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Roger Fisher & William Ury: Principled Negotiation

While to the general public, The Art of the Deal may be the best known book on negotiation, to anyone who needs negotiation to be a sustainable part of your professional toolkit, the first and best book to start with has to be Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher and William Ury. Indeed, for any manager or professional, this has to be one of the dozen most important books you can read.

Negotiation is conflict conducted in a civilised manner. And what Fisher and Ury tell us is that you are always going to be more successful if you carry it out with strong moral principles. They set out four powerful principles. But it is, perhaps, their solution to one of the biggest problems that negotiators face, which is their biggest contribution to doing a good deal.

Roger Fisher & William Ury
Roger Fisher & William Ury

Roger Fisher

Roger Fisher was born in 1922, and graduated from Harvard College in 1943, just before the United States entered the War. Fisher flew meteorological reconnaissance planes and returned to civilian life to complete a law degree at Harvard.

He then spent some time in Paris working on the European post-war recovery Marshall Plan, before returning to the States to join a Washington law firm. There he had the chance to present cases to the Supreme Court.

In 1958, he returned to Harvard Law School as a member of faculty, being appointed professor in 1960. There, Fisher became increasingly interested in how people resolve disputes, having lost too many friends during the War. So, in 1979, he and Ury co-founded the Harvard Negotiation Project.

Fisher spent a lot of time working on some of the biggest negotiations in global politics, including the Camp David summit between Israel and Egypt, and in South Africa, as Apartheid was finally ending. When not travelling, mediating and advising, he continued to teach, both at Harvard and many other prestigious institutions, as well as writing articles and books. In 1984, he founded the Conflict Management Group, which later merged with the Mercy Corps.

In 1992, Fisher formally retired as Professor and became an emeritus professor, continuing to teach and write into his 80s. Roger Fisher died in 2012.

William Ury

William Ury was born in 1953. He studied Social Anthropology at Yale and went on to research his PhD at Harvard. In 1997, Fisher happened to read Ury’s research paper on the Middle East peace negotiations, and was impressed. He sent a copy to the US Assistant Secretary of State leading the negotiations, and invited Ury to work with him. They were to have a long and fruitful working relationship.

Working together in the Harvard Negotiation Project that they co-founded allowed the two to help each other develop their thinking and the 1981 book, Getting to Yesencapsulated their thinking at the time. It rapidly became a best-seller and remains so today. Both have written numerous additional books since.

Ury set up the Nuclear Negotiation Project in 1982 and also worked as a mediator and negotiation advisor alongside his teaching. In 2007, he also founded Abraham’s Path, to start on the journey of lasting Middle East peace. You can hear him speak about it at TEDx below.

Principled Negotiation

In Getting to Yes, Fisher and Ury set out two overarching beliefs for Principled Negotiating:

  1. Participants are problem solvers
  2. The goal is a wise outcome reached efficiently and amicably

They also set out four essential principles that make negotiations as effective as possible; especially when both parties adhere to them:

  1. Separate the people from the problem
  2. Focus on interests, not positions
  3. Invent options for mutual gain
  4. Insist on using objective criteria

The BATNA

Perhaps the best known concept from the book is the idea of a BATNA – the Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement. If you aren’t able to reach agreement through the negotiation you are in now, what is the best alternative available to you?

That’s your BATNA.

If you cannot reach a deal in your negotiation that is better than your BATNA, then any deal you agree to represents an incremental loss. So you should, at that point, walk away.

The Circle Chart

Another great tool Fisher and Ury offer in Getting to Yes is the Circle Chart. We wrote about it in an earlier Pocketblog.

More on Negotiation

Another earlier Pocketblog article about negotiation is Deborah Kolb: Shadow Negotiation. Kolb is a collaborator of Ury’s, at Harvard Law School’s Project on Negotiation.

William Ury at TEDx

In this talk, called The Walk from ‘No’ to ‘Yes’, William Ury offers a way to create agreement in even the most difficult situations.

[ted id=1017]

 

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Deborah Kolb: Shadow Negotiation

Deborah Kolb is an academic who has chosen a precise area of study and contributed to our insights. She has examined the intersection of leadership, negotiation, and gender, to better understand how women can negotiate for the conditions that will allow them to lead successfully.

