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Interest-Based Bargaining: A Starting Point for Negotiations

Peter Drucker, the organizational leadership guru, has said that one can "either be the architect of change or the tenet of the results." In other words, successful leaders and organizations should have a controllable say about their ultimate destiny and success.

Collective bargaining provides a framework for organizational design and management with organized-labor work environments.

In traditional bargaining, both management and labor teams present proposals and counterproposals aimed at framing a work environment that can be mutually agreed on. This process is typically driven by historical templates and contract language that other departments have successfully agreed on as terms.

Traditional bargaining has also become more challenging in these times of constrained fiscal growth and recession.

Interest-based bargaining allows for more-dynamic, nontraditional problem solving and solution development with a focus on desired outputs and changes. In essence, the parties use their desired outcomes as the starting point for discussion without first framing how they'd like to achieve those outcomes.

One example may be greater staffing flexibility to maximize daily operational staffing. There are many ways departments can achieve that objective, but the shared goal of increasing operational boots on the ground is the starting point and the participants are challenged on how to achieve this.

For interest-based bargaining to be most successful, a level of organizational trust must be established and desired outcomes and the need for them must be clearly understood by all stakeholders.

Additionally, the process needs a trained facilitator to help participants remain focused and successfully achieve the desired outcome.

Here are some additional elements for successful interest-based bargaining:

  • Sharing relevant information is critical for effective solutions.
  • Focus on issues, not personalities.
  • Focus on the present and future, not the past.
  • Focus on the interests underlying the issues.
  • Focus on mutual interests and helping to satisfy the other party's interests as well as your own.
  • Evaluate options developed to satisfy those interests by objective criteria, not by power or leverage.

Sharing a vision and goal allows stakeholders to see the goal before developing the roadmap to get there. Each organization and its members may want to design their roadmap to achieve the desired vision. Interest-based bargaining provides not only flexibility, but more importantly, ownership in the process and results as well. This enables a more robust organizational culture of joint labor-management problem solving and success!

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