Negotiating About Pandas for San Diego ZooA case study about finding a satisfactory agreement with a difficult counterpart from a position of low power - all in an uncommon context

Stephen Weiss and Sarah Tatrallyay

This case study centers on the most challenging task for a negotiator: to reach a satisfactory agreement with a tough counterpart from a position of low power—and to do so in an uncommon context. The case concerns the executive director of a zoo in the U.S. who seeks two giant pandas, an endangered species, from their only source on the planet: China.

Login or Register to download the free packages.

 

SUMMARY:

The Negotiating About Pandas for San Diego Zoo case concerns the executive director of a zoo in the U.S. who seeks two giant pandas, an endangered species, from their only source on the planet: China. Compounding the difficulty, many other zoos are also trying to obtain giant pandas—the “rock stars” of the zoo world. Yet, as if relative bargaining power were not enough to preoccupy the zoo director, it is not his only major challenge.

His zoo’s initiative attracts attention from a wide range of stakeholders, from nongovernmental (NGO) conservation groups to government agencies on both sides of the Pacific Ocean. Several of these organizations ardently oppose the zoo’s efforts, while others change their positions over time. All of this attention influences the zoo’s negotiations. Therefore, a second challenging task for the zoo director is to monitor events in the negotiating environment and manage their effects on his negotiations with Chinese counterparts.

This three-part case is based on the actual negotiations and offers lessons for business, law and government students and professionals in multiple subject areas. They include negotiation, international business, international relations, nonprofit management, corporate social responsibility, and more.

NOTE: This case may also be used as a base case or as background for other panda negotiation cases and role-plays that are available through the author, Stephen Weiss.)

This case study includes the following:

  • Teaching notes, which include abstracts of the three parts of the case, information on the target audience, teaching/learning objectives, directions for student preparation before class, class schedule and equipment, discussion questions and suggested answers, notes from the author’s interviews with the case protagonist (the zoo director), the case aftermath, and supplementary readings.
  • Part A, which details the San Diego Zoo’s executive director’s initial plans for a long-term agreement regarding China’s pandas.
  • Part B, which deals with responding to Chinese demands regarding the pandas as well as the changing environment surrounding the negotiations.
  • Part C, which explores the agreements and their aftermaths.


CLASS TIME NEEDED:
150-165 minutes


ABSTRACTS OF THE THREE PARTS:

Part A. Douglas Myers, the executive director of San Diego Zoo, observed a huge jump in zoo visitors—and revenue—when giant pandas were loaned to the Zoo for 6 months in 1987. The pandas also highlighted the Zoo’s role in public education and animal conservation. In early 1988, Myers decided to try to bring pandas back for a much longer visit. This case provides information about San Diego Zoo, giant pandas, panda exchanges, and U.S.-China relations. The reader is asked to assist Myers by developing a framework for the long-term transaction, identifying agenda items for negotiation, and crafting a communication strategy that includes talking points.

Part B. In March 1992, Myers faced two excessive demands from his Chinese counterparts—the China Wildlife Conservation Association (CWCA)—and an unfavorable negotiating environment, especially in the U.S. In this part of the case, the reader must consider: a) how to respond to the CWCA, which includes reviewing just how far Myers should be willing to go to obtain pandas, and b) how to ensure that the environment does not scuttle his panda initiative. The case provides a map of major players, a chronology of U.S. government and NGO actions, and financials for the Zoo.

Part C. This last part, which covers 1992 to 1996, describes Myers and his team’s negotiations, the resulting agreement, and renegotiation with the CWCA, and their interactions with the U.S. Government—specifically, the Fish and Wildlife Service. Myers completed a memorandum of understanding with the CWCA in April 1993. Then it took 21 months to obtain U.S. government approval (a period that included re-negotiations with the CWCA), 17 more months to obtain Chinese government approval, and another 2½ months for two pandas to arrive at San Diego Zoo. The reader is not asked to make any decisions in Part C but rather to draw insights and articulate lessons about negotiation from it.


TARGET AUDIENCE
:

This case is written for readers outside the “zoo world” and especially, for graduate students and professionals in business, law, and international relations. For business readers, the tasks and decisions required in the case relate to subject matter in courses on negotiation, international business, not-for-profit management, corporate strategy, corporate social responsibility/business ethics, conflict management, environmental analysis (business environment), and government relations.