I don’t often editorialise, but at a time when a rise in women in national and global leadership roles attracts much comment, it does seem as though any work that will allow men and women  an equal footing in leadership must be a good thing. Fifty per cent of the talent pool for leadership roles is systemically under-represented. When women hold leadership roles it is still seen by many as worthy of remark. Deborah Kolb’s work may help women to compete more fairly to secure the leadership roles they deserve.

 

Deborah Kolb
Deborah Kolb

Very Short Biography

Deborah Kolb was awarded  a BA in History and Economics at Vasser College in 1965, and went on to start a PhD in Organisational Studies and Labour Relations at the MIT Sloan School of Management. While studying for her doctoral thesis (which she defended successfully in 1981) she took an academic appointment at Simmons College, becoming Deloitte Ellen Gabriel Professor for Women and Leadership in 2006. Since 2010, she has held the chair with Emerita status.

Kolb’s work on negotiation and gender came to prominence with her 2000 book ‘Shadow Negotiation: How Women Can Master the Hidden Agendas That Determine Bargaining Success‘, which she co-wrote with Judith Williams. This was widely praised and one of Harvard Business Review’s top ten business books of 2000. Her 2015 book, ‘Negotiating at Work: Turn Small Wins into Big Gains‘ was also well received and rated as one of the best books on negotiation of that year.

From 1991 to 1994, Kolb also served as Executive Director of Harvard Law School’s Project on Negotiation (Founded by William Ury and Roger Fisher), where she remains on the faculty, with Ury and Amy Cuddy.

Shadow Negotiation

When we negotiate, whether it is a formal contractual negotiation, a career stage, or just for a role in our organisation,  Kolb describes a second negotiation running in parallel: a Shadow Negotiation.

Alongside the formal discussion, each negotiator will also be trying to put their own interests and needs to the fore. They will be promoting their opinions, and trying to win the co-operation of the other person. This shadow negotiation often determines the outcome of the primary bargaining process, yet women often fare poorly here, no matter how well prepared they are for the structured negotiating process.

Kolb suggests that traditionally women have not fared well because they often miss the  moments in a negotiation, where the surface position is actually negotiable. They ‘take no for an answer’ rather than as a new bargaining position. Women’s more natural collaborative approach can also harm their shadow negotiation. In trying  to be responsive to the other side’s position, they can be interpreted as accommodating it, and making concessions, which is seen as weak.

The result is women’s outcomes from negotiations are poorer in terms of cash, perks, prestigious assignments, or roles in decision-making, than those of their male colleagues.

So Kolb would argue that women need to spot these looming acts of self-sabotaging the shadow negotiation, by being aware of how other people’s approaches can trigger them. The research that Kolb and Williams present, in their book, suggests three strategic levers to guide the shadow negotiation. These seem equally valuable to men and women.

  1. Power Moves
  2. Process Moves
  3. Appreciative Moves

If all of this sounds a little like the exercise of political acumen, read on. It is!

Power Moves

These are the strategies that get you to the formal negotiating table.  The moves are:

  • to offer incentives that show the other party the value of negotiating
  • to enlist a coalition of allies who will support you
  • create pressure by showing the risks of the status quo

Process Moves

These strategies ensure that the bargaining process works effectively for the negotiator, by setting the right ground rules. You can do this by getting your idea into the discussion early, before any conflict can cause your counter-party to be deaf to it. Ideally, anchor the negotiation around your point of view before it starts. You could also reframe the negotiation process as being about something the other person deeply values. Finally, you can use behind-the-scenes lobbying to build consensus in parallel with the formal negotiation.

Appreciative Moves

These are trust-building strategies that can unlock deadlock. They move the surface and shadow negotiations away from adversarial, by appreciating the other person’s concerns and values. The authors suggest:

  • Helping others to save face
  • Keeping the dialogue going, through deadlock. Stop trying to get agreement and focus on communicating concerns and aspirations
  • Look for the points of view that may break the deadlock, by setting a new direction for discussions

Can we become better negotiators?

