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“Effective Negotiations” new book by Nick Dimitressis

written by on Mar 14, 2016 in Articles, news-articles | 0 comments

“Effective Negotiations” new book by Nick Dimitressis

Κυκλοφόρησε από τη Σύγχρονη Εκδοτική το εξαιρετικά επίκαιρο βιβλίο του Νίκου Δημητρέση «Αποτελεσματικές διαπραγματεύσεις: Μια ρεαλιστική προσέγγιση για καλύτερες συμφωνίες». Η διαπραγμάτευση αποτελεί το κυριότερο εργαλείο επικοινωνίας και επηρεασμού της συμπεριφοράς των άλλων, τόσο στις επιχειρήσεις όσο και έξω από αυτές. Ανεπτυγμένες διαπραγματευτικές δεξιότητες μπορεί να επηρεάσουν δραστικά τη ζωή μας, αφού ειδικά στον επαγγελματικό στίβο, η ικανότητα, η ευφυΐα, η τεχνική επάρκεια και το εργασιακό ήθος, δεν αρκούν για να εξασφαλίσουν την επιτυχία.

Το βιβλίο φωτίζει όλες τις παραμέτρους μιας διαπραγμάτευσης και αναδεικνύει κοινές παρανοήσεις και διαδεδομένα στερεότυπα που υπάρχουν σχετικά με τις διαπραγματεύσεις, καταρρίπτοντας στην πορεία αρκετούς μύθους. Περιγράφει με σαφήνεια, λεπτομέρεια και μοναδική διαύγεια ένα πλαίσιο που μπορεί να συντελέσει στην καλύτερη κατανόηση της διαπραγματευτικής διαδικασίας και στη σύναψη αποδοτικότερων συμφωνιών. Ο στόχος είναι να εμπλουτίσει τις γνώσεις του αναγνώστη για όλες τις πτυχές μιας διαπραγμάτευσης που καθορίζουν το τελικό αποτέλεσμα, παρέχοντας τα εργαλεία που θα του επιτρέψουν να αποφασίζει μόνος του πώς πρέπει να δρα ανά περίσταση.

Απευθύνεται σε όσους επιθυμούν να αναπτύξουν τις διαπραγματευτικές τους ικανότητες είτε θεωρούν τους εαυτούς τους άπειρους είτε έμπειρους διαπραγματευτές. Στο βιβλίο αναφέρονται πολλοί διαφορετικοί τύποι διαπραγματεύσεων και περιγράφεται μια πληθώρα καταστάσεων που αρκετοί από εμάς αντιμετωπίζουμε στην  ζωή μας, όπως είναι για παράδειγμα η αγοραπωλησία, ενός αυτοκινήτου, ενός ακινήτου,  ή η διαδικασία ενός διαζυγίου. Το βιβλίο επικεντρώνεται περισσότερο στις διαπραγματεύσεις που λαμβάνουν χώρα στους επιχειρηματικούς κύκλους, με πλήθος παραδειγμάτων από τον κόσμο των επιχειρήσεων και τη διεθνή διπλωματία, όμως οι μέθοδοι και οι στρατηγικές που περιγράφονται σε αυτό έχουν εφαρμογή σε κάθε είδους διαπραγμάτευση. Το βιβλίο θα βοηθήσει τον αναγνώστη να μάθει μεταξύ άλλων:

  • Με ποιον τρόπο πρέπει να προετοιμάζεται για μια διαπραγμάτευση.
  • Ποιες είναι οι παράμετροι που πρέπει να λαμβάνει υπόψη στον καθορισμό της στρατηγικής του.
  • Πώς να μετράει τη διαπραγματευτική του ισχύ, αλλά και την ισχύ του άλλου μέρους, και τι να κάνει όταν βρίσκεται σε αδύναμη θέση.
  • Πώς να ζητάει, αλλά και πώς να κάνει ανταλλαγές και παραχωρήσεις.
  • Πώς να παράγει αμοιβαία επωφελείς λύσεις, πώς να δομεί συμφωνίες, αλλά και πώς να αξιολογεί συμφωνίες που του προτείνονται.
  • Πώς να αποφεύγει σημαντικά λάθη που έχουν τη δύναμη να διαμορφώσουν δραστικά το τελικό αποτέλεσμα.
  • Πότε πρέπει να αποχωρεί οριστικά από μια διαπραγμάτευση.
  • Πώς να αντιμετωπίζει δύσκολους  ή επιθετικούς διαπραγματευτές.
  • Τι να κάνει όταν μια διαπραγμάτευση έχει φτάσει σε αδιέξοδο.
  • Σε ποιες περιστάσεις δεν πρέπει να διαπραγματεύεται.
  • Ποιες συμπεριφορές αυξάνουν την πιθανότητα θετικής έκβασης μιας διαπραγμάτευσης.
  • Πώς να αποφασίζει ποιες διαπραγματευτικές τακτικές είναι κατάλληλες για κάθε περίσταση, αλλά και πώς να αναγνωρίζει και να εξουδετερώνει τις τακτικές των άλλων.

Το βιβλίο είναι διαθέσιμο σε κεντρικά βιβλιοπωλεία και μέσα από τα eshop  των βιβλιοπωλείων Παπασωτηρίου http://www.papasotiriou.gr/product/apotelesmatikes-diapragmatefsis και Πολιτεία http://www.politeianet.gr/books/9789605950057-dimitresis-nikos-sugchroni-ekdotiki-apotelesmatikes-diapragmateuseis-25562

Negotiations with the Troika

written by on Jan 11, 2015 in Articles, news-articles | 0 comments

Negotiations with the Troika

Kάθε φορά που έρχεται η τρόικα στην Ελλάδα, ακούμε ότι η κυβέρνηση λαμβάνει μέρος σε «δύσκολες διαπραγματεύσεις» και αντιμετωπίζει τη «σκληρή στάση των δανειστών». Η αλήθεια είναι ότι η συντριπτική πλειοψηφία των συμπολιτών μας, εμού συμπεριλαμβανομένου, δεν έχει πρόσβαση στις πληροφορίες εκείνες που θα τους επέτρεπαν να βγάλουν ένα ασφαλές συμπέρασμα σχετικά με το τι πραγματικά συμβαίνει. Παρόλο το έλλειμμα πληροφόρησης, επειδή το τελευταίο διάστημα πολλοί πολιτικοί χαρακτηρίζονται ως ηττοπαθείς, ενώ κάποιοι άλλοι ως αιθεροβάμονες, εκτιμώ ότι είναι χρήσιμο να προχωρήσω σε κάποιες γενικές παρατηρήσεις, που ίσως μας επιτρέψουν να κατανοήσουμε καλύτερα τι σημαίνει διαπραγμάτευση. Θα πρέπει να θυμόμαστε ότι η συγκεκριμένη διαπραγμάτευση δεν μπορεί να αντιμετωπιστεί ξεκομμένη από προηγούμενες διαπραγματεύσεις και ότι φυσικά η εξέλιξή της θα επηρεάσει αναπόφευκτα και τις όποιες επόμενες. Όμως, ας δούμε λίγο πιο συγκεκριμένα κάποια σημεία που αξίζουν την προσοχή μας:

