First, Andy and I wish everyone a happy New (Fiscal) Year! We really didn’t know if there would be another Government shutdown, but Mother Nature had other plans that superseded! Also, since last we heard from our parties in the labor dispute, things have changed!
On September 21st, 2018, the headlines read: Medical Center and Nurse settle contract, includes 16 percent salary increase, needs approval from union members. On September 30th, 2018, the contract was ratified by members and the new agreement was signed, valid to July 09, 2021!
The above clearly illustrates, as Andy and I always say, we would rather be lucky than good! While Andy and I would always welcome, encourage and applaud ANY agreement mutually agreed upon as opposed to one imposed on the parties, this journey bears further examination!
Let’s take a look, if you will, with us, at what we like to call the metaphoric autopsy of this labor/management interaction. We want to see what maybe we can learn, going forward!
When we last left our parties, they were at impasse. There had been 10 months of non-productive negotiations. Hard and bitter, I can only presume! A two day strike had cost in excess of 3 million dollars and the parties were no closer to an agreement than when they started! They agreed to keep talking!
Suddenly, talks break off and the parties announce they cannot proceed any further and will seek help from FMCS!
Then, again, suddenly, the Chief Negotiator from the Union announces she is quitting leaving the entire process in disarray, as it is quite unclear in the media who will be speaking for labor! I can only imagine that talks continued without third party assistance and this only furthered frustration, ill will and harmed morale!
Then, there seemed to be media silence for quite some time! Occasionally, showing the nurses picketing, while continuing to talk and all of a sudden, September 21stheadlines appear! Unfortunately, issues remain for staffing and best possible patient care, will continue, the fight goes on! The press release reads!
So let us take a look, metaphorically, post mortem, at what was gained and lost. There was the strike, at least 3 million dollars, and that does not include all of the intangibles like, continued lost productivity, lack of respect, relationships harmed if not destroyed! And we contend to you that while the differences in pay may have been agreed upon, there is still a basic lack of understanding by all involved as to the real issues and interest of each party!
And on that pay issue. The Union wanted 21% and Management offered 14 %, I believe from the beginning. They settled on 16%. We are by no means mathematicians, but spending 3 million plus, to get where you probably would have got to for a whole lot less, and possibly avoided the strike, does not make sense to us!
We all think we are great listeners and negotiators but the fact of the matter is, we work better, more effectively when we work collaboratively, with the help of a trained, neutral third party! It produces better agreements, and the overall process is cleaner, less personal and NO ONE loses any rights or is forced into anything! We have seen it work and there are several business models that also echo proof of the success that we profess!
As always, we at I and I can NEVER guarantee results (an agreement). What we can and do and promise, is a process that will allow you to identify issues, interest and foster a professional, respectful negotiation/meeting environment! You may even find it leads to effective, more permanent solutions!
So we would rather be lucky than good! Mother Nature avoided a shut down and this labor dispute played out, gave us something of a teachable moment! By the by, I and I did offer our services to the parties, we have yet to hear back! We wish them all the best on their agreement and until next time!!
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This Nation recently lost, mourns and continues to mourn the loss of a great Iconic American Hero, Senator John McCain.
In Senator McCain’s final goodbye and advice to the America he so loved was to return our Nation's discourse on all levels to that of civility and understanding that we have more in common that we do in difference.
In his classic stoic way, Senator McCain, either by accident or design, lived his life with a template that could easily be identified as a practitioner of the Interest based or collaborative based approach to problem solving!
He was always open and honest, ready to identify the problem (issue) and listen and seek help in the problem solving from the other side of the isle. (interest)..
To me, consensus is easily defined and horribly a misunderstood word in our field. What it should mean, is that you and the other affected parties work together to come up with a solution that meets as many of BOTH parties interest and this is critical; support that decision after it is released! It DOES NOT mean a majority, 2/3 majority or anything else! All parties’ must agree and support the collaborative decision made!
Many times on the Senate floor, Senator McCain would loudly and publicly proclaim that he needed the other side of the isle to be listened to and the views incorporated in the decision (again, the other sides interest!). Without this consensus, the Senator knew and proclaimed that he would not have buy in and by our previous definition could neither agree and then ultimately support.
His honesty was profoundly tested in the election of 2012 when at a town meeting in Arizona. A constituent ready to ask a question identified then candidate Obama as an Arab.
The Senator could have played politics as usual but he didn’t! He corrected the woman, at his own peril, and stated she was incorrect, that his opponent was a good family man, and not what the politicos had attempted further discredit Obama as a US Citizen, which the record reflects and the Senator knew to be untrue!
