Consider the “Umbrella Question”

Consider the “Umbrella Question”

Most issues today are debated not explored. Folks frequently want to “build a case and fix blame” more than “build a relationship and fix the problem.” A successful technique is the “umbrella question.” It looks like this. “How can we [insert needs of group A] while at the same time [insert needs of group B,] thereby meeting [insert common interests?]” Some examples include:

              Workplace Scheduling Issue

  • How can we ensure adequate shift coverage,
  • while also respecting the need to plan personal lives,
  • thereby meeting our financial objectives and the fair distribution of work?

              Business Dispute

  • How can we fairly and cost-effectively address Brown’s need to get its product to market,
  • while at the same time protect Green’s distribution rights,
  • thereby satisfying your common need for profitability and viability?

Creating it requires the participants to listen for agreement more than for disagreement. It works because the intellectually honest answer will, by definition, reasonably satisfy everyone’s interests. The collaborative result leads to a “resolution,” not just a “settlement,” where they walk away with begrudging acceptance.

–thoughts from Sam Imperati, WMA Board Member