1. Σε μια διαπραγμάτευση, θα πρέπει να έχεις θέσει και ιεραρχήσει συγκεκριμένους στόχους. Ποιοι είναι οι στόχοι που έχει θέσει η κυβέρνηση στη συγκεκριμένη διαπραγμάτευση; Πώς εξυπηρετούν αυτοί οι στόχοι το στρατηγικό σχεδιασμό που υπάρχει για τη χώρα; Δεν είμαι σίγουρος πως αυτά τα ερωτήματα έχουν απαντηθεί, όχι μόνο σε εμάς στους πολίτες, αλλά και σε όσους εμπλέκονται με τον ένα ή άλλο τρόπο στη διαπραγματευτική διαδικασία.

2. Το μέρος που έχει καθορίσει την ατζέντα της διαπραγμάτευσης, συνήθως έχει το πάνω χέρι, γιατί έχει θέσει το πλαίσιο της διαπραγμάτευσης με τρόπο που εξυπηρετεί πρωτίστως τα δικά του συμφέροντα. Έτσι, η άλλη πλευρά αναλώνεται απλά στο να αντιδρά σε διεκδικήσεις και απαιτήσεις που έχουν θέσει τρίτοι. Νομίζω ότι είναι φανερό ότι στη συγκεκριμένη διαπραγμάτευση, αλλά και σε όλες τις διαπραγματεύσεις που έχουν γίνει με την τρόικα μέχρι σήμερα, την ατζέντα την έχει θέσει η τελευταία.

3. Όπως γνωρίζουν όσοι έχουν στοιχειώδη εκπαίδευση στις διαπραγματεύσεις, η διαπραγματευτική ισχύς των μερών, καθορίζεται σε μεγάλο βαθμό από την ποιότητα των εναλλακτικών τους επιλογών. Όποιος έχει καλύτερες επιλογές, έχει και μεγαλύτερη διαπραγματευτική δύναμη. Βέβαια είναι σημαντικό να τονίσω, ότι η διαπραγματευτική δύναμη δεν είναι απαραίτητα σταθερή, αλλά μπορεί να μεταβληθεί κατά τη διάρκεια της διαπραγμάτευσης από ενέργειες που κάνουν αμφότερα τα μέρη. Για να αποφασίσει όμως κανείς ποια πορεία δράσης είναι ενδεδειγμένη, πρέπει να γνωρίζει με ακρίβεια ποιες είναι η εναλλακτικές του επιλογές και πιο συγκεκριμένα, ποια είναι η καλύτερη εναλλακτική σε περίπτωση που δεν καταλήξει σε συμφωνία. Στη διεθνή βιβλιογραφία αυτό αναφέρεται ως BATNA (Best Alternative Τo a Negotiated Agreement). Πολύ απλά, για να αξιολογήσεις μια υπό διαπραγμάτευση συμφωνία, είναι απαραίτητο να τη συγκρίνεις με την καλύτερη εναλλακτική που έχεις στην περίπτωση που δεν καταλήξεις σε συμφωνία. Αν η συμφωνία είναι χειρότερη από την καλύτερη εναλλακτική, τότε θα πρέπει να την απορρίψεις, αν όμως είναι καλύτερη, θα πρέπει να την αποδεχτείς ανεξάρτητα αν σου φαίνεται ελκυστική ή όχι. Ένα μεγάλο ερώτημα που δεν έχει απαντηθεί πειστικά ούτε από την κυβέρνηση ούτε από την αντιπολίτευση, είναι τι συνιστά καλύτερη εναλλακτική, κι αν αυτή η εναλλακτική είναι αποδεκτή. Βέβαια, θα τολμούσα να πω, ότι το λάθος της κυβέρνησης είναι ότι δεν έχει καν αποπειραθεί να σκεφτεί την ύπαρξη εναλλακτικής, θεωρώντας την πορεία που ακολουθεί μονόδρομο. Όμως, όταν δεν έχεις επιλογές ή νομίζεις ότι δεν έχεις επιλογές, τότε ουσιαστικά δεν διαπραγματεύεσαι. Από την άλλη, το λάθος της αντιπολίτευσης είναι ότι και αυτή δεν έχει σκεφτεί -ή δε δηλώνει ευθαρσώς- ποια είναι η καλύτερη εναλλακτική που προκρίνει σε περίπτωση αδιεξόδου. Δυστυχώς, νομίζω ότι οι παραπάνω ενέργειες δεν έχουν γίνει, τουλάχιστον όχι με την ενάργεια, σοβαρότητα και ρεαλισμό που απαιτούν οι περιστάσεις.

4. Η αδυναμία να κατανοήσουμε ποια είναι η καλύτερη εναλλακτική, τόσο η δική μας όσο και της άλλης πλευράς, μπορεί να αποβεί καταστροφική. Υπάρχουν περιπτώσεις που η καλύτερη εναλλακτική δε βρίσκεται στη σφαίρα του υπαρκτού ή του εφαρμόσιμου, αλλά αποτελεί απλά μια φανταστική ή υποθετική λύση, που απλά εκφράζει αυτό που ευχόμαστε να συμβεί αν δεν επιτευχθεί μια συμφωνία, αντί για αυτό που είναι πιθανό να συμβεί. Πολλοί επίσης αρνούνται πεισματικά να δουν κατάματα ποια είναι η καλύτερη εναλλακτική που υπάρχει, απλά και μόνο επειδή διαισθάνονται ότι αυτή μπορεί να μην είναι καθόλου ελκυστική, τουναντίον ενδέχεται να είναι και δυσάρεστη. Ειδικά σε διαπραγματεύσεις που αφορούν στην επίλυση διαφορών, είναι απαραίτητο να κατανοήσουμε ότι οι εναλλακτικές επιλογές των μερών αλληλοσυνδέονται. Είναι εξαιρετικά σημαντικό να αντιληφθούμε ότι δεν παίζει κανένα ρόλο τι εναλλακτική έχει κανείς ή τι νομίζει ότι έχει, αν η εφαρμογή της καλύτερης εναλλακτικής της άλλης πλευράς, έχει για αυτόν ολέθρια αποτελέσματα. Πρέπει πάντα λοιπόν να εκτιμούμε την επίδραση της εναλλακτικής της άλλης πλευράς στα δικά μας συμφέροντα. Ο μόνος σώφρον τρόπος για να διαχειριστούμε την επίλυση μιας διαφοράς, είναι να διαπραγματευτούμε την διευθέτησή της με τρόπο που εξασφαλίζει το χαμηλότερο δυνατό κόστος για τα συμφέροντά μας. Αν μια τέτοια διαπραγμάτευση φτάσει σε αδιέξοδο, χάνουμε όχι μόνο τη δυνατότητα να ελέγξουμε το επόμενο βήμα της άλλης πλευράς, αλλά πιθανά και τον έλεγχο του μεγέθους τους κόστους που θα έχει για μας η επόμενή της κίνηση.

