!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: "We Are All Negotiators Now"

Sunday, April 19, 2009

"We Are All Negotiators Now"

As a follow-on to yesterday's post, I'd like to cite another item Xavier de Souza Briggs has posted online that is well worth a look.

To provide self-study materials to people with an interest — professional or otherwise — in community planning, Briggs offers five "strategy tools" in pdf format at The Community Problem-Solving Project @ MIT website:All of these papers are beautifully organized and written. I want to home in on the last of the five because it happens to be the one that I think is of broadest value to people looking to strengthen their professional skills.

In just forty pages, Briggs presents a thorough review of the principles of effective negotiation, with due attention to the complexities associated with such issues of multi-party participation and use of facilitators in the process.

As a sample of the guidance Briggs offers, I'll call out what he has to say about establishing effective working relations, a subject that has especially broad application in the business world.

Briggs describes five traits that generally characterize effective working relationships. Quoting Briggs directly, these traits are:
  1. Forward-looking. Change is expected, even anticipated. The parties involved make room for their relationship to grow. They look ahead to anticipate shocks and opportunities in the environment that might affect the outcomes they care about — and thus the relationship.

  2. Committed and resilient. They withstand pressure, in part through willingness and capacity to “see things through” before resorting to “hardball.” The parties avoid making major assumptions about each others’ intentions. Effective communication is key, and this means more than sending signals clearly. It also includes active listening — listening to understand, summarizing what they say and checking with them to be sure you have understood.

  3. Fair — i.e., perceived as fair by both sides. The relationship reflects a balanced allocation of benefits and rewards, meets the parties’ criteria — whatever defines value — over time, even if short-term costs and benefits are uneven here and there.

  4. Trust-based and forgiving — but provocable. Charles Sabel and other students of cooperation recommend “studied trust” in which the parties make it easy for each other to monitor compliance with commitments made. Beyond having a practical value, supporting such mechanisms signals a willingness to do what you say. And Robert Axelrod says parties can apply a tit-for-tat rule to infractions, being “provocable but forgiving.” Abuses will not be tolerated, but parties will extend each other the benefit of the doubt and will be willing to forgive, at least within certain limits.1

  5. Realistic. Agreed-upon expectations are reasonable and, where possible, adjustable. In a rush to agree, parties will not insist on or agree to things that cannot be delivered, based on best-available information and standards.
A final note: Briggs's "strategy tools" are like chapters in a book — fine for self-study. Just be sure to test yourself for comprehension and retention as you go along.2

1 Charles Sabel, "Studied Trust: Building New Forms of Cooperation in a Volatile Economy," in Frank Pyke and Werner Sengenberger (eds), Industrial Districts and Local Economic Regeneration (Geneva: International Institute for Labour Studies, 1992), pp. 215-250.

Robert Axelrod, The Evolution of Cooperation, rev. ed. (Basic Books, 2006).

2 For additional self-study materials Briggs has assembled to help people involved in community development, you can visit the Working Smarter in Community Development site based in the MIT Department of Urban Studies + Planning.


Labels: , , , , ,