Ury, Brett, and Goldberg pioneered Dispute Systems Design (DSD) in the 1980s, as a method for resolving intractable or frequent conflicts in troubled organizations, businesses, or entire industries. Their pioneering work was done at the Caney Creek Coal Mine, a mine that had been plagued by strikes in the 1970s. At the center of their method were three heuristics for analyzing conflicts and designing new systems, which could deal with these conflicts quickly and efficiently, before they escalated into the frequent strikes, and lockouts that had been occurring at this mine almost routinely.
The first heuristic involves the relationship between three ways of resolving disputes: by negotiating interests, by adjudicating rights, or by pursuing power options (such as strikes or lockouts). Ideally, disputes should be resolved at the lowest level, through negotiating interests. Claims of interest focus on the desires of the actors in any given dispute. Rather than focusing on what a person can do based on their rights and power, Ury, Brett, and Goldberg argue that actors should focus on what they wouldlike to do based on their own interests. Interest-based claims are more negotiable, and hence less likely to become intractable. Only if interest negotiation doesn't work, should the parties try a rights-based approach (such as a legal suit). And power-based approaches, such as strikes, should be reserved for those few conflicts that cannot be resolved either through interest or rights-based approaches. At the Caney Creek mine, most disputes, even minor ones, were resolved with power struggles. The employees found the grievance procedures so cumbersome and ineffectual, that they just started a wildcat (impromptu) strike whenever an affront occurred, because they found this to be the best and quickest way to get response from management. But this approach is very costly for both sides. The following diagram shows a distressed conflict management system, such as the one found at Caney Creek before it was improved, and a healthy dispute management system that resolves most disputes at the interest level, fewer at the rights level, and fewest through power options. This is healthy for several reasons. 1. Negotiating interests is less expensive than adjudicating rights or pursuing power options. 2. Negotiating interests results in mutually satisfactory solutions, while the other two approaches are win-lose, meaning one side wins and the other side loses. 3. When power-based approaches are tried, the losing side often is angry, and may try to "get back" at the other side whenever they get the chance. 4. Interest-based negotiation is usually less time consuming than the other approaches. | | |[pic] |
Six System Design Principles
The second heuristic incorporates six design principles for new dispute-resolution systems, which follow directly from the first heuristic. The six principles are as follows: 1. Put the focus on interests. This means any dispute resolution should start with a process (either direct negotiation or mediation) where the parties try to solve the problem using interest-based bargaining. This is the best way to find a solution that satisfies everyone. Only when this doesn't work, do you move on to rights-based processes (such as arbitration) or power-based processes (such as elections). 2. Provide low-cost rights and power backups. Arbitration, voting, and protests are low-cost alternatives to rights and power contests. Although they are higher in cost than negotiation, they are less costly than adjudication or violent force. 3. Build in "loop-backs" to negotiation. Rights-based and power-based strategies for resolving disputes seldom need to be played out to the...