There are some business books I refer to again and again. Often they are also (no coincidence) those that are recommended by many people I know as part of your essential business bookshelf.
For general negotiating skills, I am yet to be persuaded that any book has overtaken ‘Getting to Yes’ by Roger Fisher and William Ury. It is one of those books where ideas are densely packed and none are laboured. So despite being a short book, it has more in it than many twice its size.
The lowest review on Amazon UK gives it 3 stars – saying there’s not much new in it. A triumph for a book that is 30 years old and has therefore been imitated and borrowed from heavily over the years. I am fairly sure it was Ury and Fisher who first introduced negotiators to the BATNA.
Not about Negotiation
However, I am not writing this Pocketblog about negotiation and you can learn more in Patrick Forsyth’s excellent Negotiator’s Pocketbook (one of my personal favourites).
Sitting among the many gems in Getting to Yes (at page 70 of my 1986 hardback edition) is the circle chart. This is presented as a tool to help negotiators ‘invent options for mutual gain’. I see it as one of the best generic problem solving tools – and also, by the way, as a pretty good model for the consulting process.
The Circle Chart
What a wonderfully simple model for problem solving this is.
We ask what is wrong and gather the facts
We diagnose the problem, seeking to understand causation
We generate multiple options to resolve the problem
- Action ideas
We evaluate the options and develop plans
All things are connected…
‘It’s the circle of life, Simba’
The Circle Chart has always reminded me how simplicity and robustness come from a few great insights, and the model-maker’s skill is in presenting them in new and relevant ways. In particular, this model is a close relative of another, designed for a very different purpose: Bernice McCarthy’s 4MAT method for instructional design.
Although the sequence is slightly different, the four questions that McCarthy argued that we need to answer are all here:
- Problem – ‘what?’
- Analysis – ‘why?’
- Approaches – ‘how?’
- Action ideas – ‘what if?’
So here’s the deal
The circle chart may not be the most sophisticated problem solving model available, but it covers all of the basis for me. A great resource for managers, project teams, consultants and trainers.