Stakeholder management is essential to any successful human endeavor—be it governments planning financial stimulus packages or spouses choosing which movie to watch. In either case, you can’t go it alone. You have to bring others on-board to achieve your objectives.
Confrontation analysis provides us with a framework for planning our interactions with others, whether as individuals or organizational entities. It ensures that we remain focused on the issues that are pertinent to the achievement of our goals. Our use of the term “confrontation” should be taken to mean any situation where those who control a situation have potentially conflicting objectives. Remember that time you wanted pizza, but your friends wanted Asian food? Yep. That was a confrontation.
One of the most powerful elements of confrontation analysis lies in the recognition that it is pointless to focus on desired states of the world. These are consequences of what you can really change—people’s intentions. Objectives in confrontation analysis are specified as actions you wish to be taken by other parties. In turn, each party states what it intends to do if its objectives are not met—its “fallback plan”.
Unless all the parties are in complete agreement, confrontation analysis will distill the objectives and fallback plans into a set of logical dilemmas. Parties develop their strategies through the systematic elimination of these dilemmas. This formal process ensures that decision-makers do not get sidetracked by the deluge of seemingly relevant advice and information that is forced upon them. If it doesn’t have a clear link to a current dilemma, it’s noise.
A confrontation analysis plan consists of an partially ordered sequence of messages that must be communicated to other parties, along with guidance on the emotional tone to be used in delivering these messages. Messages can be spoken or written communiqués, but they can also take the form of actions. Lining tanks up along the border sends a crystal-clear message to your neighbor!