Without a doubt, yes. This is the mission of the Harvard Project on Negotiation. Deborah Kolb, as a significant contributor to that, has a lot to teach us.

Recommended reading:

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Mary Parker Follett: Management Visionary

‘Ahead of her time’ seems to be the most appropriate epiphet to apply to Mary Parker Follett. And many have done so: Peter Drucker described her as a ‘prophet of management’, while Warren Bennis has said:

‘Just about everything written today about
leadership and organizations comes from
Mary Parker Follett’s lectures and writings.’

Mary Parker Follett

 

Brief Biography

Mary Parker Follett was born in 1868, into a wealthy Quaker family in Boston. She was an exceptional scholar and a polymath, attending university at Harvard (the Society for Collegiate Instruction of Women – later Radcliffe College), during which time she also spent a year at Newnham College, at Cambridge University (in England). Although denied a PhD by Harvard, she studied widely in law, economics, politics, philosophy, and history. While at Cambridge University she prepared and delivered a paper that was to become, in 1918, her first book: ‘The New State’. It was about social evolution and group-based democratic government. It was reviewed by former US president, Theodore Roosevelt and remains in print today.

After studying, Follett spent the next thirty or so years (from 1890 to 1924) focusing on voluntary social work in Boston. She innovated, being the first person in the US to use a school as an out-of-hours community centre; a model that was widely reproduced across the country.

However, what interests us most at the Management Pocketblog is her work from 1924, when she turned her focus to industry. She wrote that it is ‘the most important field of human activity’ and that:

‘management is the most fundamental element in industry’

She became an early management consultant and was much in demand by industry leaders and academic institutions. She spent her time advising and lecturing, up until her death, at a relatively young age, in  December 1933.

Sadly, her work is not widely known of in the western world, despite notable figures like Drucker, Bennis and Sir Peter Parker praising her to the rafters. This is despite the fact that she anticipated a wide range of issues and thinking that is still today presented as modern and aspirational for our large organisations.

Follett’s Visionary Thinking

Let’s count the ways that Follett was ahead of her time in the field of management. I get to eight.

1. Humanistic Approach to Organisations

Growing up in the time of FW Taylor, and ahead of the work of Elton Mayo, Follett rejected the functional approach to industry in favour of her emphasis on what we now call humanistic principle. She was a progressive, rational humanist in the management field as well as in the political and social arenas, and puts me very much in mind of George Eastman, whom I also described as a visionary. She very much anticipated the work of Douglas McGregor.

2. Empowerment

Follett rejected the idea that managers and staff have fundamentally different roles and capabilities. Instead, she saw that an organisation’s success would come from recognising the part that each has to play in delivering its services or creating its products. She advocated giving power to where it matters.

3. Joined up Business (… and hence, Re-engineering and Lean?)

This created a need for a joined up organisation, where activities, departments, functions and people are properly co-ordinated – both across the organisation and from the bottom to the top (and vice versa). She referred to the relationships between staff and managers and among functions as ‘reciprocal relating’. A leader’s role is therefore to see the whole organisation and the ‘relation between all the different factors in a situation’. Is it too much of a stretch to see this as anticipating the mission of re-engineering and lean management to close gaps in process flow? I don’t think so.

4. Group Dynamics and Team Working – Participative Leadership

The equal balance of power between management and employees leads to the need for team co-operation and that, she suggested, develops a true sense of responsibility in workers. To me, it also demands a model of leadership that Robert Greenleaf was to call ‘Servant Leadership’. Follett did not herself go as far, but identified ‘Participative Leadership’ as the style that involves a whole team in creating products and delivering services.

5. Personal Responsibility

Tying together empowerment, co-ordination and group working is the sense of responsibility they inculcate in workers. Follett again anticipated McGregor’s Theory Y, by arguing that it is this which most develops people.

6.Management Training

If we are to delegate greater responsibility to our people, we must do so well. Follett was an early advocate of management training, believing when many did not that the leadership aspects can be taught.

7. Transformational Leadership

In a paper called ‘The social construction of leadership: From theory to praxis’, Edith Rusch notes the unacknowledged similarities between James McGregor Burns’ articulation of ‘Transformational Leadership’ and Follett’s writings. She presents a compelling argument that Follett not only anticipated the ideas of transformational leadership, but that she was the first to put them forward and even used the term.

