Posts Tagged ‘IP Facilitation’

THERE ARE TIMES YOU JUST HAVE TO TAKE YOUR MEDICINE

Friday, May 21st, 2010

There are areas of mediation and conflict resolution that are all too often ignored by even the largest of companies. If I had to characterize the omission, it would be close to not having automobile insurance, not taking fire precautions, not locking your car door in a city or not taking preventive medication.

A positive case in point that may illustrate the type of problem that arises is a story of a large fortune 100 company, whose financial division included a marketing department and the CIO’s (Chief Investment Officer) department.

These two groupings employed well over 1,400 people. The “powers that be” decided that it would be worthwhile, due to the departure of the executive in charge of marketing, for the CIO to take over and combine the functions of both of these departments. The problems that arose from this combination were many and yet, when we investigated, it was in large measure due to the perceptions that each department held of the other.

According to Marketing: “The CIO department sits in an ivory tower and makes (word altered here) “stuff” up that has no application in the real world and expects us to make it palatable”.

According to the CIO group: “Marketing doesn’t really do anything anyway. They throw parties and put names on hats and golf balls”.

The challenge here was not the mechanical or functional merge between these diverse portions of the same organization, but rather the cultural merger. Could the perceptions that each held of the other be changed? What were the factors and blocks that stood in the way? Would the organization take an active structural role through a shift in the way it rewarded the employees so that cross group and team function was a portion of the bonus structure? Was it possible for the individuals at the top of this grouping to genuinely attribute value to their interaction with the other department and model that for the whole group?

In this case, perceptions were changed and structures were shifted through the application of mediation and conflict resolution approaches. After a year of our input we found that a natural synergy had been developed, that project managers for the CIO service would always request participation by the Marketing department in the earliest stages of development and the reverse was also true. These departments became intertwined, and the group leaders requested that the leadership structure be moved into the same suite of offices so that they could cooperate more easily. Through the wisdom and sensitivity of leadership, mediation help was asked for at the right time and the results were excellent.

By contrast if we look at the rise and fall of the Daimler-Chrysler merger, we can see that they believed a tremendous amount was to be gained by the merger of technical expertise and manufacturing capability. Indeed, the technical levels of both organizations were raised considerably. The final results only a few years later were characterized as deception and betrayal. The short lifespan of this merger was due to the lack of will to invest in making a conscious cultural merger. This might have been be carried out by consultants who had a wide range of communications, mediation and conflict resolution skills being brought in during the initial merger talks and not left as an afterthought to the financial or just to chance.

Sometimes it seems that even large companies with billions at stake don’t want to take their medicine. The use of the professional services of cultural mediators early on can be the “Spoonful of sugar that makes the medicine go down”.

Richard Dash

DUE DILIGENCE/THE TOOL FOR TRANSPARENCY

Monday, May 10th, 2010

By Mary Whetstine 

Do you know what you don’t know when investing in or purchasing a business or Intellectual Property (IP)?  Few of us have walked the path of life when we have not made some type of investment or purchase in which we “assumed” we knew what we were getting, only to be sorely disappointed? Perhaps assuming because the higher price of the product or entity we were getting exceptional quality, or of the evil assumption twin, of “getting a deal” because we were paying “below market value”? John Ruskin, the 19th century English poet and social thinker was attributed to saying: 

There is scarcely anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse, and sell a little more cheaply. The person who buys on price alone is this man’s lawful prey.” 

The research needing to be done is the due diligence.  When we are making significant investments (in these times what investments are not significant?), the dire need of examining the multiple layers of the deal or the IP product is critical. There are pitfalls of Due Diligence that can become a door or a window.  Does it impede or facilitate the outcome? You and your team need to know what you intend to purchase and why.  The real question becomes, ‘Is what you see, what you get?’   And how about what you don’t see on the surface?  What are the gems and landmines that need to be uncovered?   Is the value and the cost for the venture merited? 

That is the essence of due diligence.  Value and risk, the balance determines if and how much to invest.  Whether an individual, venture capitalist or investment banker, the questions need to be answered before capital is invested. 

Make the ‘No’ or ‘Go’ decision before too much time or money is spent.  Most deals do not make it beyond this exploratory stage. 

To the reader:  Can you share an experience where solid, Due Diligence has guided you and your team to a great decision, that might otherwise been catastrophic? 

 Over the next few weeks, we will be discussing the components of the audit process.

