Magazine article The CPA Journal

IBR Can Achieve More in Negotiations

Magazine article The CPA Journal

IBR Can Achieve More in Negotiations

Article excerpt

Interest-based resolution (IBR) is a tool that trained negotiators use to achieve better results. Variations of IBR have been given names like win-win, best practice, integrative, mutual gain, interest-based, and principled negotiations. Negotiators that properly implement IBR say it helps them achieve agreements that solve problems rather than merely resolve disputes. IBR negotiators tend to establish more mutual respect and trust, and a stronger problem-solving relationship with the parties than do traditional negotiators. The principles, assumptions, stages, and techniques (PAST) model of IBR, originally developed by Jerome T. Barrett while at the Department of Labor, has been one of the most effective implementations of this problem-solving tool.

Principles. IBR negotiating principles wore developed from observations of large numbers of negotiations to determine the behaviors and tactics that consistently produced the best results for all parties. Effective IBR negotiators succeed by focusing on interests, the reasons why parties care about a problem, not on positions. Success means achieving durable solutions that satisfy as many mutual and separate interests as possible, as often as possible. IBR negotiators are trained to attack problems, not people. They work with other negotiators to brainstorm options. They evaluate options using objective criteria, not power, to seek consensus solutions.

Assumptions. IBR assumptions flow directly from IBR negotiating principles. The assumptions consist of a set of core values that trained negotiators hold about the potential for using the bargaining process to resolve problems. These assumptions influence attitudes and bargaining behaviors. Unlike most traditional negotiators, IBR negotiators assume that bargaining can enhance relationships. They assume that-in order to maximize what any party can consistently win-all parties must share interest information, win, and help each other win.

Stages. Traditional and IBR bargaining models both begin with thorough preparation, but the stages of negotiation then diverge. IBR negotiators identify issues or problems that the parties want to resolve. They then identify interests for each issue, share interest information with each other to expand common ground, and jointly brainstorm options that might satisfy joint and separate interests. Agreements result from evaluating options against objective criteria and achieving solutions that best meet each party's legitimate needs.

Techniques. Appropriate IBR bargaining behavior does not proceed as if the more powerful party will win and the weaker party will lose, as is the case in some other negotiating approaches. Rather, IBR negotiators engage in open communication and spend time only on issues that make a difference. They jointly exercise power for mutual gain and try to avoid the use of power to harm any stakeholder's legitimate interests. They brainstorm options, explore interests, engage in active listening, and search for mutual gain. They solve problems rather than simply resolve issues.

Using IBR

IBR is not appropiate for every negotiation or every negotiator. For example, negotiators that fail to embrace completely the principles and assumptions of IBR will be unable to successfully use the techniques and move through the IBR stages.

Other factors contribute to the successful application of IBR methods, including, but not limited to. the following:

* Prior positive experience with cooperative efforts;

* Willingness to share bargaining information that traditionally has been kept confidential;

* Sufficient time to complete the sequence of decision making, training, and implementation of IBR;

* Willingness to change the way each party uses power during negotiations;

* Absence of clearly divisive and destabilizing issues; and

* Constituent support for the process. …

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