January 15th, 2018

Ten Steps for an Interest-Based Resolution

From the book Peaceful Resolutions a summary of one of the steps to resolving conflict is a free six sided pocket guide (that fits in your pocket).  I have given away over 3,000 of these during presentations.  If you would like one simply contact me and I will send one to you electronically. One of the six sides of the tri-fold pocket guide offers Ten Steps for an Interest-Based Resolution.  This 10 step summary process is elaborated on in this text. 

The commentary that follows presents all ten steps with an emphasis on step 1 - defining the problem, steps 2 to 8 taking a systematic approach, step 9 testing the proposed solution and step 10 considering the best alternative to a negotiated solution.  These are the ten steps.

1.         Define the problem (issues) and take on one issue at a time

2.         Listen to understand the emotion and facts associated with the issue

3.         Identify and clarify interests

4.         Generate options

5.         Determine the impacts of options

6.         Evaluate the impacts of the options

7.         Select a solution

8.         Consider Implementing the solution or go back to an appropriate step

9.         Before implementing the solution consider testing the solution

10.       Consider BATNA and WATNA if no solution were to be found

Now lets look at the four broad areas identified above

1.         Define the problem (issues) and take on one issue at a time.  The first step is critical.  Define the problem by focusing on the problem. Be hard on the problem and soft on the people.  We tend to want to blame. We tend to demonize the other party.   We have been taught and our reptilian brain focuses on revenge, getting even, making the bad guys pay.   However, we need to de-escalate ourselves and our team and truly focus on the problem. We need to define the problem in economic, social and environmental terms as applicable. If this step is not initiated properly to define the issues the chances of success are significantly reduced.  Once the issues have been defined, then it is possible to potentially prioritize the issues and address issues one at a time.

Steps two to eight present a systemic approach to:

2. listen to the other party,

3. identify and clarify issues with the other party,

4. generate options,

5. determine the impacts of the options (economically, socially, environmentally)

6. evaluate the impacts of the options,

7. select a solution,

8. consider implementing the solution or go back to an appropriate step,

Step 9 states “Before implementing the solution consider testing the solution.”  Think about this in terms of several environments:

at work with an employee;

at work on a systemic change;

at work with a difficult person;

at work with your supervisor;

at work with your employee;

at work with your peer;

at work with a customer, vendor or stakeholder;

at work with any form of conflict;

outside of work (home, family, friends, neighbors, hobby etc.)

Testing allows the parties to see how well it is working and given the best laid plans there may be unforeseen consequences that were unknown. This allow the parties to potentially make a change should the need arise.

Step 10 states “Consider BATNA and WATNA if no solution can be found. BATNA is the best alternative to a negotiated agreement and WATNA is the worst alternative to a negotiated agreement.  Know what these are going into any interest-based process (negotiation, mediation, or facilitation before the arbitration or litigation). This allow you to decide how far you can go in either instance.  BATNA defines how far you may go for example in a negotiation before pursuing arbitration or litigation.  WATNA may present an alternative that if we proceeded to that point we may need to do something very negative for example such as liquidate the business if we cannot reach an agreement. Generally we don’t have WATNA’s in most negotiations, but when they arise the WATNA is very clear.

Knowing and considering these 10 steps when in a conflict with someone else can go a long way towards mutually working towards a solution. I do not practice in the area of family law as a mediator, but for my peers that do, they point out that often times by having the parents focus on the children and their best interests, this can overcome significant elements of emotion and these steps can be followed to reach an amicable agreement. Consider these steps with respect to your next conflict.

Michael Gregory, NSA, ASA, CVA, MBA and a Qualified Mediator with the Minnesota Supreme Court is an international speaker that helps others resolve conflict, negotiate winning solutions and inspire leaders.  Mike services clients business to IRS, business to business and within businesses. On point resources are available online at Mike’s web site and check out the blog. Mike may be contacted directly at mg@mikegreg.com or at (651) 633-5311.