In parts of Germany, Spring 2013 was one of the wettest on record. Wet weather was the cause of widespread flooding. However not yet completed new and better flood defences certainly contributed to dramatically greater than necessary damage to people and infrastructure in, for example Grimma. For many citizens it is difficult to understand why defences planned after the 2002 floods were still not completed!
The Japanese do a much better job of dealing with disasters quickly and effectively. The Tsunami of 2011 is just one example. Japan suffers even greater and more frequent calamities due to the islands’ volcanic and seismic activity (not to mention extreme weather). The islands of Japan suffer landslides, earthquakes, Tsunamis, far beyond their fair share. Money spent on prevention and reconstruction is proportionally much more than in any other country or region of the World. For Japan effective and rapid implementation of infrastructure projects is essential. Compounding Japan’s problems is the need to minimize the financial cost. Regional and national governments are so financially strapped that often they are unable to allow builders and contractors a decent profit.
The focus of this article is:
- How Germany dealt with the threat of more environmental disasters and
- the Japanese win-win-win-strategy to deal with theirs.
The wins were:
- Japanese citizens saw rapid repair or protection of key infrastructure.
- The ministry was able to contract more work without increasing funds
- Builders and contractors are no longer constantly on the brink of bankruptcy.
While more projects were completed more reliably, faster and without adding resources or spending additional money, the Japanese perceived that harmony created among the three parties – the Japanese citizens, the Japanese Ministry for Infrastructure and Japanese builders and contractors – was the major key benefit. Today rapid consensus on the right projects, the right decisions and how to manage projects is achieved harmoniously and effectively.
The German Story
In 2002 Grimma, a town of 30,000 on the banks of the river Mulde, suffered huge water damage due to the floods of that year. Grimma alone accounted for 250 million euro of damage to 700 houses and infrastructure, like swept away bridges. Projects to prevent future damage were proposed and were to be financed by the European Union and the Free State of Sachsen. Citizens strongly objected to these projects. They feared a devaluation of the historic cityscape and an impact to their groundwater. The conflict over what was to be done delayed work until August 2007. By 2013 completion was expected in 2017 – far too late for the huge floods of 2013 (and who knows what might still happen). There is a possibility that the partially completed protection wall at least limited last 2013's damage.
Two obvious problems meant that in 2013 Grimma again suffered huge damage to houses and infrastructure:
- They did not have a facilitator to help the parties to find their win-win-solution after the 2002 floods.
- It takes far too long to complete flood defence projects once they are decided.
No Facilitator to help find a Win-Win-Solution
It took five years to resolve the conflict between a citizen movement that had the above-mentioned fears on one side and the authorities and other citizens who wanted to make sure huge damage due to flooding would never be repeated. A win-win-strategy, without compromise, was needed to satisfy both parties.
Fig. 2 shows a conflict resolution diagram (often referred to as a "conflict cloud"). The purpose is to clearly describe the conflict between two parties and as the conflict between their desired actions. The red double arrow illustrates this conflict. To the left of these requirements are the two valid needs that should be fulfilled. If you read the two needs it is obvious they are both valid and should be met. To the immediate left of the two needs is the objective common to both sides that they can easily agree to: to care for the wellbeing of all Grimma citizens.
In 2002 a good facilitator would have brought both parties to recognise their two needs and to work together to find the way to fulfil both. The conflict diagram is the facilitator’s way of showing both sides the needs of the other side. He would have brought the two groups together to fight against the problem and to find a solution that does not compromise either side’s needs. The new action would of course have had to be different from the two sides initially proposed actions.