Getting to Why

Getting to Why

In their classic book on negotiation and persuasion, Fisher and Ury outline the steps to get to yes.

They suggest the following approach:

Separate the people from the problem

The purpose of this step is to recognise that emotions and egos can become entangled with the problem in negotiations, and that this will adversely affect your ability to see the other party’s position clearly. This results in adversarial rather than cooperative interactions. This step involves:

  • Clarifying perceptions
  • Recognizing and legitimising emotions
  • Communicating clearly (c.f. Stephen Covey’s Listen first to understand, then speak to be understood)

Focus on interests, not positions

In this step there is exploration of the true interests underlying the positions of each side, rather than a focus on the superficial positions with which parties come to the table. The initial positions presented may obscure what the parties really want. It is therefore essential to:

  • Ask questions to explore interests
  • Talk about your own interests

Generate options for mutual gain

In this step time is for parties to set aside time together to generate alternative candidate solutions. The idea is that parties contribute together creatively to generate possibilities for mutual gain i.e. a Win-Win agreement. This step involves:

  • Brainstorming
  • Broadening options
  • Looking for mutual gain
  • Making their decision easy

Insist on using objective criteria

The final step is to use mutually agreed and objective criteria for evaluating the candidate solutions. During this stage they encourage openness and surrender to principle not pressure. This step involves:

  • Fair standards
  • Fair procedures

However, before you even get to that stage of trying to negotiate with people about how and whether to initiate a change initiative, the more important issue is how to get to why. Almost all change strategies follow the basic unfreeze-change-refreeze model. So, to get people to do something other than what they are doing now, you have to create a sense of urgency and give them good reasons why they need to change. like quitting smoking or innovating.

Here are Kotter’s steps in leading change

Kotter's Eight Steps in Leading Change

In his book, “A Sense of Urgency” John Kotter explained that a true sense of urgency is rare; mainly because “it is not the natural state of affairs. It has to be created and recreated.” So the task of leading a team of people in a transformation at any level will often require an ability to create an atmosphere of urgency that can be embraced, and in turn bring about an atmosphere of achievement.

Kotter offered four fundamental tactics to establish a sense of urgency in any environment:

1. Bring the outside in

A “we know best” culture reduces urgency; so help people see external opportunities.

2. Behave with urgency every day

Managers and leaders need to walk the talk and lead by example.

3. Find opportunity in crises

A well leveraged crisis can be a valuable tool to break through complacency.

4. Deal with the NoNos

Other tactics include:

5. Work with people who belong to the GSD club

Manufacture a crisis

7. Show, don’t tell, people who are being impacted and suffering the consequences of inaction and the status quo

8. Have the courage to tell truth to authority when and if the time is right

9. Be sure to have the right people sitting in the right seats on the right bus going in the right direction

10. Build your power base and lead innovators, don’t manage innovation

11. Show the potential benefits of change and use testimonials and social influencers to support your position

12. Use data and effective techniques to display it. But, don’t stop there. Change agents engage emotionally, not rationally. Appeal to the heart, not the head.

For most change initiatives, be they corporate or social, the why should come before the what and the how. Sometimes, though, particularly if you have ever been stuck at an offsite retreat, getting to why can take a very long time.

Get the Change Planning Toolkit from Braden Kelley

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Arlen MyersArlen Meyers, MD, MBA is the President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs at and co-editor of Digital Health Entrepreneurship

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Arlen Meyers

Arlen Meyers, MD, MBA is an emeritus professor at the University of Colorado School of Medicine ,teaches bioentrepreneurship and is Chief Medical Officer for Bridge Health and Cliexa. He is the President and CEO of the Society of Physician Entrepreneurs at and author of the Life Science Innovation Roadmap.




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