Ellen looked at the clock. Three minutes to eleven — just barely enough time. She looked at Glen, then at Mort. "So, we have a deal?" she asked. Glen nodded. Mort sat quietly, looking down at some figures on his pad. Ellen knew he was on the edge. She prodded him. "Mort?"
Mort sighed and looked up at Glen. "We have the test bed until June 30?"
Glen nodded. "Yes," he said.
"And you have it April 1 to 15?" Mort asked.
Glen said yes again.
"OK," Mort said. "Deal."
Mort, Ellen, and Glen have just worked out a compromise. Even when the result is fairly simple, finding a compromise can be difficult. Here are some reasons why.
- Emotions are involved
- Finding design compromises — we call them tradeoffs — is easier because designs aren't people. A design can't feel hurt.
- Trading off the needs and desires of people, though, triggers emotions. We must learn to propose and to make those trades with care and respect. And we must deal with the sometimes-emotional consequences.
- The word "compromise" has baggage
- Trading off needs
and desires tends
to trigger emotions.
- We use the word compromise in negative ways. For instance, when we fall ill, we say that our health is compromised. This is one reason why we tend to see compromises as undesirable.
- Learning to appreciate the elegance of a compromise makes it easier to find compromises when we need them.
- We need to be "right"
- Many of us need to be right, and too often, we feel more "right" when we prove others "wrong." In such a black-and-white world, compromise appears gray and unsatisfying.
- But compromise isn't about being right or wrong. Rather, compromise is about satisfying everyone's needs and desires, and these are often non-rational.
- We misunderstand compromise
- Too often, we view compromise as "give and take." And sometimes it is, when we transfer resources or status to our partners in contention.
- But compromise needn't involve such transfers — it's possible to compromise without any exchange at all. Often, to achieve new goals, we simply let go of goals we once had.
- The compromise itself is new to us
- We usually have a clear view of what we want, and what we don't want. When someone proposes a compromise, it often contains elements we haven't considered before, and we're unsure of the consequences.
- Since we're uncertain of the value of the proposed compromise, we manage the perceived risk by devaluing the proposal, or by rejecting it outright. Instead, seek to understand the risks, and ask for what you need to manage those risks.
These are some of the troubles we encounter when we try to find compromises. Just as there are troubles, there are also workable techniques for finding compromises. I just didn't have space to cover both in one week. So I compromised: we'll explore techniques for finding compromises in a future issue. Top Next Issue
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More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- Status-Report as a Second Language
- Sometimes, the clichés the losing team's players feed to sports reporters can have hidden meaning.
So it is with Project Status Reports, especially for projects in trouble.
- Virtual Communications: III
- Participating in or managing a virtual team presents special communications challenges. Here's Part
III of some guidelines for communicating with members of virtual teams.
- Changing the Subject: II
- Sometimes, in conversation, we must change the subject, but we also do it to dominate, manipulate, or
assert power. Subject changing — and controlling its use — can be important political skills.
- Trying to Do It Right the First Time Isn't Always Best
- You've probably heard the slogan, "Do it right the first time." It makes sense for some kinds
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the first time — or even trying to — might be the wrong way to go.
- Fill in the Blanks
- When we conceal information about ourselves and our areas of responsibility, we make room for others
to speculate. Speculation is rarely helpful. It's wise to fill in the blanks.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
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- And on November 29: Manipulators Beware
- When manipulators try to manipulate others, they're attempting to unscrupulously influence their targets to decide or act in some way the manipulators prefer. But some targets manage to outwit their manipulators. Available here and by RSS on November 29.
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