November 27, 2013

Negotiate - What you do every day

 "Negotiation is a dialogue between two or more people or parties" (Wikipedia)

Just as all of us who work are part of a sales organization, ALL of us who interact with others are involved in negotiation. However, negotiation has gotten a bad reputation, based upon the 'win at all costs' that exist in today's hype-competitive business environment. There seems to be a notion that negotiation is about getting the other side to surrender, as expressed in this quote:

"Negotiation means getting the best of your opponent" - Marvin Gaye

I believe something different. I have some experience in negotiating - with a weak position, with a strong position, out of necessity, as the 'hired gun', and even when I desperately wanted to be anywhere else but at the negotiation table.

Those who manage people in a business environment, negotiate with their team members all the time. Team members negotiate with their team leads also. It is a two way street.

Here are some things I have learned - maybe these observations will help you in your next negotiation.

  • If the other side cannot give you what you desire (such as ordering a BigMac at a Starbucks), all the negotiating skills, yelling, and desk pounding will not get a resolution. Look at your expectations ( "You cannot negotiate with people who say what's mine is mine and what's yours is negotiable" - John F Kennedy. 
  • Facts sometimes get in the way of emotions. This is often my fatal flaw - I think facts should always rule, and in some negotiations, facts just get in the way. Let the other side get their emotions 'expressed'. "The most difficult thing in any negotiation, almost, is making sure that you strip it out of emotion and deal with the facts" - Howard Baker.
  • Some say that being dispassionate is the key. I have been in too many negotiations, where one side did not care - I promise you, there never was a resolution until each side cared about the outcome. Each side may have different reasons for a resolution, but they wanted a resolution.
  • Try to understand the other person's position. Not just the technical aspects, but the social, economic, and cultural side of why/how you are negotiating. 
  • Leverage is the key and the danger. If I leverage you, by withholding money, to complete a task well, what are the chances that you will be 'all in' ( In my mind, leverage is the gentle balance between forcing and coaxing. It is crucial that the harder the leverage point, the clearer the path to the other side getting what they desire.
So, where can we get some guidance?  I personally like the "GROW" process (
  • Goal - where do we both want to be at the end point. If your goal is to 'kill' your opponent, you can quickly see why these negotiations never work. 
  • Reality - this is usually where facts can get in the way. Maybe the 'reality' is not only about the facts, but how people feel about those facts.
  • Obstacles/Options - Overcoming obstacles is the key to a good negotiator. What is the 'roadblock' that is stopping a solution. In lean thinking, it is almost always systematic roadblocks that cause problems (waste or error). I have seen the an obstacle to be as simply as "I want to get paid 10% down to buy materials", and I have seen negotiators say "no", because they had leverage.
  • Way Forward - Actions steps moving forward.
The GROW process also works for conflict resolution and mentoring. If you are not familiar with the process - check it out. (

"The most important trip you may take in life is meeting people half way" - Henry Boyle

David Haynes, NCARB, PMP, LEED AP
Ideate Director of Consulting

David is a Registered Architect, Project Management Certified Professional, who previously had his own architectural practice and was President of a commercial design-build construction company for 15 years. A graduate of University of Arizona, he has worked as an Architect, contractor, developer and as a national construction manager for a national retailer. David currently provides business process analysis, virtualization and change management solutions for AEC clients across the United States involved in the design and building industry. Follow David on Twitter: @dhaynestech 

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This post was originally published on David’s blog Connecting the [Data]…