Idealized– WIN-WIN Strategy– It’s Less about Process, More about Tactics, Most about Results: The Prisoner’s Dilemma…

WIN-WIN ranks high on the list of over-used buzzwords, but many people have trouble understanding the counter intuitive notion that two sides can win in a negotiation… In theory, the win-win strategy is about changing conflict from adversarial– attack and defense– to cooperation. It’s a powerful shift of attitude that can alter the whole course of communication.

Win-win, win-lose, lose-win, lose-lose are game theory terms that refer to the possible outcome of a game or dispute involving two sides and more importantly, how each side perceives their outcome relative to their standing before the game. For example, a ‘win’ results when the outcome of a negotiation is better than expected, a ‘loss’ when the outcome is worse than expected. Two people may receive the same outcome in measurable terms, for example; $10 for one side may be a loss, while for the other it’s a win. In other words, expectations determine one’s perception of any given result…

According to Brad Spangler; situations where parties agree to act in both their own interest and in the interest of the other parties can be a win-win situation… The basis for any win-win situation is that compromise and cooperation must be at least as important as ego and competition. Everyone likes to ‘win’ but the question raised to create the win-win situation is: How can a situation be established where nobody loses? A win/win approach rests on strategies involving: going back to underlying needs; recognition of individual differences; openness to adapting ones position in the light of shared information and attitudes; attacking the problem, not the people…

Even when trust between the parties is very limited, win-win can be effective, and if there’s some doubt about the other person keeping their end of the bargain you can make the agreement reciprocal. For example; I’ll do X for you, if you do Y for me: X supports their needs, Y supports yours. I’ll arrange for the demo, if you bring the people. I’ll help you draw up those figures for your reports, if you schedule a meeting with the project manager… Usually, co-operation can result in both people getting more of what they want. The win-win strategy is conflict-issue resolution for mutual gain.

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In the article Habits of Highly Effective People–Habit 4: Think Win-Win by Stephen R. Covey and Joseph M. Mellichamp write: Win-win is misused very often and it mostly comes down to a win-lose proposition in a pretty package. Win-win is about adopting a new paradigm; the paradigm of ‘creation‘, instead of the paradigm of ‘competition’. In summary, there are seven different paradigms of interpersonal interaction:

  • Win-Win: I win and you win. Solution that creates value for all parties involved. This is based on the premises of ‘abundance’.
  • Win-Lose: I win, you lose. Highly competitive mindset, based on the premises of limited ‘rewards’.
  • Lose-Win: I lose, you win. One party accepts a loss… Sounds strange? Ever caved in to an apparently pointless  argument, saying; Alright, if it’s that important to you, we’ll do it your way. That’s a typical lose-win situation.
  • Lose-Lose: All parties are very competitive and need to win at all cost. This ultimately ends up in lose-lose situation.
  • Win: Only focused on winning, regardless of what it brings to others. The others are not in the equation here.
  • Win-Win or no agreement: All parties want to agree to a win-win solution, but if it’s not possible, let’s agree to disagree agreeably.
  • Compromise: All parties win and lose ‘a little’.

The paradigm of ‘abundance’ is critical– it’s the basis for the win-win concept; it says that there’s enough in it for all parties and, it’s not about getting a bigger piece of the pie, it’s about making the pie bigger… However, if there are limited ‘rewards’, then accomplishing a win-win is difficult, if not impossible… Win-win is a paradigm, a mindset… You have to genuinely want to achieve a win-win solution and not just aim for it– and then just ‘settle’ for win-lose; if it proves too difficult…

When it comes down to achieving a goal through a ‘relationship’, the win-win mindset calls for seeing it from the other party’s prospective, i.e., trying to understand what the other party wants to achieve, so that you can try to find a way to get their ‘wants’ fulfilled. In the end, if you want ‘win-win’ to succeed; you must make mutual agreements that ‘define it’, have reward systems that ‘reward it’, and processes that ‘support it’…

In the article What Does Win-Win Negotiation Mean? by Robert Menard writes: Negotiation strategy always has a profound impact on business… There are four basic strategies: win-win, win-lose, lose-win, and lose-lose. Selecting the appropriate strategy depends upon how each of the parties values the ‘issue’ and the ‘relationship’. A visual-aid works well to explain this concept:

