Shutting Down the Town

Apr 08, 2011 1 Comment by

This evening, the US Congress is approaching a midnight deadline to either agree on a budget to fund the federal government or risk a shutdown that would hold up employee paychecks and halt delivery of national services.

Both sides in the disagreement are hopeful, but not optimistic.

Both sides are blaming the other for slowing the process of resolution.  Both sides are digging in their heels and refusing to compromise. There is no shortage of drama as the actors fight for television air time and notoriety.

What Can Change Leaders Learn From This Negative Example? As I watched the drama unfold, I couldn’t help but think that this is not the way effective teams should operate. In fact, we might want to shy away from looking for “best practices” in this situation and instead look for practices to avoid!

Here are a few negotiating tactics I’ve noticed this week that clearly do NOT work when groups face an impasse:

  • Focusing more on fixing the blame than fixing the problem.
  • Digging in one’s heels on a few narrow ideological issues while ignoring the big picture.
  • Speaking only in big picture terms and refusing to address the details until it’s too late.
  • Name-Calling. (A friend off mine added: “If they only realized how childish this makes them look, they might stop it!”)
  • Repeating carefully-worded talking points instead of engaging in real dialogue.
  • Talking about the other side instead of talking with the other side.
  • Looking at everything through a partisan lens instead of considering the interest of the entire group as being of primary importance.
  • .. and the now infamous practice of “Kicking the can down the road“.

All of these techniques work against the forces of progress.   If teams in a business setting used these methods, their companies would have gone bankrupt waiting for the new contract to be signed.  Some citizens would say this is exactly what’s happening as the US spends itself into a financial corner while ignoring the most obvious solutions because they are too politically sensitive.

Summary: For those involved in driving real change in their organizations, it would be helpful to keep the recent government example fresh in our memory – even if it serves mostly as a bad example.

In tomorrow’s post I will share ten ways to break deadlocks as you encounter them and avoid a shutdown on your project.


Questions for Chatter:

  1. What other lessons can negotiators learn from the budget impasse?
  2. Aside from the politics, why do you think people wait so long to get to the heart of negotiation?

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I help people and teams succeed with big changes... never a dull moment!

One Response to “Shutting Down the Town”

  1. chihos (@chihos) says:

    Lessons to learn re: negotiation based on last April’s US Budget Showdown & current Debt Ceiling Mess:

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