Learning More About Interest-Based Bargaining

ibb-getting to yes - update

Getting to YES: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In is a best-selling book by Roger Fisher and William L. Ury

I recently had the privilege to participate in the first day of a two-day Interest-Based Bargaining (IBB) training session for PSU’s Administration and AAUP bargaining teams. I have previously blogged about IBB and held multiple discussions to explore this option.

The training was a deep dive to understand the value of IBB, what makes it successful, and to begin to use its principles to work together.

It was great to have ASPSU President Eric Noll and Vice President Rayleen McMillan also participate as observers. In addition, I am pleased to report that PSU’s Faculty Association (PSUFA), representing our part-time faculty, has expressed interest in IBB and we have begun training together.

The IBB training was conducted by Janet Gillman, facilitator and mediator with the Conciliation Service Division or the Oregon Employment Relations Board. She served as our mediator for the negotiations last year between the Administration and AAUP, and she conducted an IBB information session for the Administration and AAUP in January 2015.

Research from Roger Fisher and William Ury – Getting to YES – formed the basics of the training. The book, first published in 1981, laid the foundation of subsequent IBB research and practice.

Fisher and Ury asked, “How do we help people deal with their differences?”

The authors’ goal is to prevent people and groups from deciding what positions to take before talking about the issues. I recommend the book to more fully understand the framework the Administration and AAUP (and PSUFA) have agreed to use.

In IBB, the parties develop a joint understanding before solving the problem. Most agree that this is hard for us “fix-it types”, but Janet’s training helped me see how jointly-generated options can be mutually advantageous. The goal is to address differences constructively and to reach consensus that satisfy collective needs.

Four Key IBB Principles

  • Separate the people from the problem
  • Focus on interests, not positions
  • Invent options for mutual gain
  • Insist on using objective criteria

IBB Process/Methods
I especially liked the hypothetical “point of view” activities to more deeply understand issues from different perspectives. The takeaway for me was not to prove who was right and who was not, but rather to understand each other and determine ways to manage the problem.

Examples included:

  • respecting each other
  • framing issues
  • discovering interests
  • inventing and evaluating options
  • developing agreements
  • facilitation
  • brainstorming
  • consensus decision-making

The ultimate goal is to work as one team; trying to solve problems together.

How issues get framed in IBB
Framing an issue is the important cornerstone in the IBB process. It results in a problem/question that is open ended: “How will we…” “What will we…”

Steps to get there:

  • Working toward a joint understanding of the problem by sharing perspectives. The training taught me that understanding does not require agreement.
  • Identifying what is not working; what needs to be addressed. The training taught me not to focus on the solution, but on identifying the problem.
  • Making note of data and interests that emerge during storytelling. The training taught me that we will address these more thoroughly later in the process.
  • Forming a problem-question. The training taught me this is a joint process.
  • Getting consensus on the problem-question before proceeding. The training taught me how this might take time, but is well worth it in the end.

Communication Tips
The training taught me key communication tips for successful IBB: listen, ask questions, be curious, be a student in every conversation, talk to promote understanding and positive engagement, speak in the first person, do not put words in other people’s mouths, do not make assumptions, and ask often if there is agreement.

What we can expect from IBB:
It takes practice, patience, and goodwill for IBB to work. The literature and experiences of others demonstrate IBB can result in wise agreements, good relationships and efficient use of time. My observations in the first day of training left me with very positive feelings that this process will yield great results for our faculty and academic professionals.

I commend all members of the bargaining teams for their commitment to two consecutive days to learn how we can use the IBB process, and to PSUFA for also exploring this approach.

First day at CLSB

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