TEACHING OBJECTIVES:

The ultimate objective for readers of this case is to determine how Myers (and the Zoological Society of San Diego (ZSSD)) might best negotiate in order to reach a good outcome. There are many dimensions to this negotiation and thus many specific or subordinate teaching/learning objectives. The most useful way to think about and group them may be in terms of arenas: namely, at the negotiating “table” (direct, formal communication with the counterpart); and beyond the table (communications with other stakeholders, although informal communications with the counterpart could also be included). Myers’ main tasks in each arena are, respectively, how to communicate with his counterpart, and how to manage the effects of external events and conditions on the negotiations.

Fundamental negotiation concepts such as interests, alternatives to agreement, and bargaining power/leverage may be invoked to guide the discussion of tasks. At the same time, their use represents an opportunity for students to understand the concepts better and appreciate their analytical and practical value.

Finally with respect to broad objectives, this case calls not only for Myers and his ZSSD colleagues to think carefully about their interests, goals and limits, but also to consider and appreciate other parties’ worldviews and interests. These stakeholders include not-for-profit organizations, government ministries and agencies, international and national non-governmental organizations, and political leaders in China and in the U.S. Their concerns cover multiple perspectives: financial, commercial, legal, ethical (environmental/corporate social responsibility), political/diplomatic, cultural and more.

Specific examples of teaching/learning objectives for each part of the case are listed below. The list is illustrative rather than exhaustive and geared primarily toward negotiation instructors. Given the complexity of the case, instructors could easily develop additional objectives. At the same time, instructors who choose to pursue a number of objectives would be well-advised, for the sake of pedagogical effectiveness, to emphasize the main objectives. To that end, the objectives below are categorized as primary or secondary.

By working on this case, students (readers) can learn to:

Part A:

  • pay attention to the “big picture” and the creation of frameworks (formulas) that structure a transaction or relationship between parties;
  • establish a negotiation agenda (the items for discussion);
  • identify different sources of bargaining power (“leverage”) and alternatives to an agreement (BATNA – Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement);
  • develop a communication strategy (point of departure, talking points) by which to persuade a counterpart in a powerful bargaining position—particularly, in a Sino-American context;
  • appreciate the general openness of negotiation to innovation and different types of relationships between parties;
  • and, consider when (if, how) to incorporate cultural factors in plans for negotiation.
  • handle uncomfortable topics or tasks in creative, tactful ways that are sensitive to the parties’ relationship;
  • define what should go into a plan for negotiation (vs. what often doesn’t);
  • and, see the nature and impact of cultural factors “in context” (i.e., within a given situation) by comparing aspects of CWCA and other Chinese bargaining behavior in this case to stereotypes of Chinese negotiating style.
  • look for non-primary parties and stakeholders (including “blocking coalitions”) who can exert influence on focal negotiations;
  • consider how to coordinate multi-level, internal (“tiered,” principal-representative/ agent) negotiations, and internal and external (“linked”) negotiations;
  • broaden the notion of a negotiation outcome beyond the mere attainment (or not) of agreement so that it includes post-negotiation consequences (including implementation of the agreement);
  • acknowledge that a contract may not solve everything for all time (cf. “a deal’s a deal”), and identify the kinds of events/circumstances that make a reopening desirable;
  • and, cope, as negotiators, with unforeseen circumstances.

Part B:

  • respond effectively to extreme demands from a counterpart;
  • monitor external events and conditions that influence negotiators’ discussions;
  • recognize and deal with different forms or expressions of bargaining power;
  • handle uncomfortable topics or tasks in creative, tactful ways that are sensitive to the parties’ relationship;
  • define what should go into a plan for negotiation (vs. what often doesn’t);
  • and, see the nature and impact of cultural factors “in context” (i.e., within a given situation) by comparing aspects of CWCA and other Chinese bargaining behavior in this case to stereotypes of Chinese negotiating style.

Part C:

  • look for non-primary parties and stakeholders (including “blocking coalitions”) who can exert influence on focal negotiations;
  • consider how to coordinate multi-level, internal (“tiered,” principal-representative/ agent) negotiations, and internal and external (“linked”) negotiations;
  • broaden the notion of a negotiation outcome beyond the mere attainment (or not) of agreement so that it includes post-negotiation consequences (including implementation of the agreement);
  • acknowledge that a contract may not solve everything for all time (cf. “a deal’s a deal”), and identify the kinds of events/circumstances that make a reopening desirable;
  • and, cope, as negotiators, with unforeseen circumstances.


