As expected with any project, disputes can arise at any stage unexpectedly. In order to be prepared for these conflicts and disputes, it’s common practice to develop a dispute resolution plan. A good approach is to develop one primary dispute resolution plan, which accounts for multiple different plans and strategies for resolving disputes. This helps prevent a snowball effect from occurring among involved parties.
Furthermore, there is no “one size fits all” dispute resolution plan that can account for all disputes that may arise. This is why it’s important to consider who is involved and those who are impacted by the project when developing plans. For example, a project manager will need to prepare a strategy for internal disputes among team members and contractors, yet will need a completely different approach for managing stakeholders.
Additionally, another separate plan for community members/neighborhood will be needed if the project involves construction or alterations and, further, the demands of the given location may require a plan itself.
In preparation for these demands, it’s a good idea for project managers to develop a document that lists out a strategy and plan of action to be signed by all involved parties. In doing so, the project manager is able to avoid increasing costs and plan for involved risks and how they will be handled.
Another major key to an effective dispute resolution plan, is to involve personnel who are fit to represent their organization within the plan, and to account for their participation. This allows for an effective strategy to be put in place when needed, as well as developing standard protocol among the involved members, both in relation to the project manager and to other stakeholders.
When to Establish Dispute Resolution Plans
You should develop the dispute resolution approach for all parties and/or stakeholders as soon as they are identified and designated with their involvement with the project. Dispute resolution plans should be determined prior to the stakeholder’s formal participation in the project.
Steps in Developing Dispute Resolution Plans
Here’s an idea as to the key steps in developing dispute resolution plans:
- Designate the key point-of-contact with each major stakeholder.
- If possible, have each stakeholder/group involved provide written documentation to its designated project point-of-contact.
- Develop a plan or network of dispute resolution steps and protocols, with an established time frame for which disputes are send up the chain of command if deemed necessary.
- Create a web of communication involving all parties and a formal protocol for sharing potential issues early into the project.
- Establish a project leader who is in charge of managing issues and following up on resolution protocol.
- Identify an uninvolved third-party (e.g., Industry-relevant expert) who can become involved if needed to aid in resolution of any issues.
Overall, dispute resolution plans should account for any and all possibilities that may occur over the course of a project. Project managers should be aware of all stakeholders, whether formal or informal, as well as the environment that the project is taking place in.
Lastly, it is important to understand that there is no “one size fits all” approach to creating a dispute resolution plan. So, being flexible and factoring everything in will help in creating the most effective overall plan.