Negotiation Lesson #6: Working Backwards Can Help You Move Forward

October 27, 2016 By Irma Tyler Wood

When facing a complex, multi-party, multi issue negotiation, one way to manage the complexity successfully is to, “Begin with the end in mind.”  Develop a negotiation process map.  The word, “process” in this context refers to how one will negotiate.  There are always two levels in any negotiation: the first level deals with process, determining “how,” the parties will negotiate.  The second level of negotiation deals with substance, “what” it is you will negotiate for, i.e., a higher salary, new technology, or a sales contract. Begin the process negotiation with all negotiation parties in the room, jointly articulating and agreeing on the process to be used in the upcoming negotiations.  This ensures that the parties end up with a common understanding of negotiation goals and a jointly agreed upon plan for achieving them. 

There are many benefits of having negotiators and/or their teams jointly develop a negotiation process map. A jointly developed process map:

  • Creates a common set of expectations and allows the parties to test assumptions about the time frames, issues and processes necessary to achieve negotiation goals.
  • Reduces unhelpful negotiation tactics, i.e., the tendency of negotiating teams to pad their demands, i.e., a negotiator really only cares about 6 issues, but will identify 20 so that when they have to concede on something, they can give up things they don’t really want or care about. 
  • Provides clarity of roles and responsibilities, and allows members of two or more negotiating teams to hold each other accountable. 
  • Helps participants identify, who needs to be in the room, when and for what purpthe data and by when the data will be needed to make wise decisions.  
  • Determines whether outside expertise is needed, how outside experts will be selected and when they should be brought to the negotiating table.
  • Helps all of the parties understand the organizational structure and the decision-making process in each negotiating entity.
  • Allows the parties at the table to identify and plan for the need to communicate with constituents and other key stakeholders who will not be at the negotiating table. 

Here is one example of how one might develop a process map.

Before beginning negotiations, “The Parties” to the negotiation invite a skilled facilitator, selected by both negotiating teams, to convene the group in a facilitated session.  The facilitator pastes numerous pieces of flipchart paper together to create a single horizontal chart across the front of the room.  She/he locates the top center of the flipchart pages and titles the process map as follows:  “2016 Negotiation Process Map.”  The facilitator then draws a continuous timeline across the bottom of each flipchart page.  At the far left end of the timeline the facilitator writes the current date of their meeting on the timeline.  Above that date she/he draws a box and writes inside it the words, “Negotiation Planning Session” and the date.  At the top of the timeline, underneath the title, the facilitator draws circles across the top of the chart and writes in the names of key stakeholders in the negotiation. The facilitator then asks the group, to identify their ultimate negotiation goal/s and by when they want to have achieved it/them.  In collective bargaining negotiations, for example, the ultimate goal is usually a ratified contract by a certain date.  Thus their answer might be, “An agreed upon and ratified contract, i.e., by June 15, 2016.”  The facilitator writes the June 15, 2016 date at the far right end of the timeline and above that date draws a box and writes in the box, “Goal, contract ratified by June 15, 2016.”  Each time the facilitator draws a box, she asks who needs to do the task, who needs to be informed. The facilitator’s goal is to get the participants to jointly identify all the steps, tasks, issues, people and processes that must be engaged and addressed to get from where they are that day to the date by which they want to have achieved their ultimate goal.  

Once the beginning and end dates are identified, rather than starting at the beginning of the process map to fill in the tasks, etc. the facilitator moves to the end of the map and asks the group, “What is the immediate event that needs to happen before June 15, 2016 to achieve a ratified contract by June 15, 2016?”  The group might respond, “Both the union and the management constituents have to vote on the proposed contract.”  The facilitator then asks by when would those votes need to be held in order to meet the June 15th deadline.  The group identifies a date that would allow them to meet their June 15th deadline, i.e., they might say, “The contract would have to be voted on by June 1, in order to count and certify the ratification votes in time for our June 15th deadline.”  The facilitator would then write the words, “Ratification Vote,” above the date/s the parties propose for a ratification vote. The facilitator would draw a box around the words.  The facilitator might then ask, “In order to ratify a contract what do union members and management decision makers need from whom?”  The group would respond, they need their negotiation teams to reach agreement and submit a proposed contract to them by May 21st.  Again the facilitator would write the words “negotiating teams reach agreement on contract by May 21st”, and draw a box around the words above the date on the timeline, etc. In sum, working from right to left, the facilitator elicits from the group, who must do what, by when in order for the group to achieve their ultimate goal of a ratified contract by June 15, 2016. 

By their nature, process maps create process clarity, increase certainty and predictability and reduce anxiety.  Process maps decrease the possibility of mistakes or misunderstandings.  See the example of a negotiation process map below or by visiting our website.


Enhancing Your Negotiation Skills Workshop

April 19 & 20, 2017!