Can Achieve More in Negotiations
Michael J. Wolf
2005 - Interest-based resolution (IBR) is a tool that trained
negotiators use to achieve better results. Variations of IBR
have been given names like win-win, best practice, integrative,
mutual gain, interest-based, and principled negotiations.
Negotiators that properly implement IBR say it helps them
achieve agreements that solve problems rather than merely
resolve disputes. IBR negotiators tend to establish more mutual
respect and trust, and a stronger problem-solving relationship
with the parties than do traditional negotiators. The principles,
assumptions, stages, and techniques (PAST) model of IBR, originally
developed by Jerome T. Barrett while at the Department of
Labor, has been one of the most effective implementations
of this problem-solving tool.
IBR negotiating principles were developed from observations
of large numbers of negotiations to determine the behaviors
and tactics that consistently produced the best results
for all parties. Effective IBR negotiators succeed by focusing
on interests, the reasons why parties care about a problem,
not on positions. Success means achieving durable solutions
that satisfy as many mutual and separate interests as possible,
as often as possible. IBR negotiators are trained to attack
problems, not people. They work with other negotiators to
brainstorm options. They evaluate options using objective
criteria, not power, to seek consensus solutions.
IBR assumptions flow directly from IBR negotiating
principles. The assumptions consist of a set of core values
that trained negotiators hold about the potential for using
the bargaining process to resolve problems. These assumptions
influence attitudes and bargaining behaviors. Unlike most
traditional negotiators, IBR negotiators assume that bargaining
can enhance relationships. They assume that—in order
to maximize what any party can consistently win—all
parties must share interest information, win, and
help each other win.
Traditional and IBR bargaining models both begin with thorough
preparation, but the stages of negotiation then diverge.
IBR negotiators identify issues or problems that the parties
want to resolve. They then identify interests for each issue,
share interest information with each other to expand common
ground, and jointly brainstorm options that might satisfy
joint and separate interests. Agreements result from evaluating
options against objective criteria and achieving solutions
that best meet each party’s legitimate needs.
Appropriate IBR bargaining behavior does not proceed as
if the more powerful party will win and the weaker party
will lose, as is the case in some other negotiating approaches.
Rather, IBR negotiators engage in open communication and
spend time only on issues that make a difference. They jointly
exercise power for mutual gain and try to avoid the use
of power to harm any stakeholder’s legitimate interests.
They brainstorm options, explore interests, engage in active
listening, and search for mutual gain. They solve problems
rather than simply resolve issues.
is not appropiate for every negotiation or every negotiator.
For example, negotiators that fail to embrace completely
the principles and assumptions of IBR will be unable to
successfully use the techniques and move through the IBR
factors contribute to the successful application of IBR
methods, including, but not limited to, the following:
Prior positive experience with cooperative efforts;
Willingness to share bargaining information that traditionally
has been kept confidential;
Sufficient time to complete the sequence of decision making,
training, and implementation of IBR;
Willingness to change the way each party uses power during
Absence of clearly divisive and destabilizing issues;
Constituent support for the process.
to a negotiation should become familiar with the IBR process.
In addition, negotiators that forego the use of an IBR-trained
neutral facilitator must be trained in the proper application
of IBR principles, assumptions, stages, and techniques.
Trainees learn how to bring an IBR process to a successful
conclusion, as well as how to leave behind counterproductive
traditional bargaining behaviors. Single-issue IBR training
can be completed in one day, whereas negotiators of complex
matters should spend at least two days learning and practicing
higher-level IBR skills.
bargaining begins, negotiators sometimes meet with their
trainer or facilitator to explore the risks and opportunities
of using the IBR model in the upcoming negotiations. After
deciding to use IBR, negotiators should quickly reach agreement
on the ground rules, including how to smoothly transition
to traditional negotiations in the event that the IBR process
does not resolve all issues. IBR negotiators also typically
survey the parties, trade and clarify issues and interests,
exchange needed information, schedule bargaining dates,
and designate a facilitator and recorder for each session.
each bargaining session, negotiators begin by selecting
an issue, then identify interests behind the issue, brainstorm
options that satisfy as many interests as possible and establish
several criteria against which they measure the options.
The issue is resolved when a consensus is reached on the
best combination of options. Negotiations are concluded
after all issues are resolved.
following the IBR model, a trained negotiator can help negotiators
be more consistently successful at the bargaining table.
here to see the accompanying Sidebar.
J. Wolf is counsel for dispute resolution technology
to the National Mediation Board in Washington, D.C., and an
adjunct professor at Pepperdine University, Malibu, Calif.
The views experessed in this article are his own.