Effective Alternatives Analysis in Mediation: “Batna/Watna” Analysis Demystified

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BATNA: Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement
WATNA: Worst Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement
Popular Attribution to Fisher & Ury, Getting to Yes.
In most settlement negotiations, parties are influenced consciously or unconsciously by their assessment of their alternatives to a negotiated agreement. The better their alternatives, the more they may push for a more favorable settlement. The worse their alternatives, the more accommodating they may be in the settlement negotiations. Unfortunately, parties frequently fail to undertake an accurate and comprehensive analysis of their alternatives and, therefore, negotiate poorly based on unrealistic and uninformed ideas of what they might obtain in the absence of a
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The analysis assists the parties in deciding if a particular resolution is in their best interests or not. It also helps mediators to ground parties in reality and prevent impasse by focusing them on actual possibilities rather than unformulated dreams.
In some cases, a party will reject a proposed resolution even though the probable alternatives are clearly less attractive in a "business" sense. However, the exercise is still useful in this instance because:
1. The parties are making their choices having considered and with full knowledge of these probable alternative outcomes (i.e. "with their eyes wide open").
2. The exercise highlights the existence of other interests, beyond "business" sense, that are driving the party. Knowledge of these interests may be helpful to continued negotiation. At a minimum, parties gain clearer understanding of their interests and the value they are placing upon them.
Mediators should also keep in mind that they may have different values, risk tolerance levels and approaches to decision-making than the parties and take care to respect those differences. Again, the purpose of the analysis is to educate and promote informed decision-making, not to force settlement or impose the mediator's idea of what makes sense.
Form/Content of the Analysis:
Following this section, is a sample BATNA/WATNA analysis in a real estate sale case using a format that is useful in assessing the

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