Constructing consensus

April 5, 2012

Students in the Civil Engineering Design Project I course may have felt more like political science majors on Sept. 14 when Sen. David Koehler dropped in to give a lesson on how to effectively manage negotiations involving multiple stakeholders.

Koehler shared his experience as a former Peoria County Board member, a Peoria City Council member and current state senator for Illinois’ 46th Legislative District, posts that have exposed him to many disputes between labor, construction management, communities and the political representatives who serve them 

“The biggest problem I’ve encountered is negotiating parties trying to arrive at solutions before really considering what each side really wants,” Koehler told the students. “Most labor negotiations break down because you have both sides pushing options without regard for interests.”

Citing the best-selling book by Harvard Negotiation Project authors Roger Fisher and William Ury, “Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In,” Koehler explained that disregarding the core principle of communication can make any successful professional a failure at the bargaining table.

The senator advised the young engineers to always take into account what communities and residents want as new designs are developed. The easiest fix or the most efficient solution may not always be the best result politically, economically or socially.

Sen. Koehler is currently running for Congress in the newly redrawn 17th District.