isn’t very often we get a glimpse in the media of this specific type of issue, but here is a case from the UK that provides for a view from both the corporate company side of the table and the actual classical ombudsman in their role under the “authority” of the government.  While I’ve presented the case for an ombudsman role on the corporate or company side in the above paragraphs, this is the external and “top authority down” model and it’s valid.  The UK Pensions Ombudsman made the determination, correctly in my opinion, that a “conflicted” trustee of a pension fund was also in position as a Director of a client company and could participate in a vote to “award or withhold pension benefits” to her ex-husband and his new “partner”.  The directors moved early on in the process to “exclude” the “conflicted dual role director/trustee” from the oversight process and therefore the “award was administered fairly and without prejudice” as determined properly by the Pension Ombudsman.  In this model, The Pension Regulator in the UK, had previously identified the potential for the conflict at at earlier time and made provisions for the Pension Ombudsman to move externally to provide oversight to the process thus demonstrating very good foresight and planning.  They most likely did this realizing, from their side, that their trustees also had “interest” as directors on public and private company boards.

It is very important, if we are to progress as a society, that government provide a “pristine and proactive regulatory environment” to assure that the potential for conflict of interest is removed.  As we speak, President Obama is moving to halt “no bid” contracting for federal services where an “appointed” person can go back to their private industry contacts and simply “plug them in” to contracts (D. Cheney & Halliburton).  After all, if we cannot trust and believe our government holds to their fiduciary obligation with every single citizen, what other “higher authority” is there to appeal to?

Ombudsman ADR: The 6 C’s Of Sociocratic Peace Building

1 March 2009

Thomas Jefferson is quoted as saying, “Democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where 51% of the people may take away the rights of the other 49%” (circa 1801-1809). Indeed, if you get into “our” history not all the “fathers” of our nation were in favor of a two party system.  The two party process assures consolidation and massing of large polarized groups of people that can argue into perpetuity.  If you look at the world, there are pockets of “democratic structures of government”, but without the two party system.  One example, is the Nunavut Provence of Canada.  They use a plebiscite form of government to form their new territory in 1999, successfully breaking away from the 5 party system.  These First Nation indigenous people are wise indeed.  Their plebiscite elected council represents all people in the territory and council members represent them in Canada’s Crown Government.  They use a self governing process where council representatives “facilitate” consensus on issues the “peace pipe by the fire” way and then take their vote to the Crown and vote with the other 5 parties on national issues.  Today, in America, there are “pockets” of this at the “micro-society” level where we work, worship and organize as community members.  It’s a Sociocratic process without “two parties”.  A Sociocracy is a system of government where all interests of all people are served equally through the process of consensus to consent.  The idea of polarized two party (or 5 party) debate is removed.  Indeed, the energy industry in America, by example, is experiencing this form of self government at the local level where their pipelines run through Native American lands and local American communities.

Ombudspersons can use this Sociocratic process with polarized individuals or with small groups or teams, say in study groups, committees, matrix structured  teams, councils and even between any multiple entities with groups of representatives gathered to resolve conflict through the application of ADR methods and practices.  The 6 C’s are used only in sequential order before proceeding to the next C.  They are:

