Decision Workshops

Understanding and building the tables used in Confrontation Analysis

Understanding and building the tables is a six step process:

Step 1: Identify the options

Each option represents a Yes/No decision that can be made by one of the parties. The card is "owned" by the party who actually has the ability to make the decision.  Two example cards from the Libyan end game owned by the Misratah Salafists are shown below. They are to take revenge on Gaddafi supporters and to disband their military units.  There are a host of other decisions that need to be looked at as well.  The first stage of confrontation analysis is to identify such decisions.

Step 2: Estimate how much the parties want each event to happen

The next stage is to give an estimate of the amount which the different parties want the event to happen.  This is a number varying from plus 9 (something they really want to happen), through 0 (something they are neutral about) to minus 9 (something they really do not want to happen).  As far as possible it should refer to the event happening in isolation (independant of other events). This estimation can be quite a hard task, as these values may not be directly communicated. However it is good to derive these as they can give an idea of priorities and strengths of feeling.  Expressing preferences in this way also gives a language experts can use to voice opinions about the relative values, and a guide for role playing purposes.

Step 3: Indicate what the parties are saying should happen

The third stage is to look at the stated and communicated positions - what each of the parties is telling the others should happen. This is expressed as either a tick for something they are saying definitely should happen, a cross for something they are saying definitely should not happen, or a dash for something they are neutral, unclear or undecided about.


Here the communicated positions is that everyone agrees that the Salifists should not take revenge on Gaddafi's supporters, but there is a dispute about if the units should disband. with the NTC saying that they should, the Salafists and the Brotherhood saying they should not, and the West having no position.

In the example case, the Salafists and the Muslim Brotherhood would be happy to to take revenge, and not disband their units (hence positive score for revenge, negative score for disbanding}, whereas the West and the NCT would be happy with no revenge on Gaddafi's supporters and with the militias disbanding.  The numbers show that the strongest feelings (the -6) are the desire for the Salafists not to disband. It also shows that the West cares more about the Salafists not taking revenge than it does about their disbanding and the NCT cares more about the disbanding and less about the revenge.  


The numbers are a language to help describe these complex relationships.

Step 4: Show what will happen if the negotiations were to stop

This is the situation that will happen if no further negotiations take place (the "Future"). It is shown as a large tick or cross on the left of the table. In this case the Salafist units will not be disbanded and there will be no revenge on the Gaddafi supporters.

Step 5: Show the doubts

The final stage is technically a cosmetic stage, it is to work out and show the dilemmas on the card table. It is important to make these specific because eliminating them is the purpose of negotiation, and it helps for the players to easily focus on them. There are a set of rules to show what dilemmas exist, namely:


1) If a party:

            wants another party to do something is has said it will not


            wants another party not do something it has said that it will

then that party has a Persuasion dilemma.  It needs to persuade the other party to change its mind.


This occurs if a) there are no doubts and b) the future has a tick and your position a cross or vice versa.


In this case it appears for the "Disband Salafist" card for the NTC (NTC has a tick and the future has a cross - hence the red "Persuasion" box in the digram below).


2) If the party is:

           saying it will do something it prefers not to, (has a tick with a number -3 or less)


           saying it will not do something it prefers to do, (has a cross with a  number+3 or more)


           saying it is neutral when it is not (dash with a number +3 or more or -3 or less)


then that party has a hidden dilemma (a dilemma with itself).  


This represents the difficulties the party will have with its internal constituents in accepting the ruling. (the band between -2 and +2 is arbitrarily assumed to be small enough that such internal conflicts can be overcome).

Step 6: Show the dilemmas

The next stage is to state if there are things that one side is saying will be done that the other side does not believe will.  These are the doubts (shown by the question marks in the left column).  In this case, the West and the NTC doubt that the the Misratah Salafists will really not take revenge.

The West has not explicitly stated that the Salafists should disband, but it would like them to. It therefore has a hidden dilemma in that it would like this to happen and may have difficulty not bringing the subject up and giving itself a dilemma.


The Muslim Brotherhood and the Salafists have hidden dilemmas around revenge.  They have stated that they do not want to take revenge, and that may genuinely be their policy, but they may have difficulty persuading some of their members not to take revenge. (This is exacerbated by the Co-operation dilemma they also have with the West and the NTC, who will believe they are not trying if they lose control and revenge attacks do take place).


3) If a there is a doubt in the future column and the parties nominally agree then there is a Trust dilemma for the parties that do not "own" the card and a Co-operation dilemma for the parties that "owns" the card.


In this case there are doubts from that West and the NTC that the Salafists will not take revenge. Thus the Salafists have a Co-operation dilemma and the West and NTC a trust dilemma. These are shown on the left of the diagram.


(if the parties do not nominally agree then there is a threat or a rejection dilemma - see this page. In practice there happened to be none in this scenario).

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