Avoiding Disputes:  Non-Mediated Solutions

It’s not unusual for ‘creatives’ to be more interested in the challenge at hand than in the detail of contractual arrangements or changes to these arrangements required during the design process.

I sat on the committee re-drafting the joint BIID/RIBA Interiors contract due to printed by RIBA Publishing later this year. I assure all interior designers reading this that it’s straightforward, and easy to use and update. Occasionally, however, the pace of developmental changes in the course of a project and across a swathe of different design sectors creates difficulties for companies, irrespective of their size.

I’ve been involved recently in several non-mediation problem solving consultations. In one instance a goods supplier, having provided a site visit as part of their quotation, arrived to install their product without having been advised that a site change had taken place in the interim. The contract did not assign notification of change as a client responsibility.

The supplier believed that common sense made a quick call or e-mail from the client appropriate to advise them of the change. The client believed that as it was in the interest of the supplier to check the site prior to the install, the supplier had been negligent in not doing so.

The balance outstanding was in five figures. Each party was convinced that the other had been at fault.

Through a telephone consultation the issues were clarified, re-framed and a workable solution found. Minor remedial work which offered additional benefit to the client at a minimal cost was agreed. Meanwhile, the supplier made a small modification to the goods.

While the goods modification was the more expensive of the two changes, the supplier decided that their professional reputation warranted the additional expense.

My telephone consultations took a total of 1.25 hours. I’m happy to report the parties both settled this problem and were able to agree a further project.

Charles and I offer problem-solving, conflict audit and negotiation support in addition to full mediation services. Addressing conflict and potential conflict at an early stage before antagonistic views get entrenched and costs start to soar saves time, money and stress. And it promotes better sleep.

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