10 September 2008

Getting to Win: 3 Negotiation Tactics for Better Agreements

David A. Zimmer

David A. Zimmer
Practice Manager
Corporate Learning & Training
Veris Associates, Inc.

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Mention the word “Negotiation” and watch the reactions. Some shrink in fear, others start to salivate, some run for cover, and others sport a worn, plaid sports jacket. It is a word that means many things to many people. For the majority, it is a negative term. For those who “got one over,” images of fond memories come to mind. Why is that? Why can a word have so many meanings and evoke such variety of emotions?

Know The Basics

It boils down to the fact that most people are not taught the basics of negotiation, and yet each day, they negotiate some agreement. Granted, many agreements don’t have dire circumstances like a hostage crisis or millions of dollars saved by getting a lower price by just one penny.

Most negotiations happen without people knowing they are negotiating. For example, ask someone for a pen to sign your name and you’ve just “negotiated.” Disagree about a particular method of work and come to a consensus of a better way is negotiation. Speaking with your manager about the priority of work creates a negotiation session. And so forth.

As a project management specialist and managing many projects, I’ve had the opportunity to negotiate – some pleasant situations and some not so sweet. As project managers, typically we have responsibility for certain work being accomplished but no authority to make it happen. As a result, everything we do could be considered negotiation. Those who learn tips and techniques to gain the desired outcome do much better than those who bulldog their way through life. Ignorance in this case is costly.

Negotiation: Art not War

Let’s understand negotiation is not the art of war. Depending on the situation, we might need to strategize and map a course for our negotiation. Regardless of the circumstances, we must realize the art of negotiation is really the art of cooperation. While in the middle of it, it may not appear or feel like cooperation, but if neither side cooperates, no agreement will be struck. Cooperation from both sides is critical to successful negotiation.
Negotiation Definition

Negotiation is defined as:
  1. to deal or bargain with others

  2. to manage, transact, or conduct

  3. to move through, around, or over in a satisfactory manner.
All the definitions bear on negotiations between people. Therefore, three tactics help you become a better negotiator and arrive at better agreements.

Tactic 1: Know Your Opponent

Many people approach negotiation in a defensive manner. They clinch their teeth, steel their gut, and prepare for war. They know what they want from the deal and never stop to consider the other side’s viewpoint. Good negotiators understand their opponent.

Here are the areas to know:

  • Background. What is their background – culture, economics, social status, educational level, company position, etc. Are they putting on a front or air that facts don’t support? What are their goals? How will they benefit from the deal?
  • Needs. What does the opponent need from this agreement? What are the minimal requirements for them to feel satisfied? What desires would create a very satisfied opponent? Are they important to you? What is their motivation for the agreement?
  • Win. What would they consider a “win?” Can you give it to them without compromising or jeopardizing your position? Why are they negotiating? Why now? Can they wait for a decision or do they have to gain consensus immediately? If immediately, what is pushing them to that point?
  • Style. What is their style during negotiating? Are they laid back and unassuming or are they harsh, blusterous and forceful. Do they demand or are they willing to converse?

Interesting fact here: Most people don’t prepare themselves for the negotiation. They think they know what a win looks like for them, but they don’t understand their opponent.

What if you don’t have time to prepare or you can’t seem to answer some of the questions listed above? Simple. Ask! That’s right, ask your opponent those questions. You will be able to tell from the answers if they are bluffing or not. More importantly, it builds a rapport between you and them.

Three Types of Win

There are three types of “win:”

  1. Full Load – The agreement that gives you everything you could possibly want and more. It has all the bells and whistles. It even comes with whipped cream and a cherry on top. It is the ultimate deal.
  2. “True” Win – It has all the necessary components and desires met. It doesn’t have the bells or whistles, but it is complete.
  3. Negotiated Win – you’ve compromised, given some things and removed some things but overall, a very satisfactory result.

You need to understand the three types of wins for both sides to be truly effective.

Tactic 2: Know Your Plan

To be effective, you must create and know your plan. You must identify three things about your plan to be effective:

  1. Know What You Want – make a list of the items that must be in the agreement for you to feel satisfied. Consider this your True Win state. You’ve agreed to the important parts of the deal and gained some additional aspects. It meets more than your minimum requirements. It might have a few bells and whistles, but it won’t have the whipped cream and cherry on top. That’s ok; you’re on a diet anyway.

  2. Know What You Will Give Up – always enter a negotiation with things that add value to the agreement for you, but you are willing to give up to move the negotiations along. It must be something tangible and valuable to you, but you agree to not make them a sticking point. Your opponent will see it as your willingness to come to agreement.

    By the same token, you should have a list of items you are willing to give that provide value to the opponent but don’t “cost” you much in terms of the agreement. Both gestures give the impression of willingness to reach agreement – very important for a good deal on both sides.