8. Win-Win Negotiation and Conflict Management

One particular interest of Follett’s was conflict. She suggested three approaches of domination, compromise and integration, that  Kenneth Thomas and Ralph Kilmann would later refer to as competing, compromising, and collaborating. Her thinking on the benefits and mechanisms of creating integrated ‘win-win’ resolutions is rich and sophisticated. In her suggestion that we uncover the real conflict and get to each party’s deeper aims, and then seek to satisfy those, she anticipated a lot of the thinking in best-selling negotiation book, ‘Getting to Yes’.

My one Favourite concept…

from all of Follett’s writing is this: the idea of ‘circular response’. This is that our behaviour helps to create the situation to which we respond. It is the idea of a feedback loop of self reinforcing interpretations and behaviour. I don’t doubt that the essence of this very modern sounding idea goes back to the ancients and classical writings of many cultures. But her articulation of it (and of the compelling phrase ‘circular response’) is so clear, that it has got me thinking.

Thank you…

to Mary Parker Follett. Before I started researching this blog, I knew nothing of her (unlike almost all other management thinker subjects). I had hoped that, being less known, there would be little to read and writing this would be quick. Far from it. But I have gained a lot from learning about Follett, and I hope you will too.

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Four Step Negotiation

The Management Pocketbooks Pocket Correspondence Course

This is part of an extended management course. You can dip into it, or follow the course from the start. If you do that, you may want a course notebook, for the exercises and any notes you want to make.


We all have to negotiate; whether formally, arranging rotas, or informally, looking for a little extra help. In some cultures, it is more than a way of life, it is a ritual to be savoured. Everyone is familiar with its ploys and gambits, and is comfortable with the give and take, the spirited competition, and the feigned offence. Not negotiating is what gives real offence.

In other places, negotiation can feel alien: it feels more like an argument. Consequently, many managers feel uncomfortable with the idea of negotiating.

So, how can you negotiate well, and feel confident at the same time?

Negotiating is a learnable process. There are four basic steps, that you can practise and carry out, to get a result every time. It may not always be the result you hoped for at the outset: that’s not the goal of negotiating. There are, after all, two (or more) parties to please.

Negotiation is a process of searching for an agreement that satisfies all parties

So, let’s look at the process; it has four steps.

1. Preparation

The secret of success lies in going into the formal ‘let’s negotiate’ part fully prepared. This can give you an immediate edge but, realistically, will simply prevent you being at a disadvantage from the start. Its real importance is two-fold: to boost your confidence and to equip you to recognise and secure the best outcome available… or to know when to walk away. Perhaps the simplest useful advice is in the words of Kenny Rogers:

You got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
You never count your money when you’re sittin’ at the table.
There’ll be time enough for countin’ when the dealin’s done.

So, what to prepare?

  1. Know what you want, and what your option would be if you failed to reach agreement. Known as your BATNA or ‘Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement’, this tells you when to walk away. It forms your bottom line.
  2. You need to inventory all the variables in your negotiation: what you can trade, offer, concede, request, and tweak, in terms of money, goods, services, or relationships. This will give you your manoeuvring space.
  3. Find out about the other party and do your best to anticipate what they need, want and don’t want and, as a result, some likely scenarios. Play them out.
  4. Assemble a file of every relevant fact or figure so you have them to hand. Ideally, learn it all – the impact of that on your counter-party can be stunning. If not, at least be familiar with it all, so you can quickly find what you need.

2. Opening

Your first priority is to make a positive first impression. Dress right, enter confidently, and get your papers out to reveal an orderly file, smart notebook and classy pen. Show you are confident and mean business.

A few minutes of rapport-building banter recognises that negotiation is a human activity. It’s harder to be hard with someone you have rapport with, so soften up the other side. Next, establish any ground rules – above all, does the person in the room have the authority to seal the deal? If not, you will never want to make your best offer to them.

