Project U. Blog

A Lesson in Conflict: To Wall or Not to Wall: Is Not the Question!

Posted by Catherine Saar on Tue, Jan 15, 2019 @ 09:55 AM

The controversy over the wall is impacting the livelihood of hundreds of thousands of government workers and soon, when they can no longer pay their rent, they are not going to give a crap about whether or not a wall gets built. No one looks good in this current situation. The President is saying “Wall or bust,” and right now, the House is saying, “No wall.” Guess what? We are all losing.

I am wondering if we asked a different question, might we get a different result?

Why would anyone want a wall? In addition to trying to win the next election, I’m guessing the President wants to improve border security. But he is fixated on only one solution to do that: a wall.

Has that ever happened to you? You desperately want something that you think is the right answer to all your needs, but someone isn’t willing to give it to you? And then you figure out, hmmm, maybe there are other ways to achieve your goal.

So what if the parties involved started working from a shared objective rather than arguing over a specific strategy? I’m guessing that most Democrats would be happy to shore up border security and participate in a more secure America.



What if we asked a bunch of non-partisan border security experts (a cross-functional team if you will, including some of the people who would actually have to implement the plan) to form a panel, get in a room together and figure out what their recommendations are to best secure our borders?

After all, why are Congress and the President deciding the best way to secure the border? Do they really know? Leave it to the experts. In a corporate setting, the CEO doesn’t determine the tactics for every department, (s)he sets overall objectives and then asks leaders for their recommendations and goes forward from there. Approved recommendations get funded and department heads and their teams implement the plans that achieve the desired outcome.

This could similarly be the case with the panel’s recommendations. Maybe they would recommend a wall or some other physical barrier, or maybe not. Maybe they would suggest additional manpower, or additional technology, or some combination thereof. I don’t know, but if a panel of experts feels good about what they propose, I’m guessing it could be a very good solution that could achieve the underlying goal that everyone shares.

This is key in navigating a conflict. Can you identify shared goals and a process by which to identify the best outcome that satisfies the needs of both sides?

Of course there are political agendas and personalities at work here. That always complicates things and must be taken into account. Unless both parties are truly committed to solving problems, it can be difficult to move forward. But in an ideal world, if my hypothetical construct went forward, the President could claim victory with a metaphoric wall, and Democrats will have done their job to be practical and judicious and still contribute to the goal of a safer America.

Everybody wins.

Perhaps the next time you get attached to a specific strategy in a conflict situation, (and you are not trying to win an election) consider asking yourself, “Am I asking the right question, or am I simply building a wall?”