  3. Know When To Walk Away – taken from a Kenny Rogers’ country-western song, “You’ve got to know when to hold ‘em and you’ve got know when to fold ‘em.” Know your “walk away” level. No matter how important the deal is, there is a point where it is no longer profitable to continue the discussion or to strike the arrangement. It is better to walk away and do without than it is to come to settlement. You’ve have to decide that point BEFORE you start to negotiate. Make the decision before it becomes necessary and than stick with the decision when the time comes. Negotiations are inherently emotionally driven. In the heat of the battle, hanging in longer than the walk-away point does no one any good.

Tactic 3: Know Several Styles and Methods

Know your style of negotiation. Here are a few:

  • Pushy/Bullying – intimidates the other party into submission. Works for a very short period of time, but the other party is coerced and will eventually ruin the agreement
  • Confidently Promoting – Someone who appears to know what they want and waits to get it. They have all the time in the world, especially when you don’t.
  • Quietly Manipulating – very subtle approach using innuendo to convince you a particular requirement you stated is immaterial or minor to the situation when it might be a very important component to you. Mimics the peer pressure approach you experienced as a teenager.
  • Carefully Suggesting – one side suggests a particular “benefit” because they are looking out for the other sides’ best interest. They can come across as best friends with sage advice.

If you know your natural style, practice the other forms. By knowing and practicing different styles, you can use them to your advantage and switch as needed to best fit the situation. In fact, you might switch styles several times during the conversation.

Don’t settle on just one style or method. Have several types you can use at any time.

In A Nutshell

Negotiation is an every day event. We do it all the time without thinking about it. It is a necessary part of life. We negotiate with our spouse, children, friends, co-workers, bosses, neighbors, store clerks, doctors, lawyers, law officers, and more. In most cases, we don’t formally call it negotiation. We just do it.

To many, negotiation is scary simply because they haven’t done so well in the past and didn’t work towards satisfying agreements. Understanding three simple tactics can accelerate better agreements and more rewarding experiences.

Take the time to understand your opponent and their needs. Look at the agreement from their angle. If you help them meet their desires, they will usually turn around and help you meet yours.

Understand your plan. Know what the ultimate decision would be, back it down to “true” win for you, and most importantly, understand your walk-away point.

Negotiating is not really that hard. In fact, it can be down right fun.

02 September 2008

Building the IT Process Framework – Part 2 – Translating Alphabet Soup into Satisfying Results

Neal Leininger

Neal Leininger
Project Management Consultant
Veris Associates, Inc.

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In Part 1 of "Building the IT Process Framework," we covered some of the common PMO Pitfalls, and a few suggestions on how to improve “Everyone’s PMO.”

In this article we’ll discuss some common “Alphabet Soup” methodologies seen in Project Management Offices (PMO) today; how to best leverage their advantages, and explore some of their weaknesses. This article provides information about:

· Six Sigma

Vegetable Soup?

As I was planning my garden this year, I was contemplating some of the “Companion Plants” to compliment my tomatoes and peppers.

For those un-familiar with the term, Companion Plants are combinations of different vegetable, herbs, and spices. They benefit from each other’s flavors, but also provide other benefits of their natural characteristics, such as:

· Attracting Butterflies and Bees for pollination
· Repelling pests and other detrimental insects
· Enhancing the flavor and aroma of surrounding vegetation
· Providing nutritional and structural support.

I use this analogy to illustrate an approach that I’ve used numerous times with PMO implementations, as well as multiple process improvement efforts. By combining different methodologies, the overall process becomes stronger and more vibrant than any single framework could ever possibly attain.

For those unfamiliar with the alphabet soup of IT acronyms, I’ve summarized a few of the methodologies which have strategic relevance in today’s information technology industry.

ITIL – Information Technology Infrastructure Library

A framework which defines how IT delivers services to the business. It is often the basis on which the organization begins to define IT’s role to the business as a set of services delivered to customers (the end users). ITIL’s strength identifies “what” should be delivered, but it is not prescriptive about “how” it should be delivered. Often cited as a deficiency, ITIL best delivers a customized solution based on the business’ initiatives. There are no “out of the box” process improvement frameworks that effectively deliver services congruent to the business. By defining the “what,” companies can align their solution to business needs. Technology is fitted to the business, not the other way around.

SDLC – Software (or Systems) Development Life Cycle

A framework designed for managing the development and deployment of applications or systems, typically using a Waterfall, Spiral, Rapid Deployment or “Tinker Till It Works” methodology. As disparate programming languages and the methods in which they were developed matured, this methodology adapted accordingly.

Six Sigma

Six Sigma, originating from the manufacturing industry, focuses on removing defects or errors in manufacturing or business processes using the DMAIC methodology cycle - Design, Measure, Analyze, Improve and Control.

COBIT - Control Objectives for Information and related Technology

COBIT, a control framework, concentrates on definition, implementation, auditing, measurement, