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.
  2. 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.
  1. Look beyond obvious interests.
  2. The obvious in this case is they need training, but the not-so-obvious is still unknown- what are their other interests?
  1. Saving face.
  2. 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.
  1. Keep it simple.
  2. 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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NYT: Mediation & Arbitration Are The Same

According to a recent New York Times- "the newspaper of record"- mediation and arbitration are one in the same.  I came across this information on the very popular and very informative New York Dispute Resolution Community Listserv.  The listserv as a side note has +2,000 members and is not limited to New York area people.

Here's the article title and snippet:

Mediator Halts City’s Plan to Overhaul 24 Schools

9:05 p.m. | Updated An arbitrator on Friday halted a central element of the Bloomberg administration’s plans for closing and reopening 24 schools, saying its method for overhauling the staff at those institutions violated labor contracts.

The listserv being the listserv, has already generated many comments, one stating:
My understanding is that the person who writes the article does not write the headline / title.  I read misleading headlines all the time.  It is the headline writer who made this mistake and hopefully, you can get the NYT to write a correction (not that anyone reads them).  Getting a letter to the editor published would reach far more people.

Another, stated:
We should take a step back before hauling the Times into language court.  It might say its use of “mediator” is not misleading at all.  It would be right.

Of course,  “mediation” doesn’t include arbitration under the definition favored in the dispute resolution field.  But arbitration does qualify as “mediation” under some current and respectable alternative English definitions.  (See, e.g., Encarta World English Dictionary (online):  “Mediation.  . . . adj.  Involving or depending on an intermediary or intermediate action” . . .thesaurus: “Meanings:  Arbitration (n).”  See also The American Heritage Dictionary:   “Mediation.  . . . [Acting through, involving or dependent upon some intervening agency” . . . Synonyms: . . . “arbitration”.)

We could prefer that the Times use the word as we do.  But we can’t fairly accuse it of misleading when its usage is linguistically correct, even if it doesn’t align with our preference.

My response to the above comment is saying rain and hail are the same.  According to's thesaurus they are synonyms so is alright to interchange the two?  It lists under synonyms for rain the following words (but not limited to): rainstorm, monsoon, sleet, heavy dew, hail, flurry, pouring, sprinkling and cloudburst. 

Would anyone here freely interchange the two- specifically in an academic paper or article?

If that is the case, why use any of theses words at all: mediation, conflict coaching, negotiation, or arbitration?  We might as well just pick one since they are all forms of ADR, right?

Obviously I am joking (note I am not using a pun, parody, mummery, hoodwinking, sport, horseplay, or using a one-liner yet all are listed as synonyms), but to defend the use of mediation in the title when it clearly means arbitration only contributes to confusion.

At least I think so.

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