Win-Win-Winning: It’s (Not) Just The People, Stupid.”

In a recent post on another forum, a questioner asked how to ensure the success of a win-win-win negotiation. There were a number of responses that saw the problem in concrete terms; how to build a lasting agreement by making sure all sides feel that their agenda has been satisfied. However, very few writers went deeper perhaps because we are all taught that if an agreement falters we go to a BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement). I abjured this answer as too pat and not elastic enough to embrace the human side of the equation. My response for what it’s worth:

In the physical world, a triangle is the most stable conventional geometric form; in human terms probably the most fragile. If we accept that your inquiry is focused on win-win-win then let’s decide what that means. To me, especially in a learning engagement, the consultant, vendor or provider wins (the opportunity to work), the client company wins (they get a viable product built to specifications) and most importantly the end-user wins as the takeaway will inform their professional lives in some positive way. THAT triangle when executed well will rarely fail since winning is presumed to be advantageous for everyone. (Substitute your business here).

Consider however, human forces at work, those like politics, power, position, prestige which are not business processes but rather people traits that can so easily derail energies when subverted and can diminish or destroy any idea, project or effort , no matter its quality or viability. Though management might have forged the triangle with the best of intentions, announced, and anointed it proactively, simple venality is kryptonite to genius, vision, effort.

So how are these potentials managed? In my experience the prior introduction of emotional intelligence precepts, EQ of some form, franchises the corporate idea that behavior comes to the table along with intellect. Statistics bear this out, more importantly I imagine you are sensing this as you read the words. Even if you don’t believe it (can’t be tasted, touched or smelled) you know that self-awareness can govern outward actions and in that sense change behaviors; especially when the group is onboard, too.

Is it perfect? Don’t be silly – we’re talking about people, many high-powered ego-driven and many out of touch with their inner selves. But if the process of EQ/EI is espoused as a corporate value and preemptively inserted into business practices — and supported by the culture — many conflicts and more than a few deformed triangles can remain standing. So rather than discuss what to do if a defective win-win-win implodes a project, constructing a corporate foundation of behavioral expectations well ahead of time provides a scaffold for behaviors and an expectation of collaborative maintenance for the structure of work.


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