No 'Golden Bridge', $200 MILLION Wasted

In William Ury’s popular book Getting Past No, there is an important section titled “Building  A Golden Bridge” for the other negotiating party.  In essence, having an offer available that the other side will love to agree with.  There are four key elements to creating this win-win situation that I detailed in a previous blog post [here]. 

However, before detailing each, I want to point out unfortunately we are reminded of situations where people, or in this case the U.S. government, has great intentions but overlook (or ignored) a key part of the conflict resolution process- getting buy-in from the people involved.

From the (underline added by me):

BAGHDAD -- U.S. auditors have concluded that more than $200 million was wasted on a program to train Iraqi police that Baghdad says is neither needed nor wanted.The Police Development Program_ which was drawn up to be the single largest State Department program in the world – was envisioned as a five-year, multibillion-dollar push to train security forces after the U.S. military left last December. But Iraqi political leaders, anxious to keep their distance from the Americans, were unenthusiastic.
A report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, released Monday, found that the American Embassy in Baghdad never got a written commitment from Iraq to participate. Now, facing what the report called Baghdad's "disinterest" in the project, the embassy is gutting what was supposed to be the centerpiece of ongoing U.S. training efforts in Iraq. 
"A major lesson learned from Iraq is that host country buy-in to proposed programs is essential to the long-term success of relief and reconstruction activities. The PDP experience powerfully underscores that point," auditors wrote in a 41-page summary of their inspection. An advance copy was provided to The Associated Press.
The U.S. had great intentions in helping the Iraqi police receive state-of-the-art training (perhaps similar to the deal in Haiti) however they proceeded wastefully prior to getting a “yes” from the very people they wanted to help. 

The four elements offered by Ury to build a “golden bridge” includes:

  1. Have everyone involved in building/writing the agreement. In this case, the U.S., by involving the key stakeholders would have allowed them to find out what the reasons were that was leading them to avoid agreeing to the deal.
  2. Look beyond obvious interests. The obvious in this case is they need training, but the not-so-obvious is still unknown- what are their other interests?
  3. Saving face. As you already most likely are aware now, each of these are interconnected. The big difference could have been a joint effort, and then a joint press conference announcing a training that was designed together and is funded by the U.S. government.
  4. Keep it simple. No, I do not (nor does Ury) suggest simple in the sense of a hastily put together “bridge” or deal but rather simple in terms of not lumping everything together. Taking things step by step would have prevented in this case the process from progressing until the buy-in was achieved.

How often can you reflect during a mediation, negotiation, or coaching session where you might think of a great solution and offer them the “golden bridge” to cross to a perfect solution?  Self-determination, collaboration, and joint-problem solving must first be acknowledged and then legitimately be utilized.  

A major benefit to conflict resolution practices is, although it might take longer sometimes, including people in the process helps them build the great deal (or golden bridge) because they were part of the process.

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Comment by John C. Turley on July 30, 2012 at 11:02pm
An excellent book to read on the above subject is Hope is Not A Strategy by Rick Paige. It sounds like the Iraqi officials did not buy what the US was selling. Here is the author's thesis as it appears on Amazon:

Linking solutions to a prospect's business pain - For great value.
Qualifying the prospect - For forecasting accuracy.
Building competitive preference - By differentiating your solution.
Determining the decision-making process - For driving strategy.
Selling to power - By finding the key to buyer politics.
Communicating the strategic plan - For effective team selling.
Page's methodology lets everyone speak the same language for fast, winning results no matter how complex the deal. No matter how many people are involved in the buying decision.


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