Early and Alternative Dispute Resolution Methods. Member Spotlight: Janie Winning

Who is Janie Winning and how did she begin working in mediation with ADR methods?

Janie is the CEO of Winning CM Strategies. She started her education studying finance and marketing at Cedarville University and obtained a master’s degree in Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) from Pepperdine University, School of Law.  Janie is trained International Institute for Restorative Practice (IIRP) in Facilitating Circles and Restorative Justice Conferences.

Janie’s work is predominantly concentrated on the construction industry. Janie’s specialization is strategic planning, scheduling and operations for mega construction programs. This career requires strategic communication with multiple stakeholders, specifically, on projects which have strayed from their original vision and goals in the areas of cost, schedule, and quality. The ability to facilitate a productive approach to conflict with project team members is essential. The goal is collaboration and alignment as the team works toward project completion and satisfying client requirements.

Difficult conversations often occur abruptly without an opportunity to prepare. The outcome of these conversations is a pivotal moment for the project team as they respond to the circumstances in which they find themselves. This requires subject matter knowledge, emotional intelligence, and the ability to respond and manage a productive conversation. She stated, The practice of mediation opens the space and facilitates an environment where these conversations can bring the team back to common ground.  Whether they are successful is the success of the client and my success as well.As a result, Janie has started to shift her strategic planning and management practices” to a an approach which integrates the mediation perspective.” Her work integrates ADR such as,  mediation, facilitation, and settlement into project and program strategies and solutions.

What are the benefits of using mediation and ADR methods in the construction sector?

The construction sector in California fosters a narrow framework of relationships where entities such as contractors, owners, architects, engineers, construction managers and authority having jurisdictions, will develop overlapping relationships with each other. Today, they may appear to be on opposing sides, but the next day may give way to an opportunity where they find themselves on the same team working toward a common goal.

Janie works on large-scale construction projects and programs.  These programs operate within multiple layers of management on each project.  Success depends on the ability to facilitate dialogues and extract information from the collective intelligence to bring views and positions into alignment. The goal is to reach the appropriate solution and settlement.  This contributes to forward progress of achieving the desired goals, avoiding loss of profit or relationships. Hence, Janie sees her goal as keeping the project teams with which I am working from entertaining arbitration as an option in the final stage of the dispute”, in this context, she sees the necessity for a mechanism whereby to resolve disputes arising within the construction phase rather than leaving it to the end.

In her opinion, this network of intertwined relations between all these parties can be viewed from a new perspective. Ergo, the basic ground on which Janie’s work is based; establishing processes to restore, strengthen, and support the relations between all parties.  She believes that it is necessary for teams to resolve their problem before it escalates, not only to meet the current program goals; and because, inevitably, these parties will find opportunity to work together again in the future.” This is what Janie loves to do.  Construction can be a tough industry; it is hard work in a hard environment; however, she has a passion for alignment.  She states,there is nothing more satisfying than walking into a room full of people that do not like each other and do not want to talk to each other, and they leave the room with  alignment and path forward.Janie wants to support the parties’ views of the conflict as an opportunity to bring them closer, rather than an opportunity to divide them.

How can women be active and affect in this field?

The largest number of workers in the construction sector are men.  Janie has worked hard to garner acceptance and support in leading the process of solving problems and conflicts. In this aspect, she says,I am often faced with a dismissive attitude, I am talked over, and many times before I utter a word, it is questioned whether or not I will or even should contribute to the conversation.  I am asked for my credentials a lot.” For her, facing criticism or rejection is not new, but what distinguishes her way of working is how she deals with this problem, Janie states I have not always had a stellar response; I have learned over the years, the best response in this environment is to channel the conversation by asking open-ended questions about the project, the circumstances, the individuals, their goals or aims.”

The challenges she is facing within her work

One of the important challenges facing her work is the inability for project teams to adapt to change. Polarization has increased in the last few years with individualsclosing their circle and keep their echo chamber small. This influences the ability to have authentic conversations.  People taking sides against each other without substantive cause can impinge the ability to resolve conflicts or facilitate crucial conversations.  

Is ADR acceptable in the private sector, and to what extent?

The construction industry is seeing a slow change in in approach to conflicts and the use of alternative dispute resolution. All stakeholders on a project or program do not want to end projects in conflict; hence, Janie has developed processes and tools where conflict can be resolved during the course of the work itself rather than waiting until the end.

Disputes affect workflow execution, resulting in inefficiencies and stiffen profit growth. Disputes must be resolved efficiently and effectively to maintain healthy progress.  There are more companies in the private sector which monitor, assess, and develop strategies mitigating conflict before it influences a project or program with an unfortunate turn.  Project teams must be able to pivot, adapt and establish controls which intentionally move toward the conflict and its resolution.

What is next for Janie in her mediation and ADR career and development?

Janie aims for the possibility of integrating Early Dispute Resolution (EDR) and ADR into construction contracts.  This sets the means and the tone for the project teams to resolve disputes from start to finish without delaying the consideration or resolution of any dispute until the end. Janie is a non-lawyer and is working to establish relationships with in-house and transactional lawyers who support the use of alternative and early dispute resolution.  Janie sees mediation as not just resolution but alignment, and to resolve conflicts we need to move toward them, hence, mediation is moving toward these conflicts with the goal of strengthening positions, relationships, and bringing clarity, she believes that although conflict may divide individuals, it has the ability, to strengthen relationships between individuals and groups. Janie’s ultimate goal is to change the face of conflict.

Article by Yousra Hasona, MBBI Writer