The Negotiator Magazine

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Minimize Surprises. Another way to minimize third party damage to negotiations is to get prior agreement from stakeholders regarding the scope of the teams' authority to bargain, and to minimize stakeholder surprise by keeping all stakeholders informed of the progress of the negotiations. In San Diego the superintendent, union president, and union and school boards were kept informed throughout, and the larger audience of parents and businesspeople were kept informed through press releases jointly crafted by union and management.

Engaging Key Constituencies, Especially Skeptics of the Process. Because the school board needed to approve any contractual agreements, and because there was concern the board and negotiation teams might not see eye to eye on certain issues, the teams initiated a presentation for the board to update them on progress and status of the negotiations. This presentation sent a signal to the board that the teams were truly working with each other. The board, while still skeptical, saw the seriousness of intent. In addition, this event provided another opportunity to the union and management teams to work together and enhance their cross-team relationships.

This presentation, along with the fact that the management team had continuous interaction with the school board, made it easier during a difficult time. As "agents" of the board, the management team continually probed for the board's interests and reality tested their positions and demands. When the management team became convinced that under current circumstances a deal was impossible, they renegotiated with the school board for new parameters - parameters they believed would create an option that would work. For school board members, who had been kept in the loop all along, this was not a surprise; their role and duty as enablers was clear; and they were open to the management team's request. The communication process the teams had put in place paid off when they needed it.

The union team also had a constituency to answer to - the union's representative assembly. Initially the representative assembly was concerned with the possibility that the union team was "giving in" to the management team. The union met regularly with its representative assembly to hear the assembly's concerns and update the assembly about progress, defusing some of these fears. In this forum the (now former) critics chosen for the team were the most persuasive. These critics were experienced and successful in adversarial and positional bargaining, and therefore commanded much credibility with the representative assembly as they detailed the successes of the collaborative bargaining process.

D. Between Parties At The Table And The Facilitator: Creating Focus, Flexibility, And Movement

The Danger: Facilitators who lose control of the process or exert too much control, critics who do not allow the facilitator to facilitate, bargainers who are not prepared to solve problems on their own after the facilitator is gone. A good working relationship between the facilitators and the bargainers will make or break the facilitation.

Some helpful strategies:

Multiple Facilitators. Having at least two facilitators is wise for a number of reasons. Complex issues demand a lot of attention and intake and processing of information. Multiple parties means multiple individuals asking facilitators for different things at the same time; and these requests range from mediating a difficult interpersonal relationship to requests to change the room temperature. All of these requests are better handled by two than by one. Two facilitators allow one to observe group and individual behavior while the other facilitates; it allows the facilitators to jointly design and debrief each session. In addition, the facilitators' interaction with each other models the collaborative behavior they request of bargainers. In San Diego, one facilitator attended each side's private caucuses, and dealt with intra-team alignment issues. Finally, having two facilitators allows each to take mental breaks from bargainers that allow for reflection, creativity and insight.

Engaging Critics of the Process. Facilitators must build credibility with potential critics of the interest-based approach. In San Diego, the facilitators' recognition of the important role of critics and solicitation of their expertise and advice assisted the process. Over time, critics sensed the facilitators' respect for their experiences and points of view, and in turn they respected the facilitators.

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