Four weeks ago, Bunyon Brothers Construction Company began work on a 77-unit condominium complex at the end of a quiet, wooded, dead-end street named Chestnut Drive. The residents of Chestnut Drive were surprised and angered by this development, but, after some inquiry, concluded that there was little that could be done. Now, however, the construction process has once again brought their tempers to a boil. The neighbors' complaints include: the excessive noise from blasting, dangerously speeding trucks, the lack of a fence around the project area, foul language and habits among the construction workers, and damage to windows and at least one foundation allegedly caused by the blasting. They have elected a six-member negotiating committee consisting of a retired executive, a lawyer, a cab driver, a dentist, a small businessman, and a carpenter. The lawyer has set up a meeting of the community group with the Bunyon Brothers General Counsel. This exercise revolves around the neighbors commit- tee's preparation meeting.
NOTE: This exercise is an intra-team negotiation and is one of the two sides that makes up the exercise Chestnut Village (the other side is the exercise The Bunyon Brothers).
After individual preparation, groups of (roughly) six neighbors meet for about 90-105 minutes preparing to negotiate with Mr. Murphy of the Bunyon Brothers Company. A message is delivered to the lawyer 10 minutes into the session informing him that a newspaper reporter would like a statement. The group must choose whether or not to spend time on this, and if so, how much. A break after 45 minutes for a presentation on meeting design and group process is often effective. By that point, participants are familiar with the problem and interested in any insights that might be helpful in their remaining preparation time. At the end of the preparation period, groups traditionally have 20-minute negotiating sessions with Mr. Murphy or a management team from the Bunyon Brothers Company, often played by the instructor(s) demonstrating various negotiation styles. The negotiating sessions can be run serially, with one group picking up where the last left off, or consecutively, in either case with the rest of the class observing and thinking how they would proceed differently. An alternative to the instructor demonstration is to have groups of prepared neighbors negotiate with representatives of the Bunyon Brothers Company who have prepared Case No. 10004.0, The Bunyon Brothers.
- This case focuses on two major themes. The first is preparation. What is your BATNA? What is theirs? What are their major interests likely to be? What are ours? What does their choice look like now? How, realistically, could we change it? What can they actually do? What can we do? How do we make it as easy as possible for them to do what we want, and hard for them to do otherwise? How do we best communicate all this? What yesable propositions do we have for them? Should we consult before deciding?
- The second theme is meeting design and group process. How do six people work together to prepare for a negotiation? Set an agenda? Set strict time limits? Use a flipchart and a recorder? A facilitator? Separate inventing from deciding? And how do they work together in the ultimate meeting? How do they avoid divide and conquer tactics or distractions that keep them from focusing on any one point? How do they get commitment?
- Another important theme is the problem of representing a constituency without firm authority. Can the negotiators really commit their neighbors? How should the Bunyon Brothers deal with that? Can either party really agree to what the other one wants?
- The case also raises the question of relationship and reputation. Both sides have important long-term interests.
For all parties:
- General Instructions
Confidential Instructions for the:
- Cab Driver
- Retired Executive
- Telephone Message to Lawyer
- All of the above
- Draft Teaching Note
Agenda control; Authority; BATNA; Commitment; Communication; public vs. private; Compliance; Constituents; Crisis decision- making; Currently perceived choice analysis; Delay tactics; Education, as a means; Emotions; Force; Group-think; Group process; Media; Meeting design; Preparation; Public opinion; Threats; Yesable propositions