Negotiation: Beyond Tactics

written by on Jan 24, 2014 in Articles | 1 comment

Negotiation: Beyond Tactics

No matter how intelligent or cultured one might be, just using his/her intuition in a negotiation setting as a substitute of a thorough grasp of negotiation tactics, sooner or later is bound to have adverse effects on the negotiation outcome, often leading to utter failure. I define failure as the inability to reach a deal even when there is enough value to address the interests of all parties involved-albeit often not equally- or as a deal in which one of the parties feels is has been bullied into an agreement and therefore resents both the deal and the other party. In the first instance, we fail both to generate and capture value, in the second the sustainability of the deal in the long run should be put into serious question. Knowledge of different negotiation tactics and understanding their use is indeed highly situational, can prove indispensable in accomplishing more lucrative business deals and even help forge more lasting business relationships.

Negotiation tactics should not be misconstrued as mere ploys used to take advantage of our counterpart. Instead, their role is pivotal in mapping a path for a successful negotiation outcome and may help the parties come to mutually beneficial agreements more times than they fail to do so. The importance of learning different negotiation tactics and how they can be applied in various settings in a systematic way cannot be stressed enough. It is indeed overwhelming for most people to sift through all the different negotiation tactics available in order to determine when it’s prudent to use certain tactics and when it’ s not. Undeniably, negotiation training has helped a multitude of business professionals to sort things out in a meaningful and practical manner.

Tactics occupy a prominent place in the negotiation process, deservingly so. The issue I would like to discuss though arises from the fact that too many negotiators -and too many negotiation training seminars for that matter- focus excessively on the tactics aspect of the negotiation process, spending most of their energy and planning in becoming proficient in just tactics. Many business people even pride themselves at being very good at implementing these tactics to the opposing party. Unfortunately, by keeping their gaze narrow, they often ignore sometimes deliberately, sometimes subconsciously, other more important aspects of negotiations. When tactics dominate your thought process, they tend to shape how you view negotiations in a way that’s not conducive to strategic thinking. Specifically, I would like to address here three -among many- key issues, that deserve consideration and often times escape us.

 

• Specific actions shape the nature of negotiations long before you sit at the negotiation table

• Preparation does not mean you can script the entire negotiation

• Ambiguity in negotiations and its repercussions to strategy and tactics

In order to elaborate on the first issue, it is imperative I talk a bit about corporate strategy. Many people seem to regard negotiations as totally independent of their organization’s overall corporate strategy. To be more accurate, they fail, in my view, to understand that an organization’s overall business strategy should drive in some respect all negotiations, regardless of who is doing it and on behalf of which department. Even worse, there are those who view every single negotiation as an ad-hoc endeavor, an effort completely cut-off from everything that was done before or will be done after it. In reality, this is rarely the case, even for the most straightforward negotiations. I am not implying that any two negotiations share the same characteristics, but simply that all negotiations have to be in sync with the overall strategic corporate objectives.

Inability to do so will most likely have a variety of unwanted ramifications ranging from failure to identify the best possible deals that can create real value, to inability to cultivate deeper strategic relationships or forge long-term alliances. Here, I would like to caution the reader not to confuse business strategy with negotiation strategy. The former deals with the overall strategic decisions that drive the business following a chosen path, one the company feels steers it in the right direction; where the latter refers to the negotiation strategy one will devise in a particular negotiation -or in a series of negotiations- that address and translate the overall strategic corporate objectives into concrete gains during negotiations. Tactics then are the means, the tools we use to implement our negotiation strategy.

Specific actions shape the nature of negotiations long before you sit at the negotiation table.

The most ingenious negotiation strategy coupled with the most refined and shrewd tactics ever conceived by man, can’t save you if you have made a crucial mistake regarding the negotiation setup. Many types of negotiations, especially those where price is not the only or dominant issue, require preparation in two fronts. On one hand we should make sure we identify the affected parties correctly and on the other, we should focus on gathering information and devising a strategy for dealing with the party we have chosen to negotiate.

Regrettably, most negotiators and the majority of negotiation related material -textbooks, DVDs, articles etc.- focus predominantly on the second aspect of preparation. They focus mostly on preparation that deals with gathering information about the other negotiating party, with issues such as stating goals and objectives for both sides, developing a strategy to fulfill interests and choosing tactics that are most appropriate for the particular negotiation. As valuable this preparation effort is, sadly, it’s only half the picture. If you identify the parties that are affected by your attempted deal myopically or gauge their interests wrong, then your strategy will be deeply flawed or at least incomplete. No matter then how well you execute it, it will not matter.

Luckily, there is a lot one can learn from the field of Project Management. In project management we routinely do a lot of what is called Stakeholder Analysis. For any given project, we gather information about all the possible stakeholders. Stakeholder is anyone that will be affected by the project and has a vested interest to see it succeed -or fail. Likewise, in negotiations we must also identify all the players that will be affected by the deal we are trying to make. It is only sensible then to:

• Carefully prepare to shape the negotiation terrain, find out the affected players, their aspirations, motivations, inclination about the deal, as well as their level of interest and their power to affect its outcome.

• Forge a strategyon how to deal with them, decide which ones are innocuous and which are potentially dangerous, which ones require our attention and which are insignificant. This will allow us to know which deal to pursue and with who, since that kind of mapping can reveal synergies among companies or even bitter rivalries that may affect us both in positive and negative fashion.

It’s a subtle and occasionally time-consuming and tedious process but a neuralgic one for success in most negotiations. Curiously though, it’s one that many people seem to overlook to a great extent. Identifying and assessing stakeholders poorly, could mean we will be negotiating with the wrong party. Conversely, having this information at our disposal will allow us to ensure we approach the right party and more importantly, at the right time. All these actions happen way before we even sit at the negotiation table and can have a tremendous impact on our ability to strike a deal. Sometimes, the other side is not the only entity you should focus your efforts on. In many types of negotiations, especially more complex ones, your counterpart may be the least of your troubles.

