!DOCTYPE html PUBLIC "-//W3C//DTD XHTML 1.0 Strict//EN" "http://www.w3.org/TR/xhtml1/DTD/xhtml1-strict.dtd"> Streamline Training & Documentation: A Review of the Literature on Negotiation

Friday, December 11, 2009

A Review of the Literature on Negotiation

Among the training resources the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) offers online (a full list is here) is a thirty-page summary (pdf) of the literature on negotiation. The authors are Tanya Alfredson, an FAO consultant, and Azeta Cungu, an FAO development economist.

As explained at the end of the paper, it
was prepared in the framework of a capacity building programme that FAO organized to address major strategic issues and policy challenges for agriculture and rural development, in developing countries. The programme aimed at enhancing the capacity of senior officials by providing cutting-edge knowledge, facilitating exchange, and reviewing practical mechanisms to implement policy changes in a context where policy space is increasingly limited by regional and international agreements and treaties. Owing to the increasingly important role that negotiation plays in policy-making processes, policy experts are becoming more and more aware of the need for mainstreaming negotiation into the policy cycle. ...

This paper is intended as ... easy-to-read reference material on negotiation. It presents an overview of the defining theoretical perspectives, concepts and methods that are central to the theory and practice of negotiation.
The paper is available in English, French, and Spanish.

A central topic is five approaches to negotiation discussed in the literature:1
  • Structural approaches — "consider negotiated outcomes to be a function of the characteristics or structural features that define each particular negotiation. These characteristics may include features such as the number of parties and issues involved in the negotiation and the composition (whether each side is monolithic or comprises many groups) or relative power of the competing parties. Structural approaches to negotiation find explanations of outcomes in patterns of relationships between parties or their goals. They can be deterministic in that they often view outcomes as a priori once structural factors are understood."

  • Strategic approaches — "have roots in mathematics, decision theory and rational choice theory, and also benefit from major contributions from the areas of economics, biology, and conflict analysis. Whereas the structural approach focuses on the role of means (such as power) in negotiations, the emphasis in strategic models of negotiation is on the role of ends (goals) in determining outcomes. Strategic models are also models of rational choice. Negotiators are viewed as rational decision makers with known alternatives who make choices guided by their calculation of which option will maximize their ends or 'gains', frequently described as ‘payoffs’. Actors choose from a 'choice set' of possible actions in order to try and achieve desired outcomes. Each actor has a unique 'incentive structure' that is comprised of a set of costs associated with different actions combined with a set of probabilities that reflect the likelihoods of different actions leading to desired outcomes."

  • Behavioral approaches — "emphasize the role negotiators’ personalities or individual characteristics play in determining the course and outcome of negotiated agreements. Behavioral theories may explain negotiations as interactions between personality ‘types’ that often take the form of dichotomies, such as shopkeepers and warriors, or ‘hardliners’ and ‘soft liners,’ where negotiators are portrayed either as ruthlessly battling for all or diplomatically conceding to another party’s demands for the sake of keeping the peace."

  • Concession exchange — approaches that "share features of both the structural approach (power) and the strategic approach (outcomes), [but] they describe a different kind of mechanism that centers on learning. ... negotiations consist of a series of concessions. The concessions mark stages in negotiations. They are used by parties to both signal their own intentions and to encourage movement in their opponent’s position. ...

    "The risk inherent in this approach is that participants engaged in concession-trading may miss opportunities to find new, mutually beneficial solutions to their shared dilemma and end up instead in a purely regressive process which leaves both sides with fewer gains than they could have had if they had pursued a more creative approach."

  • Integrative approaches — "frame negotiations as interactions with win-win potential. Whereas a zero-sum view sees the goal of negotiations as an effort to claim one’s share over a 'fixed amount of pie,' integrative theories and strategies look for ways of creating value, or 'expanding the pie, ... so that there is more to share between parties as a result of negotiation. Integrative approaches use objective criteria, look to create conditions of mutual gain, and emphasize the importance of exchanging information between parties and group problem-solving. Because integrative approaches emphasize problem solving, cooperation, joint decisionmaking and mutual gains, integrative strategies call for participants to work jointly to create win-win solutions. They involve uncovering interests, generating options and searching for commonalities between parties."
Once Alfredson and Cungu have outlined the above five approaches to negotiation, they concentrate attention on integrative negotiation, the approach taught by the the Harvard Program on Negotiation.

1 References are omitted in the quoted passages. There are also a few unmarked copy edits.