ADR Systems Design

ADR Chambers offers dispute resolution systems design consultation services. Consultants help organizations that have problems managing disputes, whether because of their frequency, size, complexity, timing, or number. For more information, please contact ADR Chambers.

What is Alternative Dispute Resolution System Design?

If your organization has problems managing disputes, whether because of their frequency, size, complexity, timing or number, we can help you design a Dispute Resolution System to better manage those disputes.

Conflict exists in all areas of life, and certainly within organizations, both public and private. The existence of conflict is a necessary catalyst that allows an organization to survive, evolve, and progress in changing times. The goal in dealing with conflict is not to eliminate it but to respond to it constructively, rather than destructively.

Dealing with conflict constructively results in well-considered decisions that move the organization forward toward achieving its objectives. Dealing with conflict destructively, however, results in bad decisions, low morale, and unhappy employees.

Successful organizations deal with conflict in ways that improve rather than destroy relationships, and that endeavour to leave everyone satisfied with the processes used to arrive at solutions, whether or not they agree with those solutions.

Existing Dispute Resolution System

Few organizations have undertaken an analysis of the kinds of disputes that arise in order to determine whether the processes and structures they are using are the most effective to achieve the organization’s goals.

Many organizations deal with disputes as they arise, with little or no structure. Others are unaware of their options for dispute resolution, or the costs and benefits of the various options. And where organizations have disputes with each other, they may automatically sue rather than exploring cheaper and faster alternative dispute resolution processes that may preserve their relationship.

Some large organizations (and unionized environments) have dispute resolution systems established, perhaps through the collective agreement. However, that does not mean that these workplaces should not undertake a systems design analysis to determine how to improve the system. Employees and management will need to work together to design processes that benefit the people both inside and outside the organization.

ADR System Design

ADR system design helps to match the appropriate dispute resolution process with the type of dispute and the culture of an organization. The analysis produces a dispute resolution structure that is both appropriate for the organization and cost effective. Because there is no cookie-cutter solution for disputes, the organization must assess its needs to determine which processes are appropriate in particular circumstances, and how they can best be incorporated into the organization’s culture.

Goals of ADR System Design

Each system design project is different, but they tend to have the goals of:

  • Minimizing the number and frequency of disputes
  • Saving costs on handling disputes (including sometimes legal costs)
  • Resolving disputes faster
  • Providing an outlet for disputants to discuss frustrations
  • Achieving results that are stable and enforceable
  • Maintaining good relationships with stakeholders
  • Avoiding protracted disputes by providing a framework to deal with future disputes as they arise
  • Developing processes that are flexible enough to handle a range of dispute types in an appropriate manner

System Design Methods

Our approach to system design is to work closely with the members of the organization. A design team is typically established (including both members of the Stitt Feld Handy Group and key personnel from the organization). The organization’s personnel on the design team bring to the team a thorough understanding of the organization’s goals and constraints, and the Stitt Feld Handy Group brings its familiarity with ADR processes and how they operate.

Our tools and methods for Alternative Dispute Resolution System design include:

  • Diagnosing of root causes and issues through a combination of
    methods, including focus groups, surveys, meetings, consultation with all stakeholders, and interviews.
  • Analyzing organizational needs
  • Designing appropriate Dispute Resolution methods such as prevention, negotiation, mediation, arbitration, and peer review.
  • Considering a range of creative interest-based to rights-based methods including loop-backs, exits, and re-entries
  • Establishing pilot projects and related training and education where appropriate
  • Evaluating the System to enhance and improve its implementation

Over the years, ADR Chambers has helped design Dispute Resolution processes for a variety of both public and private sector organizations, including (among others):

  • The Canadian Human Rights Commission
  • Canadian Pension Plan
  • Ontario Human Rights Commission
  • Canadian Tire
  • Bank of Montreal
  • British Columbia Workers Compensation Board
  • The Canadian Bankers Association
  • The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario
  • The Law Society of Upper Canada
  • The Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission
  • The Professional Engineers of Ontario
  • Canada Customs and Revenue Agency

For more information about ADR System Design for your organization, please contact Elinor Whitmore at

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