This was not a one time abrogation from an errant politician! Whether it was as a young man, naval aviator, POW, Congressman or Senator, John McCain realized the interest of the United States transcended Party, office or government entity.
Another example of the Senator putting Country first and consensus building was the Senator’s unlikely alliance with Senator John Kerry. These men came from completely different backgrounds and points of view, especially on the war in Vietnam. Senator McCain realized that both men believed in and loved their country and both men wanted to put their Country first. Normalization in relations with Vietnam met that end and the Senator used these building blocks to start building consensus. Both Senators put country first, recognized each other’s interest and built consensus to where we now have normal relations with Vietnam.
He realized that only by identifying issues and interest and striving for true consensus, was the only way we should act when seeking what was best for our Nation.
We at I & I Resolutions want to acknowledge the Heroic life of this great American. We believe, like the Senator, that we have more in common than we do in conflict. Whatever your workplace environment is, there is a potential for conflict or dysfunctional communications. We at I & I cannot guarantee results but we can guarantee that we will work tirelessly for you to identify your problems, issues and interests and that our actions together will put your Organization in a better place to possibly come to a decision that includes and will be supported by all! That is the best we can all hope for and that is what the Life of Senator McCain was ultimately all about!
Thank You Senator McCain for this and may you rest in Valhalla, the mythical final resting place for heroes and warriors!
Until next time……
Andy/s/ and Thomas/s/
Like most non-metro areas (polite way of referring to us hill people, I say as a proud native Vermonter!) A strange phenomenon has been occurring. The medical industry in what appears to be greed and glory or centralized better care, depending on your point of view, is moving like locust on an unprotected field! They own and have been the single medical provider for a huge geographic area. Where I live, the name is the University Health Center of Vermont! The moral bankruptcy or argument for better, centralized care, again, depending on your point of view, could be debated in infinity. I use this example, merely but this is merely as backdrop to our tale!
Labor conditions, specifically with their nursing staff had been ongoing and was becoming bad to worse! . Talks of a strike loom and Vermont is one of the few bastions where EVERYONE can exercise their right to strike. Management on the other hand, has issues with the nurses and is also refusing to bend. The parties are both engaged in perception and reality of extremely hard traditional bargaining! In this paradigm, there should be a winner and loser, right? Well, I will tell you what happened and you be the judge! I say there were two losers in this case!
STRIKE- a strike is threatened in the public form which only hardens the parties. At no time, in my research, did either party utilize alternative bargaining or the help of mediation and or facilitation services; during prep, actual contract negotiations or seeking certification of impasse on what the issue(s) are were and still are. They just continually talked past each other in forums and through the press. The strike lasted 2 days and the parties agreed to end the walk out and return to bargaining. I still do not know, nor do they, I believe, what all the issues are! The cost of the 2 day walkout: 3 MILLION dollars! And that does not take into account intangibles like the relationship between labor and management, patient standard care, etc. etc……
We at I & I think this is such a terrible, replication of wasted effort by good people! Our services can NEVER guarantee results, but we can guarantee active communication and a clear simple process of helping parties identify the issue, improve communication and maybe, just maybe work hard, understand the issue, and even solve it with just a little help!
Compared to 3 million dollars, our fee is budget dust, and well worth the investment! If you are reading this, think about it and Schedule a Call with us! Can I get a cumbia! Till next time
From the bargaining table of Thomas and Andy
Just came back from Montreal Jazz Festival. Survived heat wave while listening to incredible music with artists from Canada, US, England, Columbia and even Australia. In thinking about our next blog, realized that playing music in a band is a lot like being a team member in your organization.
How, you ask. Well consider you have a diverse group of musicians, and they play different instruments. Yet, their goal is for each of them to contribute to music you will listen to. Now in your organization a diverse group of employees with different skill sets. And you each contribute to what the mission is. Further even when one musician steps out for a solo, it’s done within the context of the whole song. Again, when an individual takes a lead on a presentation or project, it’s done within the context of the whole project.
Also, I think we all agree musicians do not simply come together and make great music immediately. Just taking a wild guess, took many hours of practice. Having to learn each other’s needs & strengths and how to mesh them towards the music. Another guess, that journey had some conflict and they had to work through that also.
Now, in your organization, don’t you need to learn each other’s needs and strengths to reach your objective. And to reach that goal, won’t there be conflict you must deal with and resolve. The answer to both those questions is YES.
