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I realize it's a bit presumptuous to suggest that one model (whether combined with its assessment or not) can make a big difference in explaining (and then improving) something as multidimensional (and extremely complex and messy) as the historically based conflicts that seem to be escalating across the globe in a manner that may be increasingly dissatisfying societies and its citizens. But I thought it might be beneficial to open the door on this close-to-home debate...especially since political and societal conflict is as much a part of the field of conflict management as is interpersonal, group, and organizational conflict.
To get this controversial subject going, let me suggest that the current political maneuvering in the U.S. (as the November presidential election approaches) is dramatically locked on the distributive dimension...perhaps being more concerned with winning election and political control (at all costs) rather than serving the constituency and the needs of the citizens. Perhaps BI-partisan behavior at the extreme is a battle fixed on the competing mode (high assertiveness, low cooperativeness), which often does NOT result in even a workable compromise that serves many people's needs. In sharp contrast, what our societies really seem to need is a good dose of TRANS-partisan behavior along the integrative dimension (moving from compromising to collaborating), so that the very people being "served" by the system can get their most important needs met.
But collaborating only works under a very specific set of conditions, including TRUST, good speaking and listening skills, a willingness to share what is really wanted and needed, seeing the bigger picture of whose needs we are serving, focusing on satisfying BOTH party's needs to the max, and a surrounding culture and reward system that encourages both parties to develop a solution that satisfies citizen needs...the proclaimed needs those parties are presumably serving.
Seeing the conditions that must be in place in order to shift from a distributive (bipartisan) perspective to an integrative (trans-partisan) perspective seems to highlight what must be addressed if our political systems (which evolved from hundreds of years of serving a different world under different conditions) will be able to truly serve citizen needs amidst TODAY's economic, social, religious, military, health, and environmental mega-conflicts.
Ralph H. Kilmann, Ph.D., is CEO and Senior Consultant at Kilmann Diagnostics in Newport Coast, California. Formerly, he was the George H. Love Professor of Organization and Management at the Katz School of Business, University of Pittsburgh—which was his professional home for thirty years. He earned both his B.S. and M.S. degrees in industrial administration from Carnegie Mellon University (1970) and a Ph.D. degree in management from the University of California, Los Angeles (1972).
Ralph is an internationally recognized authority on systems change. He has consulted for numerous corporations throughout the United States and Europe, including AT&T, Kodak, IBM, Ford, General Electric, Lockheed, Olivetti, Philips, TRW, Wolseley, and Xerox. He has also consulted for numerous health-care, financial, and government organizations, including the U.S. Bureau of the Census and the Office of the President. His professional biography is profiled in Who's Who in America and Who's Who in the World.
Ralph has published more than twenty books and one hundred articles on such subjects as conflict management, organizational design, problem management, change management, and quantum organizations. He is the developer of the MAPS Design® Technology and coauthor of several diagnostic instruments, including the Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument and theKilmann-Saxton Culture-Gap® Survey.
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