Former NHS Director of HR Graham White shares his thoughts on Marc Reid's recent publication.
As an ardent lover of old cars, I have a bookcase full of old Haynes Manuals for long lost cars I once had or desired. These manuals are the easy guides of their day outlining not only what is likely to go wrong with your prized possession but also what needs to be done when it does. Formatted as a step by step guide outlining what is needed to ensure a successful outcome, these books showed everything from diagrams to pictures making them the DIY mechanics holy grail.
It's very rare that I ever have a similar experience in my professional life. Whilst I have stopped counting the number of books that have made such "holy grail" like promises on their dust covers hoping I will believe they are the "only book I will ever need" or assuring me that once I have read it I will be "fully equipped to face any eventuality" the reality is in most cases the books did not live up to their expectation.
Consequently, it is a real thrill for me to be able to review this book and confirm that nothing I could say about it will be either an exaggeration or an overstatement. Like the writer of the foreword I am thrilled to say this book offers the opportunity for myself and every reader to keep it close by as an invaluable resource to be consulted regularly and not just when conflict rears its ugly head.
"DIY Mediation " by Marc Reid delivers a hands on solution to the problem so many HR professionals try to ignore. Whilst most managers and HR professionals are eagerly hoping that a few team building activities, a regular team brief and an annual recognition event will ensure their organisation is conflict free, Marc declares from his opening chapter that Conflict is an inescapable element of every workplace and needs to be faced up to and addressed head on. This book is not intended as a guide to spot conflict, it is a manual for every HR manager out there who genuinely wants to address conflict whilst it is still low level and capable of being addressed without reliance on formal procedures.
Whilst I do not plan to spoil the book by revealing all of its structure and approach I can assure every reader that it will neither embarrass nor insult you. Much of its content is a blinding flash of the obvious yet at no time did I feel I was being patronised. Constructed in three main parts, (The Issue, The Skills & The Process.) the book is constructed in a sound logical pattern of thinking. Whilst not specifically designed to be a textbook the book very carefully takes the reader on a journey that eases them into an arena where many feel uncomfortable. The first section of the book could stand alone in its own right as a useful handbook for HR managers outlining the full life cycle of conflict resolution from what it is to how to resolve it. However, by adding two further sections to the book and the appendices the book moves from useful to essential.
A further point to take special note of is the writer’s use of "Key Points" and Diagrams, both of which add significant benefit to the narrative allowing the flow of learning to be supported with graphical implants that you will not forget easily. I am convinced the learning from The Titanic analogy will never leave me? The book also has sparkles of brilliance where it steps out of its expected course and produces small sections of incredibly valuable information on topics such as the tangible and the intangible cost of conflict on an organisation.
The most exciting aspect of this book is that it is designed to take the reader on a journey of confidence building. Chapter after chapter leads the HR manager / reader down an unknown but increasingly logical pathway. The revelation of the "AGREE" model comes at the perfect point in the book when the reader is beginning to feel a little overwhelmed. The model itself delivers a bolt of confidence to any budding mediator who is seeking an operating model from which to launch their tentative steps into informal mediation.
Whilst I don't want to spoil all of the surprises that are in store for the reader I can't help but once again mention the appendices. Like the pictures and flowcharts in the Haynes publications, this book culminates in a treasure trove of information, guidance and examples. From sample questions to on line assessment the book just keeps getting better.
The book concludes not unsurprisingly with five simple strategies for dealing with conflict. This section is a gem in its own right but when blended with the rest of the publication it confirms what I have said throughout this book review, that this book is a must-have for every HR manager