The next article in this series will be: — Financial Due Diligence 

 By Mary Whetstine, Financial Analyst

The Comodity of Time

Friday, April 9th, 2010

 In mediation, we learn the value of identifying the emotions that strip our spritits and psyches of being present, in the now.  Unfortunately, all to often in litigation these are these emotions are the very tools and essense of  “solving” conflict.  This post will address a perspective from a publication that we greatly respect. 

The Futurist is a magazine that covers trends, forecasts and ideas about the future and is published by the World Future Society, a non-profit educational and scientific organization chartered in Washington, D.C.  Their website is www.wfs.org.

The Futurist May-June  featured an article titled, Trends Shaping Tomorrow’s World/Forecasts and Implications for Business, written by Marvin J. Cetron and Owen Davies.  During the next few weeks we will be periodically presenting segments of their article as they relate to businesses and business owners.  Here is our overview and perspective of their article regarding The Commodity of time. 

Time is becoming the world’s most precious commodity.

  • Computers, electronic communications, the Internet, and other technologies are making national and international economies much more competitive.
  • In the United States, workers spend about 10% more time on the job than they did a decade ago.  European executives and nonunionized workers face the same trend.
  • In these high-pressure environment, single workers and two income couples are increasingly desperate for any product that offers to simplify their lives or grand them a taste of luxury – and they can afford to buy it.
  • China’s rapid econo0mic development means its workers are experiencing faster-pace and time-pressured lives.  In a recent survey the Chinese new portal Sina.com, 56% of respondents said they felt short of time.  That 64% said they were never late and were intolerant of other people’s tardiness suggest a new cultural challenge to the traditional Chinese concept of a leisurely existence.
  • Technical workers and executives in India are beginning to report the same job-related stresses, particularly when they work on U.S. and European schedules.

 

Implications

 

            Stress-related problems affecting employee morale and wellness will continue to grow.  Companies must help employees balance their time at work with their family lives and need for leisure.  This may reduce short-term profits but will aid profitability in the long run.

            As time for shopping continues to evaporate, Internet and mail-order marketers will have a growing advantage over traditional stores.  Workers seek out convenience foods, household help, and minor luxuries to compensate for their lack of leisure time.

Time & Conflict

In the fast moving, ever changing world we live in, it is even more important than ever to be aware and conscious of how we, as well as others,  can often get caught up in that powerful, dangerous river of anxiety, fear, and anger.  How do we find peace within that very conflict and change?

There is a powerful  Eastern axiom that goes something like this:  “Meanings that we attribute to objects are subjective.  We make life real by the thoughts we project.”

In mediation, by creating space (time) between words and expressions, all parties are given the opportunity to listen and are guided towards actively understanding the other parties “truth”, as well as their “meanings”.  We can all practice this for ourselves on a daily basis, simply by practicing a basic technique.  When you feel anxiety, whether it by with another person, an event, etc:  accept the emotion that you are feeling and give pause (space & time).    You may find that in the brief time of the pause, that a subtle gentle light of empathy may appear within – and/or with a bit of luck, the other party will feel that they are actually being heard.

To our reader:

What techniques have you learned in your life experiences that bring you to a point of presense that allows your acceptance of another parties position? 

How does this post relate to your business experiences?

If  intellectual property is a part of the value of what you do, can you see how IP folks can often more readily adapt to mediation as a means of resolving conflict?

           

Understanding the Cultural Matrix

Wednesday, March 24th, 2010

 

Here is a further example of the importance of the cultural matrix behind successful solutions and how assumptions can lead to a resounding failure

While in the Middle East, I was the personal business consultant to the chairman and CEO of one of the largest publicly traded development and construction corporations in Israel. My assigned task was to head a project that would help meet the housing needs of a massive immigration from the Soviet Union. Over one million immigrants would enter Israel, an increase of almost 25% of the population within a two-year period. That would be the equivalent of 80 million new immigrants coming to the United States within two years.

Virtually all building there is done with concrete and stone, both for exteriors and interior dividing walls. This is a tediously slow way of doing construction but was the norm throughout the region. The government was encouraging the use of rapid building techniques for both temporary and permanent housing for the new immigrants, in search of solutions to this urgent need. I was responsible for finding the best systems and sources internationally, negotiation of joint venture agreements with those foreign providers of materials and expertise, and establishing projects for the creation of many millions of dollars worth of homes.  

