Getting to Yes

The notion of “Getting To Yes” is not just a business mantra.

In Mammoth, it applies all over the place, most recently in a renewed effort by the town (see story, P. 10) in getting our recreation leaders on the same page.

Fat chance, we say.

Heaven knows we’ve tried this kind of thing before, most recently with the long forgotten Sports Council, which aimed to unite recreation groups toward the practical idea of figuring out which groups should get which piece of the economic pie.

The Sports Council lasted about a year before it died a predictable death.

Now comes the latest effort, aimed toward establishing a government entity called “Mammoth Lakes Recreation,” the model for which is already established with Mammoth Lakes Tourism, Mammoth Lakes Housing, and Eastern Sierra Transit Authority (ESTA).

We were in the room last Monday among 39 people representing 32 recreation groups. Practically everyone who is anyone was there, except for the odd absence of anyone from the Mono County government, go figure.

It was a terrific show, even without the Bridgeport contingent. If nothing else, it proved that we have—without question—one of the biggest, most diverse, and most beautiful set of recreation assets anyone could ever hope for.

Maybe that’s one of the reasons we’re so hopeless at agreeing with one each other. Maybe it’s that we have way too many amateur leaders looking only at tightly focused bailiwicks, and no single leader with a vision of the big picture.

Rusty Gregory referenced this upside-down situation last November when he correctly placed all our great attributes on our mountain culture of rugged individualism, but at the same time identified the very same individualism as the root cause of our inability to agree on anything at all.

That brings us to the current state of recreation in Mammoth.

In a perfect world, all recreation would fall under the wand of a kind of benevolent, totalitarian politburo, which would have the power and the chutzpah to stand up to every single squeaky wheel and demand accountability for the squeak.

In turn, the recreation politburo would establish recreation programming with which Mammoth Lakes Tourism would take to the market, and in doing so generate jobs for people, who in turn would need the services of Mammoth Lakes Housing, and use the free transportation network established by ESTA.

Wild dream, we say, with no evidence that such an arrangement could ever succeed.

On the other hand, we don’t really have to create a framework for a solution.

Roger Fisher and William L. Ury already did it, all the way back in 1981, in their seminal book, “Getting To Yes,” re-issued in 1991 with additional authorship credit to Bruce Patton.

Built within the context of business negotiations, the authors identified principled negotiation on five propositions:

  • Separate the people from the problem.
  • Focus on interests, not positions.
  • Invent options for mutual gain.
  • Insist on using objective criteria.
  • Know your BATNA (Best Alternative To Negotiated Agreement)

Mammoth is not alone in “Getting To Yes.” All over the place, people struggle with it, both in business negotiations and in government.

Given our past history, we doubt it will ever happen here.

But we’re not rooting against it, either.