3. Bargaining

Once the give and take of the negotiation is underway, the secret is to listen hard, never respond immediately, and not to be defensive. Always move one step towards where you think agreement lies, either accepting a concession, making one, requesting one, or spelling out the next step. Anything else shows you to be focused on the wrong thing. The right thing is the big picture: progress towards an agreement that satisfies all parties.

Let any raising of emotional temperature, defensive behaviour or outrage come from the other side of the table. You will look wiser, more confident and more powerful. This is why we prepare.

4. Closing

Eventually, you will either reach a point of agreement where both of you are happy, or you will reach a point where one of you recognises that no such agreement is possible and offers to walk away – or storms out; but don’t ever let that be you.

This is where inexperienced negotiators stumble. They fear that saying they are happy and checking that the other party is too, will break the magic spell. The opposite is true: failing to declare this point will mean the magic will wear off. So go for a close. The simplest and safest approach is a trial close:

“I think we are at a point where we can both agree? Is that how you see it?”

If you get the right signals, express your pleasure and move straight into the formalities of finalising the detail: handshakes, drafting, signatures and logistics. Never, ever re-visit any of the terms. You have a deal and there is no way it can get better, so the only thing that will happen is that it gets worse. Stop.

Can it be that simple?

Yes and no. Yes, this simple process works and is the basis of all negotiation. No, because every negotiation will be different and there is one fundamental characteristic of all negotiations that militates against simplicity: they are a human endeavour. But as such, if well prepared, you are in the same position as the other party. You are a human; so are they.

Further Reading

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Resistance to Negotiation

Over the last couple of weeks, we have looked at:

One of the things that most worries inexperienced negotiators is the question: ‘what if they say no?’ or even ‘what if they don’t like my offer?’

If these bother you, don’t worry.  Of course they will say no – several times: it’s their job.  And of course they won’t like your offer – unless it advantages them, rather than you; which would make it a foolish offer for you to make.  instead, start to see resistance as a part of the process.

Understanding Resistance

The Handling Resistance Pocketbook is a toolkit for anyone encountering resistance, and at its heart is a model to help you understand resistance, assess what is going on, and choose from the tools available.

The Onion Model

The Onion Model is a tool to uncover the layers of resistance.

Onion Model of Negotiating Resistance

With this model, you can see why resistance is so inevitable.  The first two layers are about meaning: they may not understand your proposal – so find a new way to explain it, or they may doubt why you made it, so be clear about the basis for your proposal.

Next comes doubt about your ability to stand by your proposal: ‘it’s too good to be true’ responses fit in here.  Provide evidence of your bona fides. Next comes the powerful rejection – probably because your proposal is not good enough.

But if it is good enough, credible and fully understood, they may resist for historic reasons: they may not like you but, more likely, they have some other reason to not want to do a deal with you.  Maybe your organisation misled them in the past, maybe another organisation did and, in their mind, ‘you’re all the same.’

This last layer is rarely about reality – more often it is about perception.  So you need to understand the basis of that perception and undermine it with counter evidence… always in a respectful way.  Try using an adaptation of the ABCDE process, a tool form the heart of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT).

Other Pocketblogs about Handling Resistance

The Handling Resistance Pocketbook, by Mike Clayton

 

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What is your negotiating personality?

Last week, we took a look at negotiation and I want to return briefly to it.  In The Negotiator’s Pocketbook, Patrick Forsyth offers a nice model of how you come across as a negotiator.

Neotiation Personality

Projection

The way you are perceived – how confident, assertive and credible you seem.  In Patrick’s mind, this is ‘good’ assertion – respectful and appropriate, rather than domineering and aggressive.

Empathy

Your ability to assume your counter-party’s perspective and see things from their point of view, understanding what they want and how they perceive the situation and your actions.

Patrick gives a wealth of tips about ‘behavioural ploys’ that negotiators can use, to increase your projection and empathy.  I want to pick out just one:

Flagging

Not: ‘oh boy, this negotiation has been going on for ages, now I’m flagging’. 

Instead: ‘I’d like to flag up the next step’.

Patrick recommends using questions and statements that demonstrate where you are in the negotiation and what you think needs to follow in the process.  Because negotiation is a process, and it needs to keep moving until it reaches a conclusion – of one sort or another.

