This post will focus on using a collaborative strategy in negotiations. The post will discuss a tool for proceeding in a collaborative fashion and some of the potential problems that can arise.
Do not repeat the tactics that have gained you one victory, but let your methods be regulated by the infinite variety of circumstances–Sun Tzu (Giles).
When discussing negotiation, people typically recognize four types of strategies: competing, collaborating, accommodating, and avoiding. This post will focus on collaborative negotiation techniques, which attempt to maximize results and relationships. On the other hand, collaborative negotiations are complex and some possible negative factors to collaborative negotiation will also be mentioned.
Regardless of strategy, all negotiators should conduct as much advance preparation as possible. One tool that can be used to guide the preparation process is the “Negotiation Checklist” outlined by Simons and Tripp. The Negotiation Checklist provides a good framework for negotiators to consider specific aspects of the pending negotiation, such as personnel in the different parties, aims of the negotiation, results of previous negotiations, and deciding about the BATNA. An important aspect of the checklist is developing a table with points assigned to each issue by importance and identifying resistance points. The experienced negotiator employs this process to ponder each issue and decide where to concentrate time and effort. Also, the resistance points act as guides for the negotiator, and they are devices for probing the other party or suspending negotiations to gather further information from constituents (Simons and Tripp). Many novice negotiators want to keep things simple and focused. As a result, they have experience with price negotiations only. While price is important, having a range of negotiating issues more often leads to innovative and equitable solutions. Moreover, negotiating many issues leads to less likelihood of miscommunication when drafting the written contract (Simons and Tripp).
Lewicki, Hiam, and Olander describe collaborative strategy steps: identify the problem, understand the problem, generate alternative solutions, and select a solution. They advise focus on issues rather than emotion and maintain positive attitudes throughout the process; practice open and clear communication; and remain vigilant because collaborative strategies can morph into zero-sum strategies. Interestingly, in keeping with the multiple issue viewpoint advocated by other sources, everything remains fluid until the end to help provide the latitude for innovative solutions that might otherwise destroy the negotiation (Lewicki, Hiam, and Olander).
Taking a pragmatic stance, Huxham and Vangen question a blanket advocacy of collaborative negotiation strategies. They contend that in theory collaborative strategies benefit all parties, but in practice collaborative strategies are complex and time-intensive. Therefore, negotiators should only employ collaborative strategies when they can realize a collaborative advantage, achieving something in collaboration that organizations could not have achieved alone, and they can avoid collaborative inertia, a slow and painful negotiating process with equivocal results (Huxham and Vangen). To minimize inertia and achieve a collaborative advantage, Huxham and Vangen discuss seven “perspectives” that negotiators should monitor: manage the aims, understand power, foster trust, familiarize oneself with the other parties, adapt to fluid dynamics during collaboration, identify the influence of external factors, and occasionally recognize that situational manipulation can help keep negotiations from stagnating. Ultimately, negotiators should not be surprised that collaborative negotiation is intense or difficult, but the situations can be managed with proper understanding and effort (Huxham and Vangen).
Another potentially complicating factor is the use of agents in collaborative negotiations or any negotiations, for that matter. One of the main concerns is clear and precise communication between the principals and their agents. Often this communication can be difficult especially if many principals are involved or if the principals have differing opinions or goals in the negotiations (Mnookin, Peppet, and Tulumello). Also, selecting the proper agent is essential because misaligned interests between principal and agent cause sub-optimal results (Sebenius).
Often, negotiators mistakenly believe collaboration will be easy and always beneficial. Actually, single issue negotiations may be better concluded through competitive or accommodating strategies. In contrast, multi-issue negotiations are more complex and perforce they will be more time- and labor-intensive. Therefore, while competing and accommodating are still possible strategies, in my opinion, it makes sense to explore collaborative strategies for an innovative collaborative advantage if time and labor are already required commitments.
Giles, L., translator (2002) Sun Tzu: The art of war. Mineola, NY: Dover Publications, Inc.
Huxham, C. & Vangen, S. “Doing things collaboratively: Realizing the advantage or succumbing to inertia?” Negotiation: Readings, exercises, and cases. Sixth edition. McGraw Hill: New York.
Lewicki, R.J., Hiam, A., & Olander, K.W. (2010) “Implementing a collaborative strategy.” Negotiation: Readings, exercises, and cases. Sixth edition. McGraw Hill: New York.
Lewicki, R.J., Barry, B., & Saunders, D.M. (2010) Negotiation: Readings, exercises, and cases. Sixth edition. McGraw Hill: New York.
Mnookin, R.H., Peppet, S.R., & Tulumello, A.S. (2010) “The tension between principals and agents.” Negotiation: Readings, exercises, and cases. Sixth edition. McGraw Hill: New York.
Sebenius, J.K. (2010) “When a contract isn’t enough: How to be sure your agent gets you the best deal.” Negotiation: Readings, exercises, and cases. Sixth edition. McGraw Hill: New York.
Simons, T. & Tripp, T.M. (2010) “The negotiation checklist.” Negotiation: Readings, exercises, and cases. Sixth edition. McGraw Hill: New York.