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Guns & Wheat

It was the first popularly-elected government since the Russian Revolution of 1918. The Soviet Union had just fallen, and the Prime Minister and 28 ministers of Latvia were trying to organize their government. They asked me to help them at a weekend retreat.

When I arrived, I could hear them shouting at each other from 50 feet away in the parking lot. I entered the building and calmed them down. Then I got them to promise that they would follow my instructions as the process facilitator unless it was illegal or unhealthy. They agreed.

Their big dispute was about wheat versus guns – who got the most budget. I brought the agriculture and defense ministers to the front of the group and said we were going to have a debate. They were thrilled and excited. “There’s only one process rule,” I said. “Each of you has to debate the other side’s position.”

A pandemonium of protest ensued. I reminded them of their promise that they would follow my instructions. Reluctantly, each first met their coterie of supporters, huddled separately to prepare, and then started the debate. It was breathtaking to behold. They solved the problem in a few hours. The two ministers said it was the best experience solving problems they had in all their years as government officials.

First I got them to agree to standards – using my process. Then it was about role reversal, walking a mile in someone else’s shoes, a big part of Getting More. As the morning progressed they grew to understand each other perceptions and found more creative solutions acceptable to all.

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