  1. Communication – if there is no parity or communication is asymmetrical among members to the conflict, this very often, my experience, is the simplest form of an issue or conflict and is easily solvable through quality communication.  In this discussion, if we don’t have communication and it breaks down, all other C’s abort the Sociocratic process and you start over.  It’s at this first C stage there has usually been an ongoing and slow “surfacing of an issue” and emotions are the catalyst to “outing” the complaint.  If sequential iterations of applying ADR methods and the 6 C’s fails, arbitration and litigation are other options and thus the “dispute” escalates to polarized “conflict” and outside the ombudsman’s purview.  Key to successful communication is to hold to the 5th principle of empathetic communication: “seek first to understand then to be understood”.  I find “conflicted people” often “get it” and this breaks open deadlocks.
  2. Complaint – take the issue or complaint from all individuals or group members.  You could have a situation where a team of 6 is split into two groups of three, three groups of two or any combination.  Process the complaint with a complaint form from each individual will provide the ombudsman “perspective”.  Conventional two party complaints are also successful under this Sociocratic self governance model.
  3. Cooperation – as the ombudsman gathers information and identifies parties they move everyone to agree to mediate and to cooperate.  This should be in line with established formal procedures of the ombudsman function or office and parties to the “agreed upon conflict” should sign off on the “cooperation agreement” or mediation agreement.  I find taking the legal terms out of facilitation helps cooperation because it removes the “programmed cultural threat” of litigation.
  4. Consensus – the new form of consensus building is where ALL members, stakeholders or parties involved are moved by the ombudsman to formulate their solution to the issue or complaint.  Take “due care” not to fall back into the old form of “forced consensus by majority vote” of a polarized democratic process.  This will leave people “unresolved” that have interest in the outcome.  Consensus requires the most time and patience from the ombudsman and the capacity to utilize all methods of psychology to move people to “focus on their common interests” and over time “forget” or “re-frame” their “points of conflict”.  You are seeking “unanimous consent” structured around goals or solutions stemming from the original written complaint forms.  If you didn’t properly analyze the complaint or the group or parties “shift focus” to other “points of conflict”, you’ll have to start over at this step and re-communicate from the beginning the issue or complaint at hand.  The very last and important key factor is the proposed, negotiated or resolved solution must be in compliance with superceding organization, corporate, government or other entity with legal authority over the parties involved.  If not, it could be that changes in, by example, the corporation’s policies in relation to formulating contracts needs revised.
  5. Consent – Once the ombudsman reaches the point where “rounds” of discussion result in “behavioral confirmation” ie. body language, verbal affirmations and other signals of uniformity, then you can “call the question” asking does “anyone object”.  If favorable, I recommend you write their self negotiated solution out in a memo, terms of agreement, amendment to a team, committee or council charter, or other formal document that everyone signs off on.  The chairman, team leader, project manager or anyone that is a party to the process can also write out the negotiated points and solution to everyone’s satisfaction, but it’s important they read and sign off on it.  Experience shows verbal agreements with no historical “back up” position will not be a successful “conclusion” in the long term.
  6. Coordination – is the final step where the ombudsman, after the agreement is completed, has a “closure” meeting and communicates that continued focus on the terms in the agreement and observable coordination in daily interactions is the proof that everyone really agrees.  The 6th C of coordination carries the connotation “we all cooperated and came to an agreement, now we act and behave daily under our agreed terms”.  If a lack of coordination in the activities of the team, council, committee or whatever “breaksdown”, they can “self govern” and remind themselves of the terms.  If though, in the end, there is sometimes one person that just will not conform and this is causing harm or wasting resources towards the economic or social “good”, they should be asked to leave the group and find a replacement or if it’s several individuals, it may have to then proceed to arbitration or litigation.  Ask that person(s) to cooperate and decide what they want to do.

I have used this process in what I call an “undeclared” facilitation structure when in business process applications.  I mostly use it on a “preemptive” basis as I can now recognize a problem forming between “polarities” in early stages of development.  For “informal” ombudsman procedures you can “name” this form of ADR however you wish, as long as it fits the group and their culture.  By example, there may be, in a religious application, a religious council term for church groups you can adopt in a “community ombudsman” role or if they are perhaps a business team assigned to a project, simply call it a “dispute management” team meeting.  And now, within this context, think of what might be the possibility in America with a procedure to self govern, to solve issues and disputes without feeling a need to join a side and fight from a point of narcissistic greed, ego-centric entitlement and my rights over others rights?  Rather keep focus on the economic or socially desired outcome to the benefit of the many, respecting all individuals and living in peace.  Hmm…

OO’s First Month: Updates, Recap & Trends

20 February 2009

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.