11 years ago

The 60/60 Rule of Compromise

Link: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/TheBusinessArchitect/~3/tAoWAjVSUI4/

60-60-2When I was a relatively new manager, I would occasionally get into disagreements with my peers. My CIO would call me into his office and tell me I should go fix the relationship. Being the good employee, I saluted and said, “Yes sir.” The third time this happened I pushed back. “Why are you always asking ME to fix the problem? The other person is just as much at fault as I am. Why don’t you ask them?” My boss looked up at me with a smile and said, “Oh, I do ask them. They just don’t do it.” I learned a valuable lesson that day.

Later on when I was a senior manager, every month or two, I would invariably have to deal with inter-departmental conflicts. Two managers would disagree so strongly that their organizations found it difficult to work together. I would call in the managers, articulate the problem, and ask for their commitment to fix it. I was very direct and both parties would give me the same commitment: “I’ll do my part”. But in reality they rarely did. Things would get better in the short run but deteriorate over time and we would have to start all over again on the solution.  

After one highly contentious episode, I decided to figure out what was causing this dysfunctional behavior between two otherwise rational and successful people. I had each come to my office individually to explain why they had not resolved their conflict and lived up to the commitment they made to me. Both were adamant they had done their part and lived up to their commitment. It was the other person’s fault. After a number of discussions, I figured out what was happening.

Agreeing to meet in the middle to resolve differences dooms reconciliation efforts right from the beginning. The implicit contract is “I’ll do my part if you do your part” which really means, “I’ll do my part if and only if you do your part.” With this approach, both parties have committed to do no more than their “fair” share and they proceed to set up an internal monitoring system to ensure they do not cross the line and give more than the other party. In the beginning, everything works fine as both sides take steps to resolve their differences. However, as they move closer together they become more cautious about not crossing the line and giving too much. Every minor misstep by their opponent causes the other party to take a step backward creating a solution gap that never closes and opening up opportunities for future disagreements that continue to push the two apart.

To solve this problem I introduced the 60/60 rule. I asked each manager to go the extra mile and commit to 60% of the change necessary to solve the problem. This effectively closed the gap and both parties felt they were responsible for the solution, not just doing their part. I also found this approach worked well when only one of the individuals worked for me. By agreeing to provide 60% of the solution, my people were effectively shifting the midpoint, making it easier for their opponents to “meet them in the middle.”

The bottom line:_______________________________________________________________________________________________

Resolving conflict is always difficult. Both parties have to be committed to a solution, not just doing their part. The critical success factor is for each party to feel like they came to agreement without abdicating their position. The 60/60 approach creates a win-win solution for everyone involved. The best part of the model is that only one side has to sign up for it to work.


Tagged: Best Practices, career, Leadership