For instance, suppose you are a prosperous real estate developer – nowadays a contradiction in terms – who wishes to buy a large piece of land close to the coastline, somewhere in Greece. Imagine you have found out that this piece of land is owned by three different people. Are those the only ones you have to negotiate with? Hardly. You probably have to negotiate with a whole host of people -directly or indirectly- from government agencies to local officials to non-governmental organizations, possibly a variety of other key individuals, even their spouses, to who knows who else. But if you miss an important party, trouble will ensue. Also, as important, who should you approach first?

Ask anyone who has tried to put wind turbines on some mountain to tell you their story. Failure to predict, for example, local shepherds would obstinately oppose the project due to problems noise from the turbines supposedly would be causing to the menstruation of the sheep can prove disastrous. I think most of us know why Westin Resort Costa Navarino in Southern Greece, a jewel to the area-by general consensus- was delayed for some years till it was finally finished… Many negotiators don’t realize that parties which are not strictly the parties doing the actual negotiating can and often times do derail a deal, sometimes irrevocably. The world of corporate mergers is abundant with examples of deals that fell through not because they did not make business sense, not because they failed to generate value but because they were sabotaged ruthlessly by competitors, not to mention the countless times they were “machiavellianistically” blocked by high-level executives on one or both sides, who foresaw their status threatened; their compensation in jeopardy and their professional future in limbo.

Preparation does not mean you can script the entire negotiation.

The merits of detailed preparation in light of upcoming negotiations has been discussed in more books and articles I care to remember, so I will not burden you further with yet another lengthy analysis on the matter. Most of us know the process is crucial as it allows us to learn a great deal about the other party but also about ourselves, our interests, aspirations, goals and alternatives to name just a few important aspects that deserve consideration. Preparing intensely and coming up with a well-thought out plan can give you precious insights into the strengths and weaknesses of both your side and the other party and has the potential to reveal options that would be hard to spot in any initial casual examination.

However, the “control freak” in many of us wants to plan for all eventualities and yearns for as much information as possible in an attempt to shape the outcome of the negotiation and minimize uncertainty. Unfortunately, many times preparation goes one step too far into uncharted territory in an attempt to reduce the anxiety caused by unknown facets of a negotiation; anxiety that plagues even the most composed and experienced negotiators. By uncharted territory I mean efforts that result in producing detailed scenarios about how the negotiation will play out, what tactics to use, what concessions to make or what solutions to pursue. Such an undertaking has its value since it allows you to generate useful ideas and it’s surely a very alluring one, since it affords you the illusion of precognition, as long as you always keep in mind it’s also largely futile. It’s like arrogantly -and quite possibly naively- assuming you know how the negotiation will unfold even before you interact with the other party.

Past experience is always a good guide for future negotiations as long as you don’t put too much stock into it. Even the most trivial or routine negotiations have the capacity to surprise us, occasionally even getting out of hand in a heartbeat. Many of us have learned the hard way that reality can be more wild and unpredictable than even the most detailed plans might have ever predicted. Even if the whole negotiation could be scripted perfectly, the process -by design- would preclude us from coming up with potentially more beneficial deals for both parties, since this kind of thinking flourishes only when both parties exchange information and brainstorm possible solutions jointly. This can only happen if your plans allow for such a possibility. Often times preparation ends up becoming a fairly rigid process concerned mostly with safeguarding what’s important to us and setting the stage along the way so as to capture as much value as possible.

No need to debate this point any further, since no one has said it better that Dwight D. Eisenhower “Plans are useless but planning is indispensable.” Too many negotiators plan their tactics to the tee only to find out, often in shock, sometimes in disgust and always in disbelief, that all their arduous planning was virtually useless in the face of new realities that often inevitably and almost deterministically emerge during the course of the negotiation; realities which changed virtually completely the negotiation landscape.

Ambiguity and its repercussions to strategy and tactics.

One of the great lessons I was fortunate enough to learn very early in my career is that most of the time, especially in highly competitive and volatile environments, you cannot afford to wait until you have complete information in order to make a decision. The reality is you will never have complete information; you will never have all the facts. Even if that were possible, we must assume, since most businesses don’t operate in a vacuum, that what seems to be complete and adequate information now, may very well be incomplete or even obsolete only a short time thereafter. Hence, you must accept and even embrace uncertainty and make a decision nonetheless. No matter how prepared you are or how much analysis you do in order to get enough data to assist you in making a decision, there is no way around it. Making decisions in the face of uncertainty and sometimes mounting ambiguity, is how decisions are made. Most business people seem to know this very well. The same lesson applies to negotiations.

As most situations are fluid and change over time, it is imperative to make a decision with the information you have gathered, up to that point. Once you accept this fact, you can make better decisions that also carry a lot less regret. Negotiations is not a “connect-the-dots” process, unfortunately -or fortunately depending on your perspective- even the most seemingly simple negotiations can become and most often do become, way more convoluted than that. Needless to say, what I describe here is quite different from rushing to a decision. Acknowledging decisions are made with less than perfect information doesn’t mean you should jump the gun just because a particular course of action, often superficially examined, “looks” more attractive or “feels” right. In other words, a bias for action while generally a good thing, should not lead to psychological pressure for making a decision on emotional grounds rather than hard facts.

Therefore, tolerance to ambiguity is essential and yet it runs against everything many people have learned about negotiations because they see it mainly as a step-by-step process, where its basic elements can be mapped out with clarity, the moves of the other party predicted with accuracy, their own responses calculated in advance with precision. Of course, I hope most of us will agree, this is seldomly the case. You cannot choreograph a negotiation; much less preconceive its outcome. At best, what might be feasible to do is sketch its basic elements. So what then? Can you plan for the unpredictable? By definition you can’t, otherwise we would not call it as such; however what you can and surely must do is plan for adapting to change by using the following guidelines:

Accept the fact chances are you may have to make small or even major adjustments to your strategy.

Be alert at all times. Having spent considerable time to meticulously craft your negotiation strategy and design the tactics that may best serve it, it’s only understandable why someone will be reluctant to renounce and abandon it when it doesn’t seem to work. After all, we are only humans, and it’s frighteningly easy to become mesmerized by your own astuteness or become fascinated by your own plans; especially when they are indeed sophisticated and elegant.

Constantly scrutinize your strategy and assumptions when the negotiation is underway and ask yourself:

- Have I learned something I did not know before which calls for a revision of my strategy and tactics

- Are the assumptions I have made still valid. If not, how do they affect my strategy?

