Decision Workshops

How Dilemma Analysis could have helped improve Europe's negotiating stance

Feedback from the players showed that most of them considered that their negotiation skills were well above average, and that their particular team had done very well in the negotiations.  This is not uncommon.


However the options table is a mathematical structure that can be analysed, giving not only a language in which the negotiations can be understood and described, but also directly showing the strengths and weaknesses of the players at all stages in the negotiations.  The analysis also recommends a specific order to induce or eliminate dilemmas so as to strengthen a party’s negotiating position.


This analysis and was purposefully not done in the workshop, because of a lack of time and because to support one side in this way may have been considered unfair by the other teams. The outcome may also have been less realistic as the negotiating strength of the player so helped would have been considerably aided.


It is beyond the scope of this report to examine all the possibilities at each stage, but examples of a few of the actions that could have been exploited by the European team, but were not, are shown below.  This is not to imply that the European performance was worse than average; a similar analysis could be carried out on the actions of the other teams.


1) Get the other players to admit that the threat (“printing the money”) was not a solution they wanted.


Europe’s main threat to the other players was to print €1 trillion which may have had a negative impact on the world economy. This threat was not exploited by the team.  China would be particularly vulnerable to the inflationary impacts of such a massive round of quantitative easing which would amount to a form of 'beggar thy neighbour' through the export of inflation. The objective of inducing the dilemma should have been to get crosses in the box “Print 1Tr” for the other players.  





Once the players had admitted that there was a problem then the conversation could have turned to how to solve it, but it did not go that way because the subject was not really brought up. Perhaps the European negotiating position could have taken the following form:


“So, Russia… What effect do you think that “printing” the €1tr would have on your economy?”


“That sounds bad… surely you don’t want this to happen, do you?   What do you want to do about this to stop this happening? I’ve made one suggestion, do you have a better one?”


Whatever answer came out, it was aimed to make the team admit that there was a problem and to try to get the cross in the box.


In this particular workshop, however, the Russian and Qatari teams never even had to disclose their positions on this important point and their boxes remained blank.


The China team also specifically stated that it was indifferent to printing the money.  This could have been countered by Europe doubting China’s position.


“China surely you don’t really want this to happen? Don’t you need to protect the huge investments you have already made in Europe?”


“Even if you don’t think you should buy the Italian bonds, can’t you think of something else that should be done to avert this potential catastrophe”


2) Destroying Russian political demands. 


Europe could have acted against the other players, especially the Russians, by destroying the Russian political demands option.  This would have removed Russia’s persuasion dilemma.  Europe needed the Russians to believe that the political concessions they demanded were not an option at all, rather than an option that existed but would not be taken.


Europe could have stated the practical difficulty of making the political concessions in the short period of time represented by the scenario and argued that it could not link the political to the financial (it should have argued that this was a genuine political constraint, not an arbitrary constraint imposed by the workshop organisers).


“Even though I have sympathy for your demands, they represent political discussions that are outside the scope of the deliberations we are discussing”


“In European culture we do not believe that the financial and the political should be mixed. As our politicians would not be able to survive the political storm resulting from making such obvious concessions, we feel we cannot make them. Even if we wanted to take your view, we could not.”


“To discuss such overtly political things will distract us from the purpose of the meeting, which is to settle financial differences. If we get side-tracked we cannot make progress on the main front.”


Indeed the Chinese players did make several of these arguments themselves when they first came up, but these were not directed forcibly enough to the Russians by the Europeans to make them change their minds.


3) Destroying the link between Russia and Qatar.


A large political difficulty was caused by the alliance between Russia and Qatar (an alliance which may have been partially suggested by the Europeans themselves). If the Europeans had been able to dissolve this linkage then they may have at least got a partial deal with the Qataris.


This weakness was identified by Europe. It also appeared in some of the feedback forms as something they would have liked to have achieved but it was never obtained. Europe could have pointed out that the political demands placed upon it by Russia (especially to do with Russian control of pipelines) would have been extremely disadvantageous to Qatar, itself a natural gas exporter looking to expand its exports to Europe.


Europe could have asked Qatar:


What is the basis of your alliance with Russia? What do you hope to gain from it? Can I give you what you intend to gain anyway?


Why are you fighting so hard to have a policy enacted that is so against your national interest? We are trying to fight your corner by not allowing Russian control of the gas pipelines, why are you opposing this?


The workshop illustrated how an options table could be used to record the progress of the negotiations, to make a party’s positions clear and to keep the negotiations on subject.  


Although this was not done during the workshop, an options table can also be examined and used to suggest the strategies of different teams, and increase a party’s negotiating strength.

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