Everyday, throughout the U.S. and the rest of the world, in organizations as diverse as the United Nations, Coca-Cola, the National Institutes of Health and even Columbia University, a few hundred people serve as Organizational Ombuds. This small cadre may well be the most impactful and valuable component of the spectrum of ADR and Conflict Management providers that exist, annually creating billions of dollars in savings and benefits.
The problem though is, how would we know?
Organizational Ombuds function according to a Standards of Practice that requires Independence, Neutrality, Informality and Confidentiality. These essential characteristics, while the OO’s unique value proposition, also create a real challenge in measuring and declaring the contributions created by the role. People who use the function largely appreciate the benefits. But what about the rest of the organization, especially the leaders? How does a quasi-secret function prove it’s worth?
John Zinsser has spent nearly two decades designing and refining audit methodologies that offer an accurate depiction of ombuds value creation while not undermining the essential characteristics.
Breaking contributions into three areas, Economic, Humanistic and Organizational, Zinsser and Pacifica Human Communications co-founder Andrea Schenck, help ombuds and institutional leaders understand if desired changes and benefits are obtained , as well as what unanticipated impacts occur due to the ombuds. One recent study demonstrated a simple economic ROI for a program of more than $22/1.
Engaging NECR students in the pursuit of ombuds contribution over the last two years has helped Zinsser refine his own thinking, and may well be launching a new wave of experts prepared to help create new ombuds programs and accurately assess existing ombuds’ contributions to their institutions and the world at large.