Designing a Conflict Management System for Higher Education: A Case Study for Design in Integrative Organizations


  • The opinions in this article are my own and are not necessarily those of the Consortium on Negotiation and Conflict Resolution or the University System of Georgia.


In 1994, the University System of Georgia embarked on an ambitious effort to reduce the costs of disputing by creating what is now possibly the largest comprehensive, integrated conflict management system (ICMS) in higher education. For almost twenty years, the Consortium on Negotiation and Conflict Resolution has provided technical advice and support for this initiative. This article reviews the context, summarizes the ICMS design, draws a few lessons, and speculates on the value of this work. Because of my close personal involvement, I am straying from convention and telling this story from the first-person perspective. Although probably skewed by hindsight, the historical context is important because our decisions and actions reflected the prevailing conditions and our nascent level of knowledge and experience. The overarching lessons are applicable to most organizations and particularly salient for the conflict management challenges facing the diverse colleges and universities in the United States today and any multifaceted, integrative organization.