Is win-win a useless concept for negotiators?
Spend Matters has reviewed a book by Professor Andrew Cox in which he challenges whether win-win is a useful or achievable concept for negotiators. Without being specific as to why they take this view, the Spend Matters’ author concludes that ‘win-win is possible in some situations’ and then makes a call for planning, compromise and ‘mutually advantageous concessions’.
The perspective of negotiation and its purpose shown by this debate seems to me far too narrow – and is perhaps more a commentary on the value perspectives of the Procurement function than a useful analysis of the benefits that come from effective negotiation. I have personally experienced many ‘win-win’ negotiations, but they are not based on the narrow parameters of price and risk allocation. They concentrate on business goals and objectives and how, together, the parties can generate a creative solution that may ultimately surpass the initial expectations that either had.
Of course every organization struggles with consistent win-win relationships and much depends on the ability to be creative. This is impacted by issues such as culture, the inclusiveness of the negotiation team, the timing of engagement and readiness to be open-minded. In the feed-back I receive, much of the win-win problem results from the narrow perspectives and objectives of Sales and Procurement – one driven by closing the deal as fast as possible, the other by being able to claim ‘savings’. Of course in this environment compromise and concessions become the only real currency and win-win is an illusion.
As many commercial experts will tell you, if you want to achieve high value from negotiation, it is often best to make sure that Sales and Procurement are kept out of the discussion. So maybe Professor Cox’s real point is that the measures and objectives used by many Procurement organizations are the antithesis of win-win – and on this I would agree. They need to change.