What made me think, was this statement:

never flag a disagreement’

… which Patrick doesn’t explain.

Never Flag a Disagreement

This statement caught me by surprise.  I didn’t necessarily agree with it.  I had to think why it might be true.  And then I realised: Patrick is right.  So now, I can explain it.

Flag a disagreement and the process stops.  When the process stops, the negotiation ends.  If you disagree, then flag the next step you need to take to move back into agreement.  Nice, Patrick, thank you.

Maybe, that should be Rule 5.

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The Rules of Negotiation

There are no Rules in a knife fight

No rules in a knife fight - Ted Cassidy in Twentieth Century Fox's Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
No rules in a knife fight – Ted Cassidy in Twentieth Century Fox’s Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

There may be eight rules of Fight Club, but as Harvey Logan told us in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid:

‘Rules?
In a knife fight?
No rules!’

.
I suppose the difference is that one is negotiation for fun (!) and the other is for real (within a fictional world).  But it raises the question:

Are there any rules in a real negotiation?

The Negotiator's PocketbookPatrick Forsyth thinks so.  Patrick is author of one of my favourite Pocketbooks, The Negotiator’s Pocketbook.

Early on in the Pocketbook, he sets out ‘Four Essential Rules’ of negotiation.
.

Rule 1: Aim High

This has to merit the status of a rule, doesn’t it.  After all, your best possible outcome, once the negotiation has started, is your opening position, so it had better be as good as you think you can possibly ask for without offending your counter-party and causing them to withdraw summarily.

Rule 2: Get the Other Person’s Shopping List

When I saw this rule, my heart sunk.  While in many negotiations, you will want to get your counter-party to reveal their opening position first (in case it is better for you than you had planned), this is not always the case.  That’s because the opener acts as an anchor and makes it very hard for you to come back with your own opening position that is in another realm altogether.

The counter-party is now stuck in one realm and you are being foolish.  If, however, you open first with your wild position, then it may indeed cause the other person to withdraw, but it will certainly change their whole perception of value.  It will re-frame the negotiation.

But Patrick is wise enough to frame his rule as being about preparation.  Do your research first, he is saying.  Now that’s a rule worth having.

Rule 3: Keep the Whole Package in Mind

How often we hear of negotiations failing over one inconsequential detail.  Inconsequential, that is, to an impartial observer.  But to the parties negotiating, who have become fixated upon it, this one point comes to betoken the whole matter.  That’s foolish.  I like this rule too.

Rule 4: Keep Searching for Variables

The concept of variables is central to the way Patrick describes negotiation and putting them front and centre is right. Anything that could be done, given, granted, requested, conceded, exchanged, varied – these are variables.  And the more you have, the greater your negotiating flexibility.  The greater your negotiating flexibility, the more likely you are to find agreement.  Keep searching for variables – and keep tweaking them.  Too right.

Rule 5: There is no rule 5

… or is there?  Patrick lists four.  What would your fifth be?  Do add your own ideas in the comments.

So here’s the deal

Over the last couple of weeks, we’ve looked at searching for a New Job and keeping the Same Job.  Whichever you do, you may find the opportunity to negotiate.  If you do, keep Patrick’s four rules in mind.

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Reciprocity and Expectation

I got a phone call out of the blue yesterday.  I have noticed that this kind of call can either be a complete waste of time (’do you want to save money on your toner cartridges/wine/mortgage/pet insurance?’) or thought-provoking.  This one was most certainly the latter.

Tip of the day

You may have noticed on the main Management Pocketbooks website (you can get to it by clicking the logo at the top of the right hand column next to this blog) the Tip of the Day function.

SeeOurTipoftheDayTipoftheDay29Apr2011

If you click on it, you will get a different tip each day.  This caller had done just that, and got one of mine.

Keeping Promises

‘If I keep my promise, will you keep yours?
If I don’t believe you will, why should I bother?
Vroom’s model of motivation!

This tip came from the Management Models Pocketbook, where I describe Victor Vroom’s Expectancy Theory.  This is the section in the free extract you can view on the Management Models Pocketbook page, by clicking on ‘view extract’.

