Last week I was out scouring the internet looking for the exact words (and source) of the quote about a good compromise making everyone unhappy. Not only did I find multiple versions and sources of it, but I found something else that interested me even more. Depending on who you ask, compromise is either the key to a successful negotiation or the worst thing in the world. There seems to be no middle ground. Why the disparity, you ask? I wondered the same thing. Basically it comes down to two points of view.
On one side of the fence are the people (most notable engineers and entrepreneurs) who are strongly of the opinion that compromising the “right way” ruins the product. It’s the “good is the enemy of great” hypothesis taken to the extreme. The theory is that if your idea (or design) is great, and then you start getting other people involved and trying to incorporate their opinions, you lose the purity, the originality, and the integrity of the original. Therefore the advice from the people who live in this camp is “hold the line”.
On the other side of the fence are the mediators, lawyers, psychologists and other folks who believe that without compromise a way forward cannot be reached. Their opinion is that everyone has to give a little bit in order to make the product better – that no one person can have all the answers or make the perfect solution.
There is value in both of these positions, and I found myself struggling to form an opinion without a concrete scenario to work with. So I’m going to take the easy way out and rather than taking a strong position I will say that it’s worth knowing, as a manager and a human being, that sometime compromise is necessary to move forward, and sometimes compromise really does damage the integrity of the original concept. It’s up to you to evaluate the particular situation in front of you and decide when to hold the line and when to consider other options.
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