Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Politics or Prudence: The Iranian Deal from a Negotiation Perspective



Introduction
President Trump’s decision to unilaterally withdraw from the JCPOA (the Iran Deal), has generated polarized opinions both domestically and internationally. If we look at the decision in the very narrow context of meeting the objectives of restoring American resolve and fulfillment of campaign promises, a strong argument can be made in favor of the decision.

However, if we examine it in the broader context of the stated desired and warranted objectives (discussed later in this column), the astuteness of the decision becomes more ambiguous

But even then, there is a refined art and science as to how this proposal phase needs to be conducted so as to attain efficient and optimal results. In this column I will share a powerful technique for the proposal and closing part of the negotiation.

The Conventional Approach
Before introducing this technique, let us consider the conventional approach and it’s pitfalls.

In this column I do not intend to judge the wisdom of the decision from a national security, foreign affairs or political standpoint, but rather to examine it from a negotiation scholar and practitioner perspective. I will survey the objectives; the potential outcomes and costs; and I will then offer an alternate approach which may potentially have been more constructive in meeting our objectives and beyond.

U.S.Objectives and Likelihood of Achieving Them
When we attempt to catalog the U.S. objectives with regard to Iran, and what President Trump hoped to realize by withdrawing from the JCPOA, we envision a renegotiated agreement that provides for:

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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

The Art of Closing



Introduction
Negotiation is often seen as an event rather than a deliberate orchestrated progression. As a result, many negotiators will push offers and proposals prematurely, before sufficient information has been developed and adequate trust has been built. Proposals at this stage are typically rejected out of hand even though the proposals may actually be good ones.

In truth, it is only after a productive exchange of information has occurred, a profound exploration of each side’s concerns and needs has been achieved, and the parties genuinely feel deeply heard and understood, that the proposal phase of the negotiation can begin.

But even then, there is a refined art and science as to how this proposal phase needs to be conducted so as to attain efficient and optimal results. In this column I will share a powerful technique for the proposal and closing part of the negotiation.

The Conventional Approach
Before introducing this technique, let us consider the conventional approach and it’s pitfalls.

Typically, a party to a negotiation will offer a single-point proposal or offer. For example a job candidate might suggest a salary of $80,000, or a prospective buyer may offer a home seller $500,000 for the purchase of his home. The other party will usually push back with a counter offer, and the bargaining standoff begins. This will end in either impasse or in a compromise in which potential value has been sacrificed and a degree of resentment might even have been spawned.

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Tuesday, March 6, 2018

Balancing Power and Principle in Negotiation



Introduction
Much has been debated in negotiation theory and written of in negotiation journals, about negotiating from a position of perceived weakness. There is comparatively little on negotiating from a position of power, perhaps because that is not seen as very much of a challenge or maybe a challenge that we all hope for!

In truth, negotiating from a position of power comes with its own set of challenges, potential pitfalls and dangers. In this column I shall explore some of these dangers, discuss the importance of balancing power with principle and provide ideas of how to achieve that balance.

Potential Pitfalls in Exerting Power in a Negotiation
The kinds of power we may access in a negotiation could come from various sources. Some examples are: hierarchy; knowledge; and having a strong alternative option.

Hierarchy is power. A CEO negotiating with a manager possesses a status which confers significant power upon him that can be exploited in the negotiation.

Knowledge can be a source of power. Suppose a real estate developer is interested in buying a rental property that is in a residential zoning law area. He has inside knowledge that the zoning laws are about to change and will soon include that area into a commercial zoning area.

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Tuesday, February 13, 2018

Negotiating Without Trust
Or The Convenient Contingency Clause



Introduction
A few years ago, while working with the European Union (EU), I was having lunch with several European lawyers in Copenhagen. “Why”, one of them asked me in a thick German accent, “when negotiating deals with Americans, they always come with an army of lawyers and reams of contracts?” (In their countries, lawyers play a very minor role and deals are often still consummated on a handshake).

Thinking quickly on my feet, I responded: “In America, people do business on the basis of not trusting one another, hence armies of lawyers and reams of contracts. When Europeans do business, it is on the basis that you do trust one another and therefore less need for the lawyers and extensive contracts”.

This highlights the cultural differences of whether or not to negotiate with someone we don’t trust. In Europe and Japan for example, establishing trust before negotiating is considered a prudent practice in business. The United States however, with more of a “throw caution to the wind” attitude, and a greater risk tolerance, is less concerned about trust, as long as they do the utmost in mitigating risk with very tight contract language and a strong legal system to enforce any breach.

What happens in a culture that typically builds their negotiations on trust such as the Europeans, and finds they need to negotiate with a partner whom they do not trust?

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Wednesday, January 10, 2018

TO TALK OR NOT TO TALK - THAT IS THE QUESTION On the Value of Dialogue and Talk for Its Own Sake



Introduction
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal (December 27th 2017) presented an interesting international debate between Germany (together with some other NATO allies) and the U.S. as to whether to engage in dialogue with Russia about NATO-Russia issues. The debate pivots on whether talk with Russia will help or hinder the future defense and interests of the NATO alliance, given what many see as Russia’s aggressive stance towards Ukraine.

The article states that U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers recently that Washington didn’t want regular meetings with Russia “just to talk”. Instead, he said, that the U.S supports “a dialogue with results expected” (emphasis by this author).

Germany, on the other hand, says it remains open to dialogue and in fact recent meetings have allowed the two sides to openly exchange views on difficult and controversial issues.

This difference between the U.S. position and that of Germany, reflect two divergent views on the value of dialogue and talk for its own sake, even when tangible results may not necessarily be the outcome, or even the intent.

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