Have a clear and concise plan on how to respond to changing circumstances. It will allow you to adapt to the new reality as it develops before your very eyes. The negotiator will serve his company well, not only to be diligent in his preparation regarding the strategy and tactics he plans to follow but also to map a clear process on how to respond to events that were not anticipated in the first place. There are concrete and effective ways in which this undertaking can be accomplished.

It may seem self-evident but clinging to a strategy that no longer works can be catastrophic. Yet, you will be surprised how many otherwise rational people, seem to fail to act in a way that an outside observant would just call common sense. To be fair, there are many powerful psychological forces at play in situations where things go south which have the potential to disorient or even blind even the most brilliant and disciplined negotiator. The only solution is to be purposely flexible and adaptable, making these two qualities an integral part of your strategy. It doesn’t mean you should abandon your chosen strategy at the first sign of trouble. It means you should always be vigilant; you should always be evaluating new information.

Many a man have refused- to their detriment- to admit their strategy was not working only to see their well-crafted plans disintegrate in a hurry. Knowing how to adapt to a totally different situation than the one you prepared for, is way more valuable that knowing the intricacies of even the most sophisticated negotiation tactics. Being nimble and recognizing that your strategy no longer works and your tactics must change, it’s not always due to a negative turn the negotiation might have taken. Uncertainty also means that things at the negotiation table may turn up even better than what you initially thought. Have the mindset and the tools that will let you adjust quickly, block potential negative developments from happening and exploit opportunities.

When your BATNA can hurt you.

written by on Jul 1, 2013 in Articles | 0 comments

When your BATNA can hurt you.

In their seminal and highly praised 1981 best-selling book “Getting to Yes: Negotiating Without Giving In”, authors and Harvard University professors Roger Fisher and William Ury coined the term BATNA. Their contribution to negotiation theory with the introduction of BATNA along with other novel ideas presented in Getting to YES is undeniable. This influential book has affected the negotiation behavior -mostly for the better- of thousands of negotiators in all industries. Scores of business executives ever since, have used the concept of BATNA to better evaluate their alternatives and therefore develop a better sense on whether they should accept or reject a business deal. BATNA stands for “Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement.”

Simply put, the idea behind BATNA is that when you are negotiating, you must know what your best alternative is if you are unable to come to an agreement with the other party in the current negotiation. Hence, BATNA is the course of action you will take if the current negotiations fail and an agreement cannot be reached. BATNAs are essential to negotiation because it is extremely hard to make a wise decision about whether to accept a negotiated agreement unless you know what your alternatives are. It also helps you establish an objective criterion on whether a deal is worth making, steering you away from setting random standards for acceptance or rejection that most times are proven to be arbitrary, misleading or irrelevant to the decision at hand. Basically, the BATNA is the standard against which any proposed agreement should be measured. If a negotiated agreement is better than your BATNA you should accept it, if it’s worse than your BATNA, then you should reject it. Of course, the application of BATNA is not restricted to business negotiations; it is a useful principle for conducting all kinds of negotiations irrespective of their length or complexity.

This simple but powerful idea has provided negotiators around the world with a precious and much needed road map on how to prepare for negotiations -since now they have to try to determine what their best alternative is – and how to make sensible decisions that are not burdened by sentimental approaches to decision making or misguided subjective criteria. Understanding this fundamental concept is critical to conducting successful negotiations. BATNA is not what you think you “deserve”, it’s not your ideal outcome and it’s certainly not what you think is “fair” -all subjective concepts open to interpretation and dispute. Furthermore, it is not your “bottom line”, another arbitrary position. Even though sometimes quantifying your best alternative is not the most straightforward task in the world, one has to agree that the use of BATNA can help most people to avoid making unnecessary mistakes when negotiating by preventing them from rejecting an agreement they should have accepted and vice versa. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the concepts of negotiation and BATNA are inextricably intertwined.

However, in my opinion, there are certain situations where using BATNA as a guide to decision making in the context of a negotiation is at best inappropriate, often times ill-advised and may generate adverse effects on the outcome of a negotiation. Sometimes, the use of BATNA has very subtle but still potent negative repercussions to a negotiator’s mindset and even detrimental consequences to the profitability of a business deal. I assert that using your BATNA in order to evaluate how desirable a deal is, can be -in some specific situations that I will refer to shortly- just a sugar coated excuse to compromise unnecessarily, not claiming the value that you should, sprinkled with enough semblance of objectivity as to keep the negotiator satisfied into thinking he did the best that he/she could. BATNA can sometimes lead you to offer concessions that can slash your profit margins greatly. As far as I am aware, no one else has addressed this issue until now.

So, let’s ponder a situation where you are involved in a negotiation in which you are the seller. You would like to sell your product or service to as many clients as you can since -as one should expect- you wish to generate as much revenue as possible making as much money- profit- as possible. Hopefully, you also know the profit margin of that particular product. Now, let’s also assume you are dealing with a very tough buyer that has a lot of purchasing power since they are a major global player in your industry. When the buyer pushes you hard to reduce your price, at first -I would hope- you try to defend it. You explain that there are features that are unique to your product; you talk about your timely delivery record, superior value, impeccable reputation, etc. After all that, you feel that you have done enough to justify making as few concessions as possible. But the buyer wants you to sell your product at a steep discount and puts a final offer on the table. Finally, there is no way around it; you have to make a decision.

Enter BATNA. How can BATNA help you in this particular case? BATNA would have you evaluate the proposal the buyer is presenting to you with your best alternative. Like we mentioned earlier, negotiation theory proposes that if a negotiated agreement is better than your BATNA you should accept it and if it’s worse you should reject it. But what exactly is your best alternative here? If you attempt to determine what your best alternative really is in this scenario, two are the most likely answers you may come up with. One could say that your best alternative is to sell to another client who you feel won’t bargain as hard, therefore securing a higher profit margin than the current deal. If you believe you can sell your product to another client at a higher margin, BATNA would direct you to reject the deal and move on.

The only problem with this course of action is you are not selling a house or- for that matter- your business. You are selling a product. Rejecting the deal based on your BATNA analysis can hardly be a good idea, since you are in the business of selling this product to as many people as possible. You don’t want to just reject the deal for hopes of selling your product to someone else, since your mission as a sales person is to sell to as many clients as possible. So, your best alternative of selling to someone else at a higher margin is not really a sensible and desirable alternative. The fact that you may indeed sell the product to other clients should have no bearing on whether you should accept this particular proposal by this particular buyer. Another approach would be for the salesperson to think that since his job is to sell as much as possible, even if he only makes, say 80% (enter any % you feel like) of what he had in mind, this is still better than the alternative- which is nothing- if he does not produce the sale.

