Breaking Robert's Rules Brr Susskind Emphasizes the Essay

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Breaking Robert's Rules (BRR), Susskind emphasizes the value that a good facilitator can add in helping a group reach the best possible outcomes using the consensus-based approach. Looking back at the Bullard or Harborco negotiation, how might a neutral facilitator have added value?

A neutral facilitator would have better able to ascertain the desires of both sides of the argument. The consensus based approach is most prominent when both sides can discuss grievances without a bias methodology from the facilitator. The facilitator using a consensus based approach must encourage careful thought and collaboration amongst all parties involved. Biases could negatively impact the consensus based approach as one party may feel alienated or defensive. The other party meanwhile will believe themselves to have a negotiation advantage and attempt more benefits. These aspects would ultimately hinder the negotiation as both sides will be unable to arrive at a legitimate consensus regarding their issues.

Firstly, the facilitator is neutral to the content and task of the group. That is not to say that the facilitator cannot or should not have any content expertise or any stake in the outcome of the task, but that the group must be able to have confidence that the facilitator will not allow these to influence the group's work and decisions. Neutrality is essential for the group to arrive a generally consensus that reward cooperation. In contrast, the consultant provides expert advice and the trainer imparts knowledge or skills, both contributing content expertise. The chair is generally a member of the group and so has a stake in the outcome, and is ultimately responsibility for it.

In addition, what the facilitator does is to diagnose and intervene in how the group works. In other words, he or she contributes process rather than content expertise. The process is very important in regards to neutrality. Allowing the process to provide an optimal consensus is integral to providing the best possible solution for both parties. The facilitator is not neutral to process, but indeed is granted responsibility for the group's process, by the group. A leader cannot impose a facilitator on a group without its consent.

As such, the facilitator in the Harboco negotiation would have added value by emphasizing the process rather than formal information. By emphasizing the overall process, both parties would have been allowed to arrive at a decision collectively without the formal influence of the facilitator. Furthermore, both parties would believe, psychologically, that they benefited from the overall solution evenly.

Think back to a well-facilitated group that you were a part of in the last year or two. What specific things did the facilitator do that you consider effective? What personal traits or aspects of their interpersonal style struck you as effective?

One tactic that I found effective was the use is that of expertise. The facilitator was very aggressive in providing experts within the technology field to validate the value proposition he could provide to the negotiation. Trusted authoritative figures within the industry provide a large amount of credibility to potential partners. The facilitator arranged for extensive use of prior customers, as it provides another viewpoint of the merit behind the business negotiations. Using both experts in the field and previous customers provided the potential partner with reassurance that the negotiations are genuine and honest. Furthermore, it provides credibility to the service the facilitator can provide relative to peers who are vying for the same partner.

Another tactic I found very effective was that of ordering potential grievances in the order by which they can be easily reconciled. Undoubtedly, throughout the negotiation process, questions and concerns will arise. Throughout the negotiation process the facilitator would address these concerns by the ease in which they can be alleviated. The easiest issues to resolve would be addressed first, leaving the more difficult and contentious issue for the end of the negotiation. This strategy of addressing the minor and less important issue first provided a foundation that was used to gain commitment of the other party in the latter stages of the negotiation (Graham, 2009).

Furthermore, facilitators are often engaged to design and lead one-off workshops, events and meetings of various kinds. However, facilitation adds great value to broader and longer term processes of organizational change, development and capacity building as well. These may involve multiple events or other interventions spread over time and geography, and often online as well as face-to-face participation. The facilitator will assume a diversity of perspectives, positions and needs within any group, and will help the group to relate and respond creatively to conflict, as appropriate to the task at hand. When the primary task of a group is to resolve conflict, then it may be that the particular conflict resolution expertise of a mediator is what is required.

With his Circle of Conflict, Moore is suggesting that mediators can and should intervene in different ways depending on the cause(s) of the conflict. What types of conflict do you see in the currently pending Keystone XL pipeline project? If you were brought in to mediate this very contentious issue, how might you intervene to help the parties negotiate effectively and potentially reach agreement?

The Keystone XL pipeline project is very contentious in regards to environmental issues. Environmentalists, particularly those who are fearful of global warming, may oppose the project altogether. One long-term cost of KXL is its contribution to raising the Earth's temperature. Burning fossil fuel carried in the pipeline produces carbon dioxide. Dr. James Hansen, who heads NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, calculates the pipeline will raise the level of CO2 on Earth by 200 parts per million (ppm). Eighteen American scientific organizations support the consensus view that excess CO2, which is at its highest level in the last 800,000 years (392 ppm), is warming our planet. An increase in the Earth's temperature causes climate change, which has many negative effects. These negative effects would be used by environmentalist to prevent the expansion of the pipeline. The facilitator must be aware of these grievances prior to entering into the overall negotiation.

For example, climate change has enlarged the range of disease-bearing insects that once thrived only in warmer climates. In Africa, malaria kills a child every 30 seconds. Climate change will expand the habitat of the tropical mosquitoes that carry malaria, adding 80 million cases annually to that toll. In 1933, malaria infected 30% of the Tennessee Valley Authority's inhabitants. The spraying of DDT, which is no longer considered safe, eradicated malaria in the U.S. By 1951. However, if climate change produces the warming and torrential rains that exacerbate stagnant water pools, malaria could return which could harm our nation.

Proponents for the pipeline will point to the potential economic development that the pipeline provides. Using conservative economic estimates, the KXL Pipeline will produce 5,060 to 9,250 full-time equivalent, temporary, non-local jobs over the two-year construction phase, as calculated by Cornell University's Global Labor Institute. Thus KXL will produce $253 million - $555 million in wages (at $50,000 to $60,000 per job). Compare that with the $534 million-plus cost of treating 6,000 added U.S. cases of Lyme disease every three years (at $89,000 per case). Thus, within three years or less, global warming-related, impaired health costs will begin to outweigh wage benefits of the Earth-warming KXL project.

In this instance, both parties for and against the pipeline will remain steadfast in their beliefs. This is particularly true as the American economy still remains very stagnant in regards to growth. Proponents for economic growth will quickly point to the increase in jobs that will undoubtedly occur if the project is undertaken. Environmentalists will quickly point to the climate damage and the resulting damage that will occur. To help both parties, I would first attempt to eliminate many of the smaller grievances…[continue]

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