Requires safe forum

These problems are characterized by multiple stakeholders with strong, but conflicting preferences for the final outcome. These problems often represent enduring differences of opinion that will clash in a wide variety of specific situations. The players often come together repeatedly over new versions of old conflicts.


  • Environmentalists, developers, local agencies, and residents debate over the pathway for a new freeway
  • Landowners, regional agencies, environmentalists, and developers put together the Lake Tahoe Regional Planning Agency
  • Competing companies creating industry standards to create a stable marketplace for their products
  • Owners, contractors, architects developing the specifications for a major construction project
  • Infighting among departments

The Present
  • Conflict or competition around common resource
  • Players can't step away
  • Not enough common interest to find agreement on their own
  • Often represent enduring differences of perspective

Likely Actions
  • Create a safe forum
  • Encourage candid advocacy
  • Distinguish the real interests behind the stated negotiating positions or demands
  • Install norms of reasonableness and fair play
  • Find neutral player with enough authority and/or facilitation skill to engage the parties

The Future
  • Compromise or settlement allocates the common resources and avoids a stalemate
  • Hopefully relationships are intact enough to support another conflict in the future
  • There is some mechanism for enforcing the agreement

Common Typing Errors

The mere presence of disagreement is not sufficient to assign this problem type. People caught in a Dilemma will also evidence strong disagreement. For example, developers and environmentalists may easily present as a Dispute. In fact, they are reflecting the two sides of the dilemma:

  • Economic Growth vs. Quality of Life

Until both sides embrace that dilemma, however, the problem type of Dispute will often provide a temporary guide as to the best strategy. When the players realize the downside of ignoring either side of the dilemma, then you could switch over to that model for future discussions.

< Copyright 2003 by Jerry L. Talley [ Home Page ]