Nearly every day a news commentator or political candidate is demanding that the opposing sides work together to compromise and remove governmental gridlock. What does compromise really mean?
A dictionary defines the word as “a settlement of differences by mutual concessions; an agreement reached by adjustment of conflicting or opposing claims, principles, etc., by reciprocal modification of demands.” Just the definition should lead us to realize that compromise is not the answer to finding viable solutions for any complex issue.
Compromise is adversarial. It has winners and losers. Neither side is really satisfied with the outcome. Often, the apparent victor is disheartened from having stripped out critical components of the “deal.” Often the losers are motivated to sabotage the “deal” so that it can be reopened for negotiation.
This system is so flawed that Congress now has the lowest approval rating in the history of the Country. The process of compromise is also creating gridlock in State and local governmental agencies, school boards and almost any “elected” body of governance.
Consider replacing “compromise” with “collaboration and consensus.” The dictionary definition of collaborate is “to work, one with another; cooperate willingly.” The definition of collaborate is “general agreement or concord; harmony.”
A benchmark for recommending a complete redesign in governmental conduct is based on 14 years working at Mission Control in Houston during Gemini and Apollo. We made up our minds to go to the moon in seven years and we did it.
The word compromise was not in our lexicon! I attended scores of design meetings where a room full of subject matter experts would debate approaches and risk factors. Everyone had their chance to pitch their approach and defend it.
At the end of each session, there was one single plan for moving forward. It often contained the best ideas from many sources, but it was ONE harmonious plan. There were no winners or losers.
They key to winning the space race was that once consensus was reached, EVERYONE committed to work on making that project a success.
Adopting the business model of consensus and collaboration in our Federal government will require a complete overhaul of all established policies of developing acts of congress and unilateral executive actions. Undoing the practice of creating winners and losers has got to stop, at any cost. If we can win the space race, we can certainly win the human race.
Tom Taormina has written 12 books on business process excellence and leadership. He is a long time resident of Storey County.