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After conducting diagnostic interviews with key parties to the negotiation, jointly and individually, and ascertaining their interests in breaking the deadlock and getting progress on key issues in time to impact the city budget process, we recommended that we act as third party facilitators during the negotiation, utilizing the one-text procedure.
The One-Text Process
The one-text procedure is a systematic process for shifting negotiators away from thinking about concessions, by using a neutral, third party facilitator to elicit underlying interests and to simplify the process of jointly inventing many options and deciding on one. After eliciting the issues and interests of all the parties, the facilitator drafts a proposal and presents it to the parties as a draft for their criticism. The parties may not accept or reject any part of the draft at this stage of the process; they may only criticize.
The process is called the "one-text" procedure because quite literally there is only one text. All the parties get a copy of the facilitator's draft, but they are not allowed to keep it, revise it, or add to it. They must return the draft at the end of the session. The only people who can revise, delete, or add to the draft are the facilitators. This process helps prevent people from taking positions or getting a vested interest in particular language or proposed terms. It allows them to criticize freely without damaging their working relationships. It also allows them to learn that they often share the same interests, and only disagree about the means used to achieve them. The facilitators continue to revise and resubmit drafts to the parties until the facilitators feel the draft they have reflects the best they can do to meet all parties' interests. Then and only then, they offer the parties an opportunity to say "yes" or "no." At that point, the parties have a clear choice; either I say yes to this or I start over. This procedure was used at Camp David in the negotiations between Israeli Prime Minister Begin and Egyptian President Sadat. President Carter and Secretary of State Vance created 23 drafts in 13 days before they had a proposal to which both sides could say yes.
At the first joint meeting of the negotiation teams for the BTU and the BPS, we explained the one-text procedure and secured joint approval of the proposed ground rules and agenda. We had read the BPS and BTU proposals; but in the initial meetings we never referred to the positions either side had staked out on those issues. Instead the initial joint meetings with both teams at the table focused on questions designed to elicit their principal interests, such as, "If you had unlimited funds to design the ideal educational system for the Boston Public Schools, what would your system look like?" or, "If your present budget were cut in half, what would you cut and what would you save as absolutely essential?" or, "How would you restructure schools in such a crisis?"
These questions educated us and the respective parties about the interests and priorities of each. Then the parties were asked to identify and prioritize the key issues in the negotiations. The agenda for the next few sessions focused on identifying and clarifying the interests of the parties around each of those issues. We used the information it gathered about the interests of both parties to draft a one-text that we then presented to both negotiation teams simultaneously. The parties were reminded that the proposal was just a draft and that they could neither accept nor reject it. Instead, the parties were asked individually and jointly to criticize the draft and to explain how it failed to meet their interests. As facilitators, we listened to, clarified and recorded all of the criticism and used it as a guide to revising the initial draft.
When we presented the second draft, the parties were again asked, "What's wrong with this proposal?" and, "In what ways does it fail to meet your interests?" No one was asked to make concessions. The parties were asked to do only what everyone can do well, criticize. They could not get angry with each other about the options being proposed, because a neutral third party was doing the proposing. Each side felt quite comfortable telling us how we had failed to understand or include an interest they had in the proposal.
Over the next seven weeks, we presented five different drafts to the parties. Each successive draft provoked fewer and fewer criticisms. At a mutually agreed upon checkpoint, we and the parties considered scheduling a process workshop to enable the BPS and the BTU to complete the negotiations on their own, but concluded that time constraints did not permit such an approach. The BPS and the BTU felt they had made so much progress on the major issues that they wanted us to continue to work with them until they had a complete contract package. They proposed instead to the business group that they each pay one third of the cost of continuing the work with us; the business group agreed and phase three of our work began. We facilitated a process of brainstorming options that satisfied both sides' interests, and then helped the parties evaluate these options and reach agreement. Several marathon sessions were needed to meet the parties' self-imposed deadline.
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Copyright © Irma Tyler-Wood, C. Mark Smith, and Charles Barker
Originally published in the Journal of the North American Association of Educational Negotiators
Copyright © 2003, The Negotiator Magazine