So, the next time you are listening to and enjoying music, just think about what it took to make that music and how that is similar to what we all should be should be doing.
At I & I Resolutions, we cannot make you great musicians, however, we can help your organization work together, including helping you resolve those conflicts that can prevent you from accomplishing your goal. So, let's connect and discuss ways we can bring you closer to your objectives.
Until the next time from the table of Thomas and Andy, to quote the Doobie Brothers, “Listen to the Music.” Take care and talk soon.
We recently attended a conference on labor-management relations where one of the topics was labor-management cooperation. Part of that discussion was on why the Obama Executive Order 13522 to create labor-management forums was rescinded with the reason being the goal of cooperation was not working. And our reaction was, what???
For the hundreds of groups, we have worked with, not once has their objective been collaboration. No, they wanted to solve a problem, make a decision, come up with a recommendation, tangible results. Collaboration was the right strategy to reach those objectives.
One of our pet peeves (we have a few) is when people who don’t believe in working together describe collaboration as that “touchy feely” stuff or singing kumbaya. Yes, we believe in working together and we believe an interest-based approach is the BEST way to resolve problems. Now let’s actually look at what an interest-based approach is, a process by which participants work to SOLVE PROBLEMS while simultaneously fulfilling their needs and attempting to satisfy the needs of others.
Let’s be clear, the objective when using an interest-based approach is to solve a problem. And by solving that problem we need to work with others to address and meet each other’s interests. Easy to understand, hard to do. Try to get together with family & friends about where you want to go to dinner. See what happens when you don’t agree on the same place and have to work to come up with a solution.
When it works (and it does work) the tangible result is the problem being solved, the intangible result is learning to work together to resolve the problem (collaboration).
So, to wrap up, we believe the best results come from working together. We also believe that collaboration has to result in agency, company, organization working better. At I & I Resolutions we can help you design those strategies that can help you resolve issues while also improving your relationship. Connect with Us
Until the next time from Thomas and Andy, have a great day.
Long ago, I heard the following story. A manager asks a scientist, mathematician and labor relations specialist/lawyer or union official (pick one) what is 2 +2. The scientist goes through many scientific equations and theories and comes up with 4. The mathematician does the same. The labor folks look the manager in the eye, close the door to the office and asks, “What do you want it to be?”
That story resonates when you think about labor law v. labor relations. Many of us know the law, and we can read the cases. But who determines the law? Arbitrators, judges, administrative agencies. Even if they are deciding “precedent” setting cases, should that decide what our relationship should be. So, let’s ask the critical question, who determines our work relationships?
Several weeks ago, we did some training for an agency and union officials that included communication/problem-solving training. After the session, a manager told us that he recently asked his employees & managers what prevented them from doing their job and the #1 response was the inability to work with others, lack of communication and trust. In other words, the RELATIONSHIP, not the law.
So, again not diminishing the importance of knowing what our rights are or having the technical skills & equipment to do our jobs, the key component to doing our jobs effectively is our ability to work with others and develop those relationships. It’s those pesky soft-skills that have too many rolling their eyes when they hear that term. Another question; if these are soft skills, why are they so hard to learn and implement? We can answer that question for another time.
However, back to the question of who determines our relationship. The simple answer is easy, we do. The more difficult question is what kind of relationship do we want? We can choose to have third-parties make decisions for us. Pretty easy. Or we can make the effort and develop a relationship that benefits everyone involved. Pretty hard, yet not impossible.
At I & I Resolutions, we will work with you to develop that relationship by providing the skills that will allow you to do your jobs. Our slogan, “We care because you matter”, is not just words. It’s a philosophy that we believe in, and work towards.
Until the next time from the table of Thomas & Andy, Happy Memorial Day.
Most scholars, would date ADR (alternative dispute resolution) and the practice thereof, 50, 60 maybe 70 years? Not so fast! First I must apologize for telling this story, as it involves my faith! Except one time when I was playing Varsity basketball, and we as a team, went into St. John’s Academy blaring “Jesus is just alright with me”, the Dobbie Brothers’! Besides that, I am a separate, Church and State kind of guy! I digress! I am at a Lentin Service recently and the facilitator puts up a slide that says“Jesus told his disciples and followers, be not only concerned with your interest but be equally concerned with your fellow man’s interest as well”.
Bam, it hit me! Even at the time of Christ, he was teaching and preaching the very principles of Interest based Services, meeting interest! I’ve said it before, it’s not magic, or pixie dust, it is very simple. Be open, honest and try to meet the other man or women’s interest in the path of life! If done, practiced and taught correctly, we can solve or at least identify problems and deal with each other more compassionately, honestly and along the way, do the right thing!