WHY SELECT THIS CASE?

  • It deals with one of the most troubling concerns that students and managers raise: How do you negotiate from a position of relative weakness?
  • Rich in complexity, the case places the reader directly in the shoes of the principal negotiator. Students “see” what he sees as he pursues his interests and faces challenge after challenge.
  • The setting is unfamiliar to most students and will compel them to examine it thoroughly. They will not short-cut or bias analysis by invoking personal knowledge or experience.
  • The San Diego negotiation had no precedent, yet it was successful and pioneering. It became a template for subsequent negotiations in the U.S.
  • This negotiation may serve as the basis for “matched comparisons” with other panda negotiations, which have been and will continue to be conducted in countries throughout the world.
  • Lessons from this case are transferable to other contexts. Conversely, it may be used itself to show the applicability and analytical power of common negotiation concepts.

 

Negotiating About Pandas for San Diego Zoo Attributes

Authors:
Stephen Weiss and Sarah Tatrallyay
Publishers:
Program on Negotiation

PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center

Close window

Soft copy vs. hard copy

You may order this role simulation in either soft copy (electronic) or hard copy (paper) format. If you select the soft copy option, you will receive an e-mail with a URL (website address) from which you may download an electronic file in Adobe Acrobat PDF format. You will have one week to download your materials from when you receive the email. You are then only authorized to use, print, or share the materials as many times as the number of copies you purchase. The TNRC charges for use of this simulation on a per-participant basis. Therefore, you must purchase a separate copy of this simulation for each person who will be participating, regardless of the number of roles in the simulation. You will only receive a link to one electronic file, which includes all general instructions, confidential instructions, and any teaching notes for the simulation. You should separate out the instructions before distributing to participants.

If you select the hard copy option, you will receive paper copies of this role simulation via the shipping method you select.

For additional information about the soft copy option, please visit our FAQ section, or contact the PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center at tnrc@law.harvard.edu or 800-258-4406 (within the U.S.) or 301-528-2676 (outside the U.S.).

Please note: At the present time, Teaching Negotiation Resource Center soft copies are compatible with the following versions of the Adobe Acrobat Reader: English, German, French, Spanish, Swedish, Portuguese, Japanese, and Korean. If you have a different version of the Acrobat Reader, you may wish to download one of these at http://www.adobe.com/products/acrobat/readstep2.html, or contact the PON Teaching Negotiation Resource Center at tnrc@law.harvard.edu, 800-258-4406 (within the U.S.), or 301-528-2676 (outside the U.S.) for further assistance. This restriction does not apply to the freely available Teacher’s Package Review Copies.

Ordering a single copy for review

If you wish to review the materials for a particular role simulation to decide whether you’d like to use it, a PDF, or soft copy, version of the Teacher’s Package for the simulation is available as a free download from the description page of most role simulations and case studies. All Teacher’s Packages include copies of all participant materials. In addition, some Teacher’s Packages (but not all) include additional teaching materials such as teaching notes or overhead masters.

Ordering copies for multiple participants

To order multiple copies of a role simulation for use in a course or workshop, simply enter the total number of participants in the box next to “Quantity.” There is no need to calculate how many of each role is required.

If you are ordering hard copies, the Teaching Negotiation Resource Center will calculate the appropriate numbers of each role to provide, based on the total number of participants. For example, if you wish to order a 2-party role simulation for use with a class of 30 students, you would enter “30” in the box next to “Quantity.” You then would receive 15 copies of one role and 15 copies of the other role, for use with your 30 participants. As another example, if you ordered 30 participant copies of a 6-party role simulation, you would receive 5 copies of each role.

In the event that the number of participant copies you order is not evenly divisible by the number of roles in the simulation, you will receive extra copies of one or more roles. Participants receiving the extra roles may partner with other participants playing the same role, thus negotiating as a team. So, for instance, if you ordered 31 copies of a 2-party role simulation, you would receive 15 copies of the first role and 16 copies of the second role. One of the participants playing the second role would partner with another participant playing that same role, and the two would negotiate as a team.