A recent article in Tufts Magazine by Program on Negotiation faculty member Jeswald Salacuse discusses an oft neglected aspect of negotiation: putting into action what negotiators agree to at the bargaining table.
Normally negotiators focus on the deal-at-hand as well as those present at the negotiation, neglecting other aspects of the negotiated agreement that would not only impact others outside of the room but also require their cooperation for the agreement’s success.
Professor Salacuse calls this process of putting a negotiated agreement into action “the toughest challenge” in negotiation.
History is filled with examples of negotiated agreements that failed during their implementation phase, most prominent among them the 1993 Oslo Accords that promised peace between Israel and Palestine.
How do you avoid failure in the implementation stage of your negotiation?
Here are three negotiation tips from Professor Jeswald Salacuse:
Planning before the negotiation will focus negotiators on the most important issues at hand and help them concentrate on how the deal arrived at can be implemented.
After determining this, negotiators can develop a thorough plan of action that takes into account the various stakeholders necessary for the agreement’s success.
Sometimes negotiators fear that a focus on the details of implementation will prevent any agreement from being reached.
• Other times, the team tasked with negotiating an agreement is different from the team in charge of implementing the agreement, leading to a discrepancy in what is bargained for and what is actually needed to make the deal work.
This lack of coordination can doom the agreement to failure even though the negotiations were successful.
Having a relationship with your counterpart implies a level of familiarity, and trust, that are both useful and conducive to the success of any negotiated agreement.
• Not only is trust essential for arriving at an agreement, but it is also key in implementation because there is a degree of risk for each party in this stage.
Trusting your counterpart helps mitigate these risks and thus leads to greater confidence in the outcome of the agreement reached.
Though having a counterpart you have a past relationship with and in whom you trust is ideal, it is an atypical situation for most negotiators.
• Not only are negotiators shouldering the interests and objectives of multiple constituencies, but also they must negotiate with complete strangers.
As discussed above, this lack of knowledge about one’s counterpart, or lack of trust and familiarity, raises the element of risk for the negotiators at the bargaining table.
To overcome this barrier, good communication is key to successful negotiation.
According to Professor Salacuse, negotiators usually, “expect communication between the two sides will happen naturally once they begin working together.”
• Of course, the savvy negotiator knows this is often not the case and will try to make sure that any challenges with language, verbiage, and issues with personal rapport are addressed or mitigated at the bargaining table.
Additionally, setting up regular meetings to review progress will help make sure that negotiations don’t get derailed and remain focus on the issues pertinent to each parties’ interests. Above all, respect and equality of treatment for all parties helps insure that any issues around miscommunication do not escalate into tensions at the bargaining table.
Involving a 3rd Party
Sometimes negotiations are emotionally charged and particularly difficult for two parties to work out alone.
In such situations, a third party mediator is needed to help move things along and insure the success of an agreement as well as its implementation.
Mediators can help keep the two parties on track as well as facilitate successful communication between the two. Additionally, they can provide resources and progress checks so that each side can focus on the negotiations at hand and evaluate her progress accordingly.
Learn how to negotiate like a diplomat, think on your feet like an improv performer, and master job offer negotiation like a professional athlete when you download a copy of our FREE special report, Negotiation Skills: Negotiation Strategies and Negotiation Techniques to Help You Become a Better Negotiator, from the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.