The Negotiating Solutions workshop as a resource for rebuilding our industry

We all knew that our industry and our own businesses were fragile prior to September 11th. We'd been seeking to implement major change initiatives – lean manufacturing, supply chain management, six sigma, global alliances, etc. We weren't doing this for the sake of novelty. We had already concluded that we must make major changes in how we do business to survive and thrive in an environment that required an ever more seamless flow of material along the value stream and a reduction in the internecine warfare between management and labor.

These efforts had several things in common: Our managements had crafted strategic mission and value statements consistent with the changed environment. We had developed cascading sets of mission statements and goals in support of theirs. To succeed, we needed to partner effectively with others over whom we had no direct control, all of whom had values, perceptions, interests, and needs that differed from ours. These efforts required us to choose to work collaboratively together even though our immediate measurements and reward structures might be in direct conflict. They required that we operate with integrity, and that there be consistency between the strategic statements we made and the path that we walked.

And they had other things in common. Perhaps without exception, none of these efforts was truly system-wide. Our walk for the most part didn't match our talk. And, if we're honest about it, we might have achieved and taken credit for admirable results in one area, but they weren't transferring and they weren't embedding. We didn't know why. It was not for lack of trying.

Now, post-September 11th, we must rebuild our industry better than it was before. The meltdown was so catastrophic that we may now have the courage and persistence to approach needed change on a system-wide basis. But we run a major risk of applying the paradigms of the past – models, assumptions, and behaviors – to the opportunities of the future. If so, we'll fail. This is the definition of putting new wine in old wineskins. To succeed, we have to change not just our intentions but our behaviors – how we work day-in, day-out with one another.

Ostensibly, the purpose of our behaviors is to achieve our objectives in a particular environment. Negotiation, which Newsweek calls "the game of life," underlies most of our behaviors at work. We've been trying unsuccessfully to change behaviors through strategic visions and expectations. But there's a missing link. Our behaviors flow out of deeply held and largely unexamined assumptions, which flow out of our paradigms – our master models for how the world works. These paradigms served us well enough in a prior universe. They're now keeping us stuck in old assumptions and behaviors that are working at cross-purposes to our own objectives. To truly change, we have to change the paradigms that drive the behaviors. Here's where Negotiating Solutions comes in. The program is so highly experiential and so intensive that experienced, able people get beneath the visible behaviors to the invisible paradigms and assumptions that drive them. They discover the disconnect between their desired objectives and the behaviors they're using to achieve them. They not only realize what lousy solutions they're currently getting, they comprehend how much more is possible and realizable. Then, ideally attending with their real-life counterparts, they build a more efficient, more effective, and more human way to negotiate wise and enduring solutions together - far better for their businesses and for themselves.

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