Unfortunately, neither approach secures the best possible outcome for the seller. Especially the second rationale can wipe out a big chunk of your profits turning potentially lucrative and mutually beneficial deals to marginally acceptable ones. What is most alarming is that –regrettably- this attitude is pretty widespread and has permeated business circles in all industries and many countries. A great number of salespeople misapply their BATNA to justify extremely discounted prices which often times result in jeopardizing the financial stability of their company. I am pretty sure everybody can realize how detrimental this approach is to profitability, an approach that basically uses BATNA as a way to rationalize ineffective negotiating. In this instance, when BATNA is used as a decision tool, a salesperson is lead to believe, since his job is to sell as much as possible, that any amount above the cost of the product is better -and therefore acceptable- than the alternative, which is to make nothing, in case the deal falls through. If fact, BATNA does not even take into account how much a product costs, so theoretically, any amount above zero, even if one sells at a loss should be acceptable!!! Of course this is absurd, isn’t?

Granted, it’s an exaggerated example – selling at a loss- but I think it demonstrates what I consider a valid argument. Sometimes, using your BATNA to make decisions in a negotiation can be dangerous. You see how quickly we get into trouble when we use BATNA in the above scenario, which is basically a scenario that puts you into a situation where the only “logical” approach would be to accept slashing your prices, sometimes significantly. In this scenario, BATNA may result in twisted logic leading us to put ourselves in a self-defeating frame of mind in which we are unwittingly willing to yield continuously. By the way, the scenario presented here is not at all uncommon or unusual; most businesses find themselves sooner or later in similar situations facing like predicaments. I am not going to discuss here what can be done to defend your price. Undoubtedly, there are various invaluable techniques at our disposal that can help us with what seems – at times- like a daunting task.

Nevertheless, I think in situations like the aforementioned, it’s more important to figure out what our thought process should be in deciding whether we should accept or reject a deal. So, I propose that instead of using your BATNA to evaluate whether you should accept or reject a proposal in such cases, a different and, dare I say it, more sophisticated approach should be used. This approach to decision making takes into account the overall strategy deployed by a company, looking at factors such as a company’s financial robustness, market and product positioning, cost and price structures, company image and more. I will not go into specifics in this article on how this should be done, we shall explore this issue further in another article, but a negotiation decision -in the context described here- which includes the factors I just mentioned, is much more prudent and stands a better chance of producing more sound and profitable outcomes.

Negotiation, more than a soft skill.

written by on May 16, 2013 in Articles | 0 comments

Negotiation, more than a soft skill.

I often hear that negotiation skills are soft skills. As I have come to find out, the words “soft skills” curiously mean different things to different people. So, let’s just see what Wikipedia has to say on the matter:

“Soft skills is a sociological term relating to a person’s “EQ” (Emotional Intelligence Quotient), the cluster of personality traits, social graces, communication, language, personal habits, friendliness, and optimism that characterize relationships with other people. Soft skills complement hard skills (part of a person’s IQ), which are the occupational requirements of a job and many other activities.”

So according to this definition, I would tend to agree that negotiation skills fall under the broad category of soft skills. The problem begins when business executives start to believe that the importance of soft skills is not as crucial to job performance as a person’s education, business acumen or general intelligence. Although I cannot dismiss the aforementioned factors as insignificant or irrelevant to a person’s professional success since -in my opinion- there are significant in shaping a person’s business conduct and often times absolutely necessary to perform his job duties effectively, I am too keen an observer of life to attribute professional success to just these factors.
We all have met people in our lives that although were exceptionally smart lacked the energy level to perform to the best of their abilities. I am also pretty positive that most of us have met- at one point or another- people that even though “on paper” were more than qualified to do a particular job, in practice, they proved to be totally inapt because of lack of social skills and personality traits that were putting their colleagues off and were creating an unpleasant and barren work environment.
As any HR manager worth his salt would tell you, basing recruitment decisions of high-level executives solely on their academic background and business expertise and ignoring their emotional intelligence often leads to ill choices that can be detrimental and even disastrous for an organization.
If we consider negotiation skills as soft skills, I hope we can all agree this characterization does not make them less important. However, I may have to take a contrarian view when it comes to negotiations and assert that negotiation skills are not just that. Again from Wikipedia:

“Unlike hard skills, which are about a person’s skill set and ability to perform a certain type of task or activity, soft skills relate to a person’s ability to interact effectively with coworkers and customers and are broadly applicable both in and outside the workplace.”

Well, isn’t negotiation a skill set and ability to perform a certain type of task or activity? I think most of us would agree it is.The danger of labeling negotiating as a soft skill is that people do not realize there are actually structured ways and methods to teach it to others, techniques to learn and tools to use, just like in any other discipline. Moreover, such a characterization may lead to the misconception that as a soft skill, there is little you can do to improve on. A common misconception, is that you either “have it or you don’t.” How convenient. That way, we don’t have to make any effort to become better at it. We don’t have to exhibit the discipline needed to learn something new…
The second danger is that by labeling negotiation skills “soft skills”, we often consciously or unconsciously relegate them to something that is just “nice to have”, when in fact it is indispensable in today’s ever-changing business landscape. Especially in times of economic crises, the significance of savvy negotiators becomes of paramount importance to the well-being of any company. So next time someone tries to dismiss the importance you place on your negotiations skills, remember that albeit considered by many a soft skill, it may generate hard to argue results.

Still a long way to go when it comes to project management

written by on Apr 7, 2013 in Articles | 0 comments

The latest Pulse of the Profession by the PMI shows some alarming statistics. The percentage of projects that meet their original goals and business intent has dropped 10 percentage points in four years, from 72% in 2008 to 62% in 2012. For more information go here. Why do you think that this is happening despite the fact that supposedly companies realize the need and the importance of more efficient project management? One explanation might be that companies, although in theory do realize the importance of having trained Project Management professionals, in practice fail to implement the new-found knowledge of these professionals throughout the company. The result is a fragmented approach to project management since on one hand you have trained project managers that speak the same “language” and on the other you have the rest of the personnel that does not understand why they should change their ways. Looking forward to hearing some additional reasons.

PMBOK Guide 5th edition – See what has changed

written by on Jan 10, 2013 in Articles | 0 comments

Dear Friends,

PMI has announced the release of the new PMBOK® Guide 5th edition which has some changes compared to PMBOK® Guide 4th edition. The biggest change in the new PMBOK® Guide is that it introduces 7 new processes and a new Knowledge Area.