The tip was about the way that we can fail to motivate others if we get a reputation for not delivering on promised rewards.  But the tip had resonated with my caller in another way.

Honesty and Reciprocation

In her job, Alison had been thinking about the importance of truth and honesty.  She had read the quote and thought about the reciprocation of honesty, which got us into an interesting discussion about the nature of truth.

Reciprocation appears to be a fundamental part of human nature.  It is the basis of a large part of our society:

  • Trade, commerce and negotiation
  • Moral philosophy (do unto others… – the so-called ‘golden rule’)
  • Community and the trading of favours
  • Criminal justice (punishment fitting the crime – an eye for an eye)
  • Diplomatic exchange and warfare

Of course pure reciprocity is not always seen as the ideal in all of these cases.  In negotiation, a win-win goes beyond pure exchange of fair value and in moral philosophy, alternative approaches have developed and extended the golden rule, starting with Kant’s categorical imperative.  In community, the concept of paying forward, rather than paying back emerged in the 1950s and hit its peak of popular awareness in the 1990s with the film ‘Pay it Forward’.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UPcwQi-AnWI]

There is no need to analyse the failings of tit-for-tat reciprocity in the criminal justice and diplomatic arenas!

In the world of influence, reciprocity is king

As Richard Storey points out in the Influencing Pocketbook, appeal to self interest is a powerful influencer.  But what is equally powerful is to appeal to our innate instinct to reciprocate a gift or a concession.  It is as if, your self interest served, you feel a need to express your gratitude with a reciprocal action.

This offers me a powerful way to influence your thinking or your behaviour.  If I meet your need or give you something you want, then you will feel an urge to give me something in return.  If I give you an honest answer, then you are more likely to be honest with me.

Game theory

But here is where the problem lies.  If I deal honestly with you, can I expect you to deal honestly with me?  If I do trust you and you reciprocate, we can get the best possible collective results, but if you cheat on  me, you optimise your gain, while I lose out.  So what should I do?

This is the domain of ‘game theory’ – the mathematical study of sequences of plays within a set of rules, where the players have some choice.  It turns out that tit-for-tat is a pretty good strategy…

… but not the best.  Constant cheating and constant trusting are both poor strategies, but one strategy stands out.

I am wondering whether I should share this.  What are the ethics of sharing a strategy that must mean some cheating, some trusting and some tit-for-tat behaviour?  Hmmm, that is something to think about.

So here’s the deal

The optimum strategy  in part depends on the strategy of your counter-party – your ‘opponent’ in the game.  But one of the most successful strategies seems to be ‘modified tit-for-tat’.  This means you start by reciprocating, to build trust, but every now and then, take advantage of the situation by cheating.  Then, revert to tit-for-tat behaviour to rebuild trust… and so on.

Does that sound familiar?  I have encountered it a number of times and it hurts.  For those of us who believe we act fairly and with integrity, encountering it in someone we trust is unpleasant.  It leaves us with a difficult choice: one I faced recently.

Should I reciprocate the cheating behaviour?  That was my instinct.  But maybe pure reciprocity is not the ideal strategy.  I relented and resorted to a tactic designed to rebuild trust.  Does this make me a gullible mark, ready to be fleeced the next time?  I don’t think so, because there is always one strategy I have not yet rolled out: not cheating, not trusting, not tit-for-tat.

You can always stop playing the game.

Some Management Pocketbooks you might enjoy

The Negotiator’s Pocketbook

The Influencing Pocketbook

The Handling Resistance Pocketbook

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Is your Project Doomed

It’s summer time, so I am always on the look-out for something amusing.  Glen Alleman is a serious project manager who unearthed a humorous – but essentially profound – set of Laws of Project Management, which he calls Brasington’s Laws, after Bil Brasington who first articulated them.  I won’t steal all of his thunder by listing them all – they are well worth a look, on Glen’s Blog, Herding Cats.

Brasington’s 1st, 3rd and 7th Laws

Brasington’s First Law
‘No major project is ever installed on time, within budget, or with the staff that started it. Yours will not be the first.’

Brasington’s Third Law
‘One advantage of fuzzy project objectives is that they let you avoid the embarrassment of estimating the corresponding costs.’

