How to Collaborate When You Don’t Have Consensus, by Adam Kahane

Adam Kahane’s article on ‘How to Collaborate When You Don’t Have Consensus’, signaled by Duane Banks to the Systems Thinking Network on LinkedIn  shows the impressive results he achieved in very tensed -sometimes vital- situations where collaboration seems almost impossible, with a quite simple approach he called ’stretch collaboration’, based on 3 tools:

  • Accept the Plurality of the Situation
  • Experiment to Find a Way Forward
  • See Yourself as Part of the Problem, not Outside It

As a consultant in management and especially Purchasing cost optimization for long years, I experienced less vital confrontations, but agree with this too common view : people entering sales/purchasing negotiations seem to enter a conflict …

But they are not ! A ‘good’ negotiation results in both happy parties. This is not a ‘nice’ view of the world, it is reality : each sale is a win-win situation, where each party -supplier and purchaser- has to be satisfied. If not, the exchange will not happen ? Of course, one of the parties -or both- may feel disappointed, because hoping to have more at the end … but if the deal is set, probably both’s major objectives are met (or they will not survive long 😉

So for 20 years, I have been taught, experience and train people to a similar approach. Not only for negotiations (with the Interactifs Discipline) but also to optimize the value of product, processes, organizations … by targeting to satisfy the needs of each and all stakeholders involved.

Our regular readers know the Value(s) mindset I use is also based on 3 points : 2 questions + 1 principle, to address an issue, 1° ask « What is it for? » to understand the needs : 2° ask « What is enough? » to answer each need ; 3° work WITH the stakeholders to answer the 2 questions.

This gets very close to « accept the plurality of the situation » : the answer to « what is if for? » is obviously different for each stakeholder ! In a sales negotiation, the seller would want different outcomes than the purchaser ! Typically, the supplier would like a maximum of money in exchange to a minimum of service ; while the pruchaser would want a max of service for a min of money… But the interesting thing is that they can -and will- agree at the end !!! So there is NO conflict of interest !? And my experience is that if this dialog is openly managed, the supplier would ask for many other things : payment conditions, volume of purchase, long term contract … And the purchaser would want many other things : time of delivery, quality of supply, innovation …

Then it gets very close to « experiment a way forward » : by answering « what is enough to answer each others’ needs » the negotiation start simply by exchanging things having high ‘value’ for one and low ‘cost’ for the other ! This leads to build trust between ‘partners’, who then can see that hey have a COMMON interest : the supplier needs to sell his service to the purchaser so the purchaser’s company can make things with it that the supplier cannot, eg. consuming it, or reselling it to its customer, or transforming it into services ‘valuable’ to its own clients …

The « see yourself as a part of the problem » point is obvious and very close to « work with the stakeholders » : each stakeholder has a ‘problem’ = his needs are not satisfied. And is part of the solution = he can help solve the other stakeholder’s needs !

This Value(s) mindset is at the heart of many very efficient methods that help apply it on any level of management issue ! I use it -‹with different tools- for ‘more efficient relations’ but also for ‘purchasing cost optimization’, and also for ‘business model improvement’ …

Interested ? Read « what is it for? » and/or join the Valeur(s) & Management LinkedIn group.

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