  • The Knowledge Area that has been added is “Project Stakeholder Management“ with 3 new Processes plus the Identify Stakeholders process that was previously in Communications. Project Stakeholder Management expands upon the importance of appropriately engaging project stakeholders in key decisions and activities.
  • Four new planning processes have been added: Plan Scope Management, Plan Schedule Management, Plan Cost Management and Plan Stakeholder Management: These were created to reinforce the concept that each of the subsidiary plans is integrated through the overall project management plan.
  • Two processes  are removed “Manage Stakeholder Expectations, Report Performance “, so now we have 47 processes total and 10 knowledge areas, below are the new changes:

 

Process

Knowledge Area Process Group
Plan Scope Management Scope

Planning

Plan Schedule Management

Time Planning
Plan Cost Management Cost

Planning

Plan Stakeholder Management Stakeholder

Planning

Manage Stakeholder Engagement

Stakeholder Executing

Control Stakeholder Engagement

Stakeholder

Monitor & Control

Control Communication Communication

Monitor & Control

 

  •  The new Knowledge area “Project Stakeholder Management“,  has four processes:

- Identify Stakeholders: This process was originally in the communication management knowledge area.

- Plan Stakeholder Management.

- Manage Stakeholder Engagement.

- Control Stakeholder Engagement.

  • Removed   processes :

- Manage Stakeholder Expectations

- Report Performance

 

Comparison between the 4th and 5th PMBOK® Guide in terms of Knowledge Areas

Knowledge Area

4th

5th

Comments

Integration

6

6

Scope

5

6

New Plan Scope Management process

Time

6

7

New Plan Schedule Management process

Cost

3

4

New Plan Cost Management process

Quality

3

3

Human Resources

4

4

Communication

5

3

New Control Communication process, Identify   Stakeholders process moved to Stakeholder Management Knowledge Area,   both Manage Stakeholder Expectations and Report Performance were removed.

Risk

6

6

Procurement

4

4

Stakeholder

0

4

Total new knowledge area, with 3 brand   new processes, and Identify Stakeholders process which was originally within   communication Knowledge area

42

47

 

Comparison between the 4th and 5th PMBOK® Guide in terms of Process Groups

Process Group

4th 5th

Comments

Initiation

2 2

Planning

20

24

  Added   Plan Scope, Schedule, Cost, and Stakeholder Management processes

Executing

8

8

  Added   Manage   Stakeholder Engagement, removed Manage Stakeholder Expectations

M&C

10

11

  Added Control   Stakeholder Engagement, Control   Communication, removed Report Performance

Closing

2

2

42

47

 

Other Changes

  • Direct and Manage Project Execution—changed to Direct and Manage Project Work
  • Plan Scope Management process—added
  • Verify Scope—changed to Validate Scope
  • Plan Quality—changed to Plan Quality Management
  • Perform Quality Control—changed to Control Quality
  • Develop Human Resource Plan—changed to Plan Human Resource Management
  • Monitor and Control Risks—changed to Control Risks
  • Plan Procurements—changed to Plan Procurement Management
  • Administer Procurements—changed to Control Procurements
  • Manage Stakeholder Expectations—changed to Manage Stakeholders Engagement
  • Work performance measurement changed to work performance data
  • Positive Risks – changed to “opportunity”

 

The Project Management Institute (PMI) has also released the official dates for when the Project Management Professional (PMP) and some other of its exams will be updated to the latest standards. Here is what we have learned and our recommendations for studying:

 

Credential

Exam Updated

If you take your Exam
BEFORE this date

If you take your Exam
ON or AFTER this date

PMP

  31 July 2013

Use   PMBOK Guide 4th Edition

Use   PMBOK Guide 5th Edition

CAPM

  31 July 2013

Use   PMBOK Guide 4th Edition

Use   PMBOK Guide 5th Edition

PMI-SP

  31 August 2013

Use   PMBOK Guide 4th Edition

Use   PMBOK Guide 5th Edition

PMI-RMP

  31 August 2013

Use   PMBOK Guide 4th Edition

Use   PMBOK Guide 5th Edition

PgMP

  31 July 2013

Use   PMBOK Guide 4th Edition

Use   PMBOK Guide 5th Edition

 

Who needs motivated teams?

written by on Jan 7, 2013 in Articles | 1 comment

Who needs motivated teams?

One of the crucial parameters of project success is the cohesiveness and effectiveness of the project team. Yet, for some mysterious, unidentified reason, many project managers do not spend nearly enough time in attempting to develop the group of individuals that will perform most project work into a truly productive team. Some believe the power they have from the fact they have been appointed as project managers, is enough to rally the troops into accomplishing a common goal. Others don’t understand the importance of motivation in the performance of project team members, especially those team members working for companies in a functional organizational structure. Moreover, there are those who understand the importance of having a team that is adequately motivated to perform, but don’t know how to go about it and still others who dismiss altogether the need to motivate employees as irrelevant to the success of the project. In this taut labor market, they argue, the fear of losing your job is the most powerful motivator.

I beg to differ. Even though it is true that most people, especially in our days, will do whatever it takes to make sure they keep their job, this is not exactly the same as performing to the best of their abilities. Subtly implying, or sometimes even stating conspicuously, that failure to fully comply with the directives of the project manager may have adverse effects to one’s career, may indeed yield compliance, but more likely, will not produce the best possible results.

Building and developing effective teams is very important in most organizations since rarely do we get to produce significant results without the contribution of others. This is even more so in a project environment where the pressure to meet time and budgetary constraints is even higher. To state the obvious, projects like some of the most valuable work in all organizations, are carried out by human beings. People, whether we like it or not, are the single most important factor in the successful implementation of any project. Implementing projects, by definition, implies the involvement of personnel from different departments and since the majority of people are working for functional teams, that means you must find a way to achieve the utmost level of commitment, cooperation and results from people you do not really have any control over. Sure, you can give your appraisal for their performance on the project but usually- and contrary to what many may believe- this is not something that phases employees one bit.

Throughout my career, how to elicit cooperation from people I had no immediate authority over, has been both one of the most intriguing and rewarding experiences I have had as a professional. I am willing to bet that this puzzle has troubled many managers; i.e how to get things done without alienating people, how to achieve project goals when you cannot use neither coercion nor reward, how to inspire others and succeed in delivering the project according to its initial requirements. Well, in other words, how to be an effective project manager. I believe to be able to do all the things I mention here, you have to approach team building and team development in a systematic, structured and thoughtful manner. This process should get the time and attention it deserves. It may be the difference between project success and failure. Engaging in this activity should not be an afterthought. If it is, you are headed for trouble.

So, assuming we all agree motivating employees effectively is desirable, we have to ask ourselves whether it is also necessary. I believe it is, even if you could make people perform well without motivating them. For one thing, by successfully motivating others, you create a work environment that fosters creativity, commitment and dedication. The trouble is that motivating employees, is easier said than done. Tons of research and motivation theories show us just that. But we should not use this fact as an excuse for failing to address the issue. How do you approach teams in your company? Is there a conscious effort on your part to make them more productive? If so, what techniques do you use? Feel free to share your thoughts!

