The musket gun in strata management land

Ross Paull |

This week, I spoke briefly at a conference for people who manage strata schemes, live in strata communities, or provide services for them. I kicked-off my talk with some ‘BGOs’…

Blinding Glimpses of the Obvious:

  • First, the widespread saturation of the internet in contemporary living is a given;
  • Second, the mainstreaming of online systems for personal and business applications is now the norm, and
  • The final BGO…dealing with conflict situations is a pervasive part of a Strata Manager’s lot in life!

My informal polling of conference attendees underscored consistent agreement with the suggestion that conflict is rife in strata communities and many funny war stories were shared. Everyone knew the one about the strata manager who was shot with a vintage musket gun in Lakemba. In fact, frequent references were made to the “3 P’s” of conflict in strata-land:

  • People
  • Pets
  • Parking

A general observation was also made regarding Western liberal democracies in that they are increasingly rights-based: human rights, legal rights, welfare rights…you name it. Everyone seems to vigorously defend their rights. Naturally, in strata living, with tenants and owner occupiers bumping into each other in common areas, this often translates to high emotion and people lock themselves into positions that protect their rights. My talk centred on using online dispute resolution (ODR) tools to manage these disputes and how there is no great leap of faith in doing so. Nowadays, you can engage with strangers online to score a date or purchase a car. There are many examples of online ‘clearinghouses’ for the exchange of relevant information – ones that are scalable as they can cope with high volume traffic.

In the context of disputes, specifically in the strata environment, why shouldn’t there be a similar “clearinghouse” made available to save time and money? I spoke about how the dispute resolution industry is ready for disruptive innovation and the mission of our home-grown company is to fill the void by designing and building web-based applications for conflict management under a Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) delivery model. Our portals can guide and structure the online exchange between two or more parties without their need to physically meet or speak. We have crafted a series of sequential steps that prompt the process of identifying and exchanging pertinent information and brings structure to what otherwise may be ad-hoc dialogue.

In doing so, our objective is to upstream the conflict to promote self-reliance so that participants do not require the presence of 3rd parties – including strata managers, mediators or adjudicators – in the first instance. The system is accessed through the internet and has easy-to-use point-and-click functionality for the average punter that embeds win/win negotiation techniques into the user interface. They learn what win/win means by following the pathway – no education modules are required using it.

How can this system assist the strata management community?

For starters, it can certainly counter the frustrating, unfocused delivery of information so strata managers aren’t there for the emotional spill and ‘noise’. Specifically, it is a tool to slow things down and get people to think differently vis-à-vis the following:

  • A guided exchange to safely vent and narrow down the underlying issues;
  • A pathway to move from problems to solutions that incorporates a‘Wizard’ for options and ideas generation;

Even if a solution is not agreed, it creates an audit trail for clarity so it will be faster and more economical if the conflict elevates to mediation or adjudication. The application will be piloted in the coming months so that some parties to a strata dispute will be invited to try it out so we can identify wrinkles (if any) in the process. Integrating the online software into managing strata conflict could potentially improve the prospects of self-resolution and significantly reduce the work loads and ‘brain damage’ from handling many disputes.

Case management tools are included in the software. At the very least, issues can be filtered down for economy.