I had sourced and established cooperative relations with some outstanding firms including one of the largest building companies on the NYSE, arranged for the uniting of alien plumbing and electrical systems, substituted coating materials best suited for the harsh sun of the region, shifted roof vent systems among thousands of other details in the planning stages of a small pilot project of some ten million dollars. We had two rooms constructed as test models for assembly systems. The collective wisdom of our building engineering firm and our architecture experts were all satisfied and ready to go. The evening before our final meeting to launch the project I chanced to be in the test rooms while two of the workmen were cleaning up and overheard the following:

1st man: What do you think of this new stuff?

2nd man: I like it. It’s pretty and clean and all the corners are square.

1st man:  Right. I’m not used to everything level and square but that I can live with.

2nd man: You sound like there is something you can’t live with. What is it?

1st man:  Well, I wouldn’t live in it because (he said as he banged his fist on the wall with the      resulting hollow sound that comes from sheet rock) it won’t stop a bullet.

How close we came. All of us, with all our expertise and experience hadn’t taken into account the consumer and one of the most basic of their needs, culture norms and approaches. Our unexamined assumptions would have brought us to inevitable failure. Sheet rock construction for exteriors would never succeed in the Middle East. Although the immigration pressure was immense, permanent housing was and would be virtually all created from block and concrete. All the residents know that concrete will stop a bullet.

“Tell me and I’ll forget; show me and I may remember; involve me and I’ll understand.” Confucius

Written by Richard Dash

When to Consider Calling on an IP Mediator

Tuesday, March 9th, 2010

 

It seems that our businesses and organizations are experiencing the constant white water of change, conflict and uncertainty.  It is a time when the question is not if there will be conflict, but how businesses will respond to conflict.  A mediator can be useful resource to help businesses and organizations constructively confront conflict.  It is timely to work with a mediator to resolve organizational conflict when:

  • Important decisions or difficult problems are avoided because of potential conflict
  • Watered-down compromises leave everyone virtually everyone disenchanted
  • Split decisions stand only until an inevitable shift in the wind, taking the organization off course
  • Group deliberations focus is on speaking and complaining, rather than listening, collaboration and problem solving
  • Power plays and appeals result in an estranged work environment
  • Chronic and acute conflict within the organization limits its ability to serve customers and stakeholders or fluidly adapt to change.

 

What an Impartial Third Party Mediator Offers

 

While the primary focus of a mediator is conflict resolution, a professional mediator sees conflict as the catalyst for positive change within the organization and between stakeholders.  In addition to the collaborative resolution of a conflict, mediation also offers:

  • A structured process that promotes civility, mutual respect and open dialogue.
  • A shared understanding and appreciation of diverse perspectives.
  • Identification of practical workable solutions that address everyone’s needs
  • A shared focus on the realization of a desired future state.
  • An enhanced sense of commitment, accountability, partnership and esprit de corps.

 

How Business Mediation Reconciles Past Differences

Unresolved, conflicted and hurtful relationships in the work place have significant ongoing impacts upon a team and organization.  They are like a chronic illness, draining valuable energy from a work group or project.  The potential for negative ramifications outside of the organization are significant, as detrimental messages about the project, work group or organization spread as a part of the underlying turmoil.  The healing of existing wounds, restoration of relationships and moving forward on common ground are the key ingredients to reconciliation and positive change.  A business mediator plays a critical role in establishing a safe environment to come together reconcile the past and restore and establish new working relationships.  With a neutral third party professional facilitating activities and conversations that lead to understanding, parties take steps toward renewed working relationship in which they commit to working together to get the job done.

“Nothing endures but change.”

Heraclitus, from Diogenes Laertius, Lives of Eminent Philosophers
Greek philosopher (540 BC – 480 BC)

IP Interest Based Negotiations

Monday, March 8th, 2010

In a previous article we discussed Positional Bargaining Negotiating as a rather rigid position that a person takes on an issue – very linear, one-dimensional. It is most often very personal and thus filled with strong emotions. With Interest Based Negotiations the process is built around collaborative flexibility, with future relationship considerations. Through open dialogue, the negotiator will help the parties identify their specific, individual values, needs, desires, which most often are what has likely caused each party’s position. By understanding one’s needs as well as the other’s, mutual openness to bridges and paths are built between the persons of conflict.