So, do people like to negotiate or not?

written by on Nov 23, 2012 in Articles | 1 comment

So, do people like to negotiate or not? In general, studies show that the majority of people don’t like to negotiate. From seasoned executives to junior associates what is a shared characteristic is the stress and anxiety most of them experience as soon they find out they have to conduct serious negotiations. The anxiety level, the awkwardness and the sense of ineptitude they feel, ranks up there with the stress many people feel when they have to deliver a public speech or make a business presentation to a large audience.  To many, the question itself is irrelevant.

It might be a cliché by now but it is also a truism that in business, as in life, we have to negotiate and we negotiate a lot. So, it does not really matter whether you like to negotiate or not. You will have to, no matter what. You have to negotiate almost every day with your boss, your subordinates, your spouse or significant other, your kids, your clients, suppliers, and the list goes on… The only real question then is: since negotiation is a part of life and since you cannot avoid negotiating, how are you going to negotiate? Are you going to negotiate well or not? Are you going to be a skillful negotiator or are you just going to naively hope for the best?

Especially in business, poor negotiation skills can wipe out the fruits of hard labor before you know it. The world is full of people and companies that never managed to realize their full potential because although they had put in the work, or they had come up with a good product or service, failed to negotiate a profitable and sustainable deal.

What never ceases to amaze me is how often successful business people, often very intelligent and creative individuals who have based their success on hard work, painstaking preparation and the capacity to be adaptable, fail to apply the same concepts when it comes to negotiations. I don’t want to be misunderstood here; we have to give credit where credit is due… Obviously, most of the people that have been successful in business have done something right. Besides the ones we can attribute their success to political ties, illegal dealings or pure luck, the rest of them which is the majority in my view, have managed to become professionally successful due to their business savvy and hard work.

Nevertheless, it seems that many of these people have managed to succeed not because but despite their negotiation skills. And it is curious, since how we negotiate, especially in business, can make the difference between success and failure, between profitability and disaster. Yet, most people approach negotiations casually and ill-prepared, something they would never do in any other aspect of their business conduct. What is even more curious is that most of them, in principle, understand the importance of having good negotiations skills. They understand how critical those skills are, especially in this highly competitive business environment we live in. However, when you ask them how come they don’t try to develop their negotiation skills by applying the same effort and rigor that they exhibit in the rest of their business conduct, usually they have nothing of substance to say.

To me, it does not make any sense to spend four years at a University -or sometimes more for those who sought graduate studies- spending countless hours in order to gain knowledge in a particular field and then spend zero hours into trying to figure out how you can apply this knowledge in a business setting in a manner that will yield the best results during negotiations. Then of course, there are those who think they don’t have to educate themselves any way they can when it comes to negotiations, simply because they already are excellent negotiators, they are “naturals”, they have what seems to be a usually undefined, obscure, almost mystical aptitude for negotiating or they have the “right” personality traits that make them good at negotiating. Or so they think.

To those individuals I have to say this: Without the presence of an objective method to measure performance one cannot make such bold assertions. Do you have a way to evaluate your performance? Yes, you might have closed the deal, but what kind of concessions did you make? Did you produce the best possible deal under the circumstances? Will the deal stand the test of time? Have you pushed too hard, perhaps alienating your counterpart? What are the effects of this deal on future dealings with the other party?  If these types of questions -and others- were part of you performance assessment regarding negotiations and if by answering them truthfully you get satisfactory responses, then you are in good shape. But unfortunately, most people offer superficial answers to such legitimate questions.

To be fair, it is certainly true that some people are more at ease in a negotiation setting than others. It is also true that certain people are better at negotiating because they indeed possess personality traits that make them more effective as negotiators. Alas, this is not enough. To believe that just your “charming” personality and “go-get-them” attitude will do the trick is, in most cases, wishful thinking at best. Even when this is enough, imagine how much better you could have done if you coupled that winning personality with solid knowledge regarding negotiations.

I believe that in business you cannot consistently produce good results and make profitable deals when you have just a rudimentary understanding or insufficient knowledge of the whole negotiation process. I don’t know a single truly successful individual that has produced beneficial business deals year after year that did not have a thorough grasp of the intricacies of negotiations. And that level of expertise simply does not come without somehow educating themselves about negotiations. However, most of these people would have you believe otherwise, either because they want to appear as naturally gifted negotiators or because they understand how vital their negotiation skills are to their success and they are reluctant to share that knowledge. A behavior that may not be worthy of praise but is surely understandable….

Negotiating effectively is a skill and as with any skill, practice makes perfect. The only problem is that far too many people learn how to negotiate on the job… They are thrown into the water -by someone that was imprudent enough to throw them in at the deep end- and they have to either sink or swim. They usually manage to swim, well, to be more accurate they usually manage to stay afloat. That’s not really swimming, is it? Admittedly, it’s not the most efficient way to become an effective negotiator.

Without having any knowledge regarding negotiations at least as a reference point, it may take a long time to identify your strengths and weaknesses as a negotiator or to figure out what works and what doesn’t in different situations and business settings.

There is no doubt that possessing the theoretical background in any field, however useful, in and of itself is not enough. The practical application of any knowledge in real life situations is where its true value is appraised and its ultimate usefulness is determined.  It is only through the actual results and feedback we get from our daily battles in the business ”trenches”, through our daily struggles that we are able to hone and perfect any skills we have developed from some specific knowledge. However, for someone to attempt to negotiate without possessing at least some fundamental knowledge regarding negotiations is like allowing a physician to perform a surgery to a patient without basic knowledge of human anatomy. I suspect that in both cases, we can take an educated guess regarding the outcome of such undertakings…

I ‘ll tell you, if I were the CEO of any company that is serious about its bottom line, I would not let people figure out what works and what doesn’t in negotiations purely through the -otherwise precious- method of trial and error. That could -and probably would- prove to be quite costly for my company. Nor do I have the luxury to let the outcome of a business deal be determined by the attitude and preparation level of any one individual.

What I want as a CEO or any businessman for that matter, is to establish a system that will allow executives, managers, sales people and staff in general,  to become proficient in negotiations and demonstrate a structured approach when negotiating, that won’t vary regardless of who conducts the actual negotiation. I acknowledge that some people may still perform better than others, due to a host of different reasons –probably the topic of another article- but I would like to at least minimize the randomness of the process or the variation of the approach, skill and preparation level of the people involved.

I would love to hear your perspective. What do you guys think?