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These four quadrants represent the four different negotiation strategies available. The choice of negotiation strategy depends on the value both parties place on the ‘issue’ and the ‘relationship’: Take win-lose, in lower left quadrant; it’s the strategy that’s most frequently practiced, and it’s used when the ‘issue’ matters more than the ‘relationship’…

Take lose-win, in upper right quadrant; it’s the strategy that’s used when the ‘relationship’ is valued more than the ‘issue’… Take lose-lose, in lower right quadrant; it’s the strategy used when both the ‘issue’ and the ‘relationship’ have little value; and it might only occur in rare situations…

Finally, take win-win, in top right quadrant; it’s the strategy used when both the ‘relationship’ and the ‘issue’ are very important, and when both parties are interested in a long-term commitment… Ideally, win-win should be the preferred strategy when dealing with major customers and suppliers…

However, many people who talk about a win-win strategy actually hedge their actions  because– all that ‘really’ matters, to them, is that ‘they win’…

In the article Win-Win Really Means Win-Lose by Douglas E. Noll writes: In my opinion, win-win expresses a superficial niceness while papering over differences. Seeking a win-win outcome creates distrust and frustration… Win-win is one of four outcomes from a game called the ‘Prisoner’s Dilemma’; a game that theorists devised thirty years ago to examine strategies of competition and cooperation…

The game is a favorite research topic for psychologists with hundreds of experiments conducted; as a result, win-win is used to describe an optimum conflict outcome. However, many experts say that the ‘win-win’ concept is dangerously simplistic… For example, in addition to unrealistic assumptions underlying the win-win orientation, the very nature of the term ‘win-win’ implies competition instead of cooperation: Winning means beating your opponent. The term win-win is consequently unconsciously translated as, I win more than you win– or, I don’t care if you win, so long as I win. Thus, win-win is a self-contradictory euphemism.

People say they want a fair resolution, but what that really mean that the resolution has to be on their individual terms. When someone says he wants a win-win solution, contextually that does not make sense. Hence, the win-win idiom often creates mistrust… In the world where large corporate cultures and small teams are supposed to express shared values, win-win conflict resolution strategies are often applied…

That is, it’s supposes— that we can come together and resolve our differences, such that everyone will come out winners. It’s a cultural discourse, not a neutral one. This is the discourse of nice guy liberalism, the passive-aggressive discourse of politeness, the patronizing discourse of trying to get what you want while trying to tell someone else that they are getting what they should want.

Some people play this discourse better than others. Indeed, agreeing to disagree may be the optimal outcome, even the most productive one: The best negotiation should not be forced to end with win-win… Generalizing across all conflict contexts; win-win is not a genuine conflict resolution, but rather a mechanism for persuading others that they can have what they want, without really giving anything away. It’s clever, but not very productive for long-term conflict resolution.

Thus, win-win is neither a process nor an outcome… Thus, be aware of the fallacy of win-win: Conflict or negotiation is far more complex than game theory, and it’s not reducible…

Ever heard someone say that they ‘gave away the farm‘? Despite our best intentions, we sometimes negotiate too much value away to arrive at an agreement; even when we go into negotiations with high motivation, grandiose, and exuberant spirit of cooperation. Today, many hear that ‘win-win’ negotiations are all the rage… Yet it’s all too common that most negotiators fail to understand that this term represents achieving a win-win negotiated ‘settlement’, instead of a win…

According to Lewis Schiff; a survey of business executives found that they overwhelmingly disagreed with the idea that win-win solutions are ‘best’, and it was suggested that the notion of win-win is widely regarded as a dangerous trap; that having a win-win perspective almost guarantees that you’ll be the only one offering concessions in order to reach agreement. Almost all guides to negotiating recommend the same three-step alternative to win-win: First, write down your wished-for goals. Second, study what the opposition wants. Third, write down the conditions at which you will walk away…

According to Michael Donaldson; these three steps are called– wish, want, walk… However, the only full-proof ‘win-win’ strategy is simply; treat customers the way you would want to be treated– with integrity along with providing good quality products… and then, you will be well on your way to making every customer feel like a winner, and your company will also be a winner, too There are three things that you must keep in mind:

  • The customer is not always right.
  • There are some customers you can never please no matter what you do.
  • When faced with an un-winnable situation, your duty is to mitigate the loss.