So, I can make a pretty good argument that the roots of our Practice dates back 2000 years! Mediation, Facilitation, counseling, coaching, just about any ADR program will have a healthy modicum of Interest Based Services, owes its heritage to meeting the interest of both parties!
All humor aside, a group in conflict needs to solve its own problems and it helps to have well trained in the trenches experienced practitioners like Andy and I have, with over 66 years of experience from both the labor/management perspective; then I & I Resolutions is for you! We cannot guarantee results but we can guarantee we will help you identify the problem, and speak openly and honestly, whatever your conflict or need!
It's that simple, do the right thing. Next blog we will address it’s simple, doing the wrong thing! Till next time,
Thomas and Andy
In 2004, Boston Red Sox Manager Terry Francona told Derek Lowe he would not be in the starting rotation when the playoffs began, despite him starting all year. When asked how he handled that decision, Francona replied, “The reason you build a good working relationship through communication is there are times you are going to have to deliver bad news.”
Think about that situation and apply it your organization. Should not your most important business paradigm be establishing and maintaining good working relationship both with external and internal customers? Yet, in our 60+ year- experience, the one mantra we hear time and again, “we must get the work out.”
Is It important to do one’s job? Of course, it is. The critical question is how does that happen? We don’t know anyone who works in a vacuum, so what we do more often than not requires working with others, including the ability to communicate and even deliver “bad news.” What some call “soft skills”. Well, those soft skills like active listening, asking the right questions, giving feedback, discussing and working through interests are what’s important to working together to resolve issues. The problem, concept is easy to understand, too often difficult to do.
The work you do is important. It’s tough under the best circumstances. In less than ideal situations, think of the barriers you face. So, it seems like a good idea to have those pesky soft skills. In fact, we would argue it’s those “soft” skills that help you get through the hard problems.
At I & I Resolutions our goal is to work with you to develop those skills that allow you focus on your ability to “get the work out.”
After years of distrust and broken agreements, the United States and the former Soviet Union USSR, that was the SALT I and SALT II nuclear weapons treaties were accomplished utilizing Interest Based Negotiations Principles! I thought, my God, no one hates, distrusts each other as these two parties! If it can work for them.
Make no mistake, doing this ain’t easy! But it DOES NOT require Love, just understanding an active listening and learning what the true interest and surrounding issues are for the conflicted other party!
You don’t have to agree. You don’t have to Love. But you should, as I have, when applying the principles, learn what the REAL ISSUES AND INTERESTS are!
So before being dismissive, ask yourself; is the conflict and parties involved really more complicated than the US/Soviet relationship? Because again, it worked successfully for them and it can work to at least identify the real and sometimes, underlying issues. That after all is the only way to resolve conflict and create lasting solutions.
See you next time! Thomas and Andy
It’s just too expensive, the time involved, training employees of the line, taking time to define the problem, employee feedback, their thoughts on how to make it better, I am the boss, and they should just listen to me and do as I say! I know, all valid but hold that thought!
First and foremost, utilizing facilitative and meditative process surrenders nothing! You are still the boss, this is not co-management as is often feared. The employer will simply deny their right to possibly finding a better and more productive workplace and workforce and will definitely be at least very challenged on defining the problem.
Yes, there is a little front loading on time and expense, but in the end, the employer, employee and the company as a whole will be far better off with a least a basic understanding of what the problem is!
Now let’s consider how much a non-productive employee cost. This employee may just have some issues they want heard, unabridged. Sometimes the solutions are simple, and once the problem has been heard and defined.
Yet now consider the unhappy employee, not heard, if he or she becomes a saboteur! This also does not take into account employee absenteeism, time away from the job, lower production, etc.
And finally, the tension will come out somewhere and one has to wonder how much workplace violence, threats, intimidations, stalking’s etc. could have been minimized or avoided, had the employer simply listened and effectively communicated to their workforce!
Listening and respecting your employees’ thoughts and ideas is a sign of strength of leadership, not a weakness, as is sometimes thought and believed. After all, who knows better how to better do the job than those who do it!
Now everything may not resolve this easily but I can tell you from experience, a lot of what we believe are huge problems can in fact be resolved with a little front loading, listening and communication!
Now do you still think that Collaborative problem solving is too expensive?
Take a few moments to speak with us. It could make a positive difference in your workplace.
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