Posted on January 31st, 2010 in - Brian Egan, Communication, Management, Reference Material | No Comments »
By Brian Egan, PMP
Very few non-fiction books are being read 30 years after they were first published. Getting to Yes is the exception. First published in 1981 by Roger Fisher and William Ury, Getting to Yes – Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In is a classic of management literature. Every manager should be forced to read it.
The book is easy to read, filled with clever examples and completely relevant to today’s business world.
A Different Look at Negotiations
This is the book that introduced the concept of negotiations as collaborations, not confrontations. The authors coined the term ‘win-win’ with regards to negotiations rather than ‘winner take all’.
The authors argue that the best outcomes (settlement or agreements) are achieved when people negotiate on the basis of general objectives (principles) rather than specific demands (positions).
The book describes how to negotiate an agreement without starting with pre-defined expectations (demands or positions). They suggest it is more productive, faster, and less stressful to use a strategic approach, which they call ‘principled negotiations’.
Instinct is Confrontational
To appreciate the unique qualities of principled negotiations you must first recognize that most negotiations are not debate about general outcomes. Instead they are arguments around established positions. These positions are demands that one side or the other feels they deserve.
Negotiators typically prepare by deciding what they want out of the deal (positions) and then come up with reasons why their demands are justified. During negotiations they use their initial positions as a measure of success no matter how arbitrarily these demands were established.
Instinctive, position-based negotiations are adversarial. Rather than collaborating towards a fair solution, people compete. If you are bigger and stronger, then you demand whatever you want. If you do not have a natural advantage then you use tricks to get what you want.
Position-based negotiations encourage secrecy and strategy. As a result the process typically alienates the two parties rather than bringing them together.
Fear Rather Than Trust
A confrontational approach means that no one wants to give in or give anything up (relative to their original position) for fear of being taken advantage of. As a consequence, potential agreements are missed because of a lack of open dialogue.
Fisher and Ury argue that there is another, better way to negotiate.
Why not start negotiations with an open discussion that provides each side with the opportunity to outline their needs, desires and concerns? In other words, have the parties explain what they need and want out of the agreement instead of beginning the discussion with hardened positions.
It is great advice.
Anyone who would like to become a better, more productive negotiator would benefit from the book.
The practice of principled negotiations has the potential to solve quarrels and reduce conflict. I recommend it and Getting to Yes to everyone.