A Page from our Practice Notes: Success is no excuse for forgetting to plan for failure

I’m going to interrupt my series of posts on good reasons to use distance mediation to share, with those of you who are mediators, a technology lesson that came my way late yesterday afternoon.

Our team of distance mediation practitioners, who I’ve already referred to in an earlier post, meets regularly.  The meetings always take place “from a distance” using some type of web or videoconferencing platform.  These technologies have improved tremendously over the past few years, and many of the problems which initially plagued us when using the platforms have been ironed out.  In fact, they have been ironed out so well that the organizer for these meetings (yours truly) has recently started forgetting to apply a key rule that our team established in an earlier phase of our services:  When relying on technology to communicate, ALWAYS have a backup plan. 

By now you’ve likely guessed where this is going.  Almost as if by design – to remind me of the need to plan for technology failure – at yesterday’s team meeting the platform’s audio did not work for two of our mediators.  With only an hour available to us and no backup plan in place, we were limited to two equally unacceptable options:  Abandon our agenda and waste the valuable time of the other team members while we tried to figure out the audio problem; or, leave the two mediators on their own to resolve the issue and proceed meeting without them.

Had this occurred in a mediation, with clients and their lawyers in attendance, it would have been a disastrous situation.  As it was, our team is well-versed in handling technology failures and they all dealt with the problem like the seasoned professionals that they are.  Nevertheless, it was a well-placed lesson that in no way does repeated success with a technology eliminate – or excuse the practitioner for forgetting – the need to have a “Plan B” in place.  Technology, no matter how perfect it may seem, will eventually fail to perform as expected and everyone involved in the mediation needs to know exactly what to do to continue communicating when this happens.

You can expect to see more postings on this and other practitioner related topics as our team continues to explore strategies for using technology to conduct mediations.

Photo credit: “Revert to Plan B” by martymadrid 

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