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As a result of our experience with school systems and PERB, we have reached the following preliminary conclusions: Joint training works best if key leaders and decision makers of all parties participate in the process. Any party within or outside of the school system can initiate the idea of changing the negotiation process, but all parties should be consulted and, if possible, involved in planning, designing, and implementing the process for change. If relationships among the parties are such that they cannot agree to joint training, training one side can help change the process but that is not a preferred option. The one-text procedure is especially effective when the parties have a history of poor working relationships in negotiations, limited time, and/or are deadlocked.
Some Caveats About These Processes
Constituents who are used to adversarial protracted negotiations and who do not understand the new process are likely to view the process and its results with suspicion. Parties need to plan together how to educate their constituents about the new process. In school districts in which there are a number of unions, these processes can be quite lengthy. Parties need to plan so that smaller unions do not feel short-changed regarding the time spent in their negotiations. In a time of tight budgets, funding cuts and fiscal crises, school systems may have trouble justifying these expenses. Sharing costs among union and management and jointly seeking funding from foundations and business organizations are useful strategies.
One Final Caveat
Some negotiation consultants have described "principled negotiation" as "win/win" negotiation. We feel that this label is inappropriate and may create unrealistic expectations. The term "win/win" reinforces the notion that negotiations are a contest, a notion that is hazardous to effective negotiation. Others interpret the term to mean that we get everything we want. No negotiation process can guarantee that you will "win", regardless of the circumstances. Indeed, a useful question to those who promise such easy solutions might be -- "What do you mean by winning?"
Irma Tyler-Wood is a founder and partner of ThoughtBridge (www.thoughtbridge.com), a consulting firm that provides negotiation training and facilitation services for corporate and non-profit clients, advises organizations on mergers and alliances, and mediates labor-management disputes. Her work includes extensive experience in school systems. A practitioner for 15 years, Ms. Tyler-Wood has written about negotiating effective organizational change and collaborative negotiation for numerous journals. She is a graduate of Harvard Law School. Ms. Tyler-Wood, Mark Smith and Charles Barker wrote this article when they were partners together at the former Conflict Management, Inc.
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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