Interest Based Negotiations

To illustrate Interest Based Negotiations, here is a recent case study. Dennis, after several years of building and growing a highly successful IT company made the decision to sell. The business had a strong documented cash flow history, strong growth opportunities in a solid industry, and was in a most favorable California life style location; thus, the seller was able to justify a higher multiple and asking price. In a rather short period of time Dan, a buyer from Ohio, decided to make an offer through Dennis’ broker to purchase; he was financially qualified, with good IT operational experience and skills to run the business, and Dan always wanted to live in this part of California. From the time the owner and the buyer met, there was an established trust and good chemistry. The owner accepted an offer that included an agreement for the seller to carry 10% of the financing. The buyer was able to acquire funding and a closing date was set. Then an unforeseeable event took place – a national lending crisis; the funding source changed their criteria for this acquisition and Dan no longer qualified. Dennis was upset that the buyer was no longer qualified to purchase the business. He was not about to lower the price of the business – this was his retirement. Now, after several months of tedious negotiations it was time to start looking for a new buyer. Dan was irked that Dennis would not even consider lowering his already “overpriced” business. Dan was equally frustrated with the funding source and was watching his dream of owning the business evaporate. The negotiator/mediator was able to ascertain that both men valued collaboration and wanted to see if the business relationship and deal could be saved.

Dennis’ Position: Get lending and pay me what I am asking or the deal is over

Dan’s Position: Lower the price so that I can qualify for a loan or I will find another business to purchase

 Dennis’ Interest: I want to retire; I wants to work with a buyer that I like and trust; I am willing to work collaboratively

 Dan’s Interest: I want to own this business/I want to live in California; I want to be able to afford the business; I am willing to work collaboratively

 Notice how the positions do not allow for negotiation or compromise, but when we examine the interests, both men have several interests in common. In this case they were able to agree that they wanted to work collaboratively and get a deal done. In a relatively short period of time,  Dennis was able to understand Dan’s sense of loss and frustration and Dan was able to understand Dennis’ retirement fears and needs. An agreement was reached where Dennis would carry a 25% note for Dan. Dan was then able to obtain funding from the same source with the new criteria and Dennis received his asking price. The transaction was completed and both the business and the relationship flourish.

 “So when you are listening to somebody, completely, attentively, then you are listening not only to the words, but also to the feeling of what is being conveyed, to the whole of it, not part of it.” Krishnamurti (Indian philosopher)

IP Facilitation: The Critical Awareness of Perspective

Monday, March 1st, 2010

 

Business negotiators and mediators all too frequently ignore the cultural and historical factors that are an unseen basic that make conflicts seem insoluble.

 

I was called to provide some facilitation and coaching for the top leadership of one of the largest paper manufacturers in the world. Getting communications to penetrate through this rather gigantic organization was a problem in all levels of the company from the Board of Directors through the structure all the way to general employees. We spent time over several days with the top management of the company sharpening individual communication capability and practicing the individual communication of a new corporate vision.

One of the participants in my group was responsible for the manufacturing units located in the former Soviet Union. This executive was an American and had been sent to get the manufacturing in Russia up to speed and standards with the existing global employee base. Between sessions he said that he could not understand why it was so difficult for policies, announcements and news in general to reach throughout the fifteen thousand employees for whom he was responsible. He spoke of all the technical approaches that he had taken and the lack of success he still faced.

My question to him related to the cultural norms that he was facing. When he asked for further explanation, I took him through an understanding of the Russian mentality under the Soviet structure. In that seventy-year period workers did not have great control of their economic lives and neither did their supervisors and “bosses”. Where someone in that situation could feel that they had control was in the area of information. The statement “Knowledge is Power” had a peak of reality in that culture. So now under a freer market system, the cultural bias is still to keep control through keeping information to themselves. It is that cultural reference frame that needs to change. Did the company reward for information transfer? Were bonus structures in line for those who got information to all their employees? Had this executive addressed directly with his direct reports the value he attached to this as a function of management?

Without understanding our own cultural reference frame, and the frameworks of those who are party to a negotiation or mediation, although we may be capable of dealing with the principal material points of a dispute, we may be headed towards a distinct lack of success in resolving the underlying conflict. We must always keep in mind that each party has a historical, cultural and psychological background that makes their perspective unique and requires a unique resolution matrix.

Richard Dash, Mediator & Facilitator

“We must not always try to plumb the depths of the human heart; the truths it contains are among those that are best seen in half-light or in perspective” Francois R. Chateaubriand (French author and diplomat, 1768-1848)