Brasington’s Seventh Law
‘A carelessly planned project will take three times longer to complete than expected; a carefully planned project will take only twice as long.’

Beating Brasington

Of course, you can’t – they’re laws, after all.  However, good project managers will at least try to hold their own against the chaos.  This means a carefully planned project is in order.

To do this, you need to set aside the third law and start with the clearest articulation of project objectives that you can create.  To do this, you need to bring together the key stakeholders to agree what success will look like.  How will each stakeholder evaluate the outcome, and what criteria will they use to measure success?

OnTarget
Photo credit: viZZZual.com

Objective Setting = Negotiation

Sadly, you will rarely work with a set of stakeholders with a single vision of success.  As a project manager, you need to conduct a set of negotiations to bring all stakeholders into alignment around a core set of objectives that they can all agree on.  Once you have done that, you must then create and agree with them a process for agreeing any variations to this.  If you don’t, then you will surely fall prey to …

Brasington’s 5th Law

Brasington’s Fifth Law
’If project content is allowed to change freely, the rate of change will exceed the rate of progress.’

Conducting Negotiations

9781903776872

This is a nice metaphor for much of what real project management really is – and is the image that Pocketbooks illustrator, Phil Hailstone, placed on the cover of The Project Management Pocketbook, by Keith Posner and Mike Applegarth.

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This excellent Pocketbook has more on defining outcomes, setting objectives and working with stakeholders.

Other Management Pocketbooks
Project Managers might Enjoy

You may also enjoy the author’s own Project Management blog, Shift Happens!

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If it sounds too good to be true …

The old saying goes: ‘if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is’.  But there is another possibility: ‘if it sounds to good to be true, then you haven’t done your homework’.

Catching out the best negotiators

Sometimes in negotiations, you will be caught off guard by an unanticipated comment, statement or offer.  There is very little that is more disconcerting than an offer that is better than you were expecting.  This is because even the best negotiators rarely prepare for this scenario.

The cautious response is to ask yourself: ‘where’s the catch?’ and proceed delicately.  But there may be no catch; the offer may be genuine.  So whatever you do, don’t risk giving offence by challenging the offer.  Unfortunately, when we get caught out, we often respond in an unguarded manner.

What else could be going on?

If there is no catch, then there are two further possibilities:

  1. the offer is a fair one
  2. they know something you don’t and the value is higher than you thought

What should you do?

Obviously, the lesson from this example is to prepare for even this scenario.  As Patrick Forsyth says in The Negotiator’s Pocketbook, ‘successful negotiators do their homework’.

But if you are unprepared, then you certainly don’t want to just jump on the offer.  So, do what you would do with any offer: make a counter offer, by asking for a little more.  What you do not want to do is quickly accept the offer and leave the other person wondering if they have over bid.  If they do that, it can lead to buyer’s remorse – a sense of disappointment with the deal that they have struck, which can lead to them later reneging on the deal or not doing further business with you.  Worse still, you don’t want to accept a great offer that you could have improved still further.

If you sense the offer is a fair one – just a little better than you had anticipated, then your counter offer can be a little higher.  If, on the other hand, you think they know something more about the value than you do, either go considerably higher or, if you can, take a time out to do some more research.

So here’s the deal

There is no substitute for being prepared before you go into a negotiation: both in command of the facts, and mentally prepared to deal with the unexpected.

What are your tips for negotiating, from your own experiences.  Let us and our readers know, by contributing your own comment.

The Negotiator’s Pocketbook

In The Negotiator’s Pocketbook, Patrick Forsyth sets out a seven step process for your negotiation preparation.  This Pocketbook really is full of fabulous insights and tips.

The Handling Resistance Pocketbook

Okay, so we’ve not been talking about resistance but in the forthcoming Handling Resistance Pocketbook (due in the autumn), you’ll learn a great process, called ‘SCOPE the resistance’ to deal with the kind of surprise this blog talks about.

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Read the Handling Resistance Blog at www.handlingresistance.com

Other Management Pocketbooks you might Enjoy

The Influencing Pocketbook

The NLP Pocketbook

The Salesperson’s Pocketbook

The Positive Mental Attitude Pocketbook

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