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The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Information Professionals, Part 7

Habit 4: Think Win/Win (Part 2)

This is the seventh in a series of columns on Stephen Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and what they mean for information professionals. Habit 4, "Think Win/Win" is vital to every information professional who seeks enterprise information resource management, value chain optimization or information quality. Last month, we described various styles of human interaction with examples of their outcomes in information work. Because Win/Win is so vital to enterprise information resource management or in information quality (IQ), this month we describe some of the dynamics of making "Think Win/Win or No Deal" a habit.

The six styles of human interaction are Win/Win, Win/Lose, Lose/Win, Lose/Lose, Win and Win/Win or No Deal. For a description of each style, please see my August column.

Five Dimensions of Win/Win

Covey identifies five components required to make Win/Win a habit - character, relationships, agreements, supportive systems and processes.

Character. The foundation of Win/Win, character consists of three traits: personal integrity, maturity and an "abundance mentality."

Integrity is "the value we place on ourselves." As we practice Habits 1-3, we proactively identify our values and organize and execute around them on a regular basis. This helps us develop self-assuredness and independent will to make and keep meaningful promises and commitments.1

Because IQ addresses the quality or integrity of the information to meet all information customer expectations, it virtually requires personal integrity of those who would be IQ practitioners. IQ practitioners cannot work for a win without the outcome being a win for the information customers and the information producers.

Maturity is defined by Covey as "the balance between courage and consideration."2 Win/Win requires the ability to express one's feelings and convictions with courage balanced with consideration for the feelings and convictions of others. The balance of these two traits relates to the interaction styles:

  • Low courage/Low consideration = Lose/Lose
  • Low courage/High consideration = Lose/Win
  • High courage/Low consideration = Win/Lose
  • High courage/High consideration = Win/Win

Courage says we can confront the problems of the status quo. We are not afraid to challenge the faulty processes that produce defective data or the performance measures that prevent business areas from working together. However, having courage without consideration for the other stakeholders leads to Win/Lose (which may become Lose/Lose).
Consideration with courage says we challenge those problems of the status quo in ways that create benefit to all, both the information producers as well as the information consumers. Consideration says we bring "other alternatives" when we challenge the performance measures of the status quo that are mutually beneficial.

If I can empathize - not sympathize - with you, then I can courageously confront you with integrity, because I do not want to hurt you.

The abundance mentality indicates there is plenty for everyone. Those who have a "scarcity mentality" have difficulty sharing, feeling that if they do not get their piece of the pie, they will be left out. Those with an abundance mentality are able to celebrate in other people's successes and triumphs without jealousy.

Relationships. Interacting with others from the foundation of character leads us to develop Win/Win relationships. Trust, or the emotional bank account, is the essence of Win/Win.3 When we trust each other, we are open, even if we have different viewpoints. We build "reserves" by making deposits in our emotional bank account.4 We make deposits with someone through courtesy kindness, honesty and keeping our commitments to them. When we are disrespectful, discourteous, dishonest or when we alienate, we can overdraw our account, putting the trust level at risk and damaging the relationship.

If management does not seem to support your initiatives, ask yourself, "What is the value of my emotional bank account?"

Win/Win is difficult to achieve in any circumstance. However, when one is dealing with someone who holds the Win/Lose paradigm, it is even more complex. The relationship is the key in such situations. To create Win/Win, you must:

  • Focus on your circle of influence.
  • Make deposits into the emotional bank account through genuine acts of courtesy and respect.
  • Stay longer in the listening process by listening more closely to the other person.
  • Keep working to hammer out the issues until it is clear that you truly want mutually beneficial benefits.

This is the essence of information stewardship - a Win/Win mind-set focusing on the needs of others. The definition of information stewardship is "the willingness to be accountable for a set of business information for the well-being of the larger organization by operating in service, rather than in control of those around us."5 "Operating in service" does not mean Lose/Win, but Win/Win. When we understand and meet the needs of our information customers, we win because we are doing a satisfactory job for those who depend on the information we provide.

Covey reminds us that some people are so Win/Lose oriented that they cannot think of Win/Win. Some remember "No Deal" is always an option. Other times, compromise - the less optimum form of Win/Win - is acceptable.

Agreements. Agreements flow from healthy relationships and give direction to Win/Win. Partnership agreements in business or information stewardship agreements in information quality are examples of agreements that shift the paradigm of productive interaction from vertical to horizontal. Win/Win agreements are characterized by five elements being made very explicit:6

  • Desired results (not methods) identify the expected outcomes and time frame.
  • Guidelines specify the parameters (principles, policies and boundaries) within which to accomplish the results.
  • Resources identify the people, money or other support available to help accomplish the results.
  • Accountability describes the standards of performance and evaluation.
  • Consequences specify positive and negative outcomes based on the evaluation.

The most important concept in creating Win/Win agreements is to focus on outcomes, not methods. I am troubled by all the debates about such "issues" as object database versus (note the Win/Lose paradigm) UML versus IDEF versus IE data modeling conventions and which CRM software is "best in class." Who is concerned about the information customers and what they need to know to be effective and productive? Why can't we all just get along?

Systems. Win/Win can prevail in an organization only when the cultural systems support it. "You basically get what you reward."7 If you want high-quality information (Win/Win) but reward speed under the dubious label of productivity (Win/Lose), you end up with a culture of Win/Lose.

At a personal level, ask yourself, "How are the values I profess (Win/Win as an example) supported by my personal reward systems?" Do they support Win/Win, or do they support some other outcome?

Processes. As I have examined some of my failed relationships and failed agreements, I have concluded you cannot achieve Win/Win outcomes by operating out of a Win/Lose mind-set. You just cannot say, "We are going to come out of this with a Win/Win whether you like it or not." Covey's four-step process is simple, but powerful:8

  1. See the problem from the other point of view. Seek to understand it and the other person's needs and concerns.
  2. Identify key issues and concerns - not positions - involved.
  3. Determine what results would constitute a mutually and fully acceptable solution.
  4. Identify possible new options to achieve those results.

Remember Win/Win is not a technique; it is a paradigm of human interaction. It comes from having character of integrity, maturity and the abundance mentality. It grows out of high-trust relationships and is embodied in agreements that clarify and manage expectations and outcomes. Win/Win increases when it has support systems encouraging it. We accomplish it when we perform the next two habits, which we will explore in subsequent columns.
What do you think? Let me know at Larry.English@infoimpact.com.


  1. Covey, Stephen. The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, New York: Simon & Schuster, 1989, p. 217.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid., p. 220.
  4. Ibid., p. 218.
  5. English, Larry. Improving Data Warehouse and Business Information Quality, NY: John Wiley & Sons, 1999, p. 402.
  6. Covey, op. cit., p. 223.
  7. Ibid., p. 229.
  8. Ibid., p. 233.
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