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Negotiation Planning & Business Realities

September 28, 2011

It was about two weeks before final exams in High School. I recall my mother looking increasingly concerned, until one day she said:”Don’t you think it is time you started to revise?” My reply was: “It’s too early. I have to wait until I get a sense of urgency.”

I often think of that conversation (perhaps because my mother loved to tell the story) whenever there is discussion about the  importance of planning. What effect did my last-minute approach have on the results I achieved? In my mind, I justified delay on the fact that if I started to revise early, I would have forgotten most things by the day of the exam. I needed time pressure to raise my performance and stimulate my mind.

In business, there is a regular call for improved planning. This is especially true in the field of negotiations, where consultants and trainers frequently emphasize the impact of poor planning on the results achieved. We automatically tend to associate this with a need to engage earlier and spend extensive time practicing, revising and preparing for ‘the big day’.

Despite these calls for more planning, nothing much seems to change. In most cases, that is because they fly in the face of business realities. Until the day is imminent, there just isn’t the required ‘sense of urgency’ to engage people’s minds. And of course, ‘good plnning’ does not necessarily mean lots of it, nor that it has to start way in advance. In fact, with the volatility of today’s markets, it may well be desirable to wait for the last moment and ensure the plans reflect current conditions.

So in this context, ‘good planning’ may mean developing a streamlined process that supports a ‘just in time’ approach to negotiation.

  1. It depends on the type of negotiation. If it is a generic product for which there is little possibility of an alternative, this way could work well. I also agree that good planning does not have to be a long, slow, cover-every-eventuality-type exercise. It needs energy.

    However, developing a fall-back so that you know the minimum place that you need to get to is important where you need to get to an end, but there is quite a wide variety of means. If you have not developed (not just have some vague notion of) what you will do if the negotiation breaks down, there is increasing risk that you’ll need to accept whatever the other side wants.

    On a related note, this approach misses the opportunity for doing things such as a cost analysis to test that you are not overpaying or to identify opportunities for value engineering. It also misses the opportunity to win over stakeholders, including people who will implement the deal. Generally, a quick and dirty approach to a negotiation misses the opportunity to influence the balance of power pre-negotiation rather than simply respond to it.

  2. Arian Alexander Danilovic permalink

    This is all very true.

    However, one shouldn’t forget that there are (at least) two parties to every negotiation. If someone is not finding the time to prepare then maybe they could try to visualize what their counterparty to the negotiation is doing to prepare. This could help find the ‘sense of urgency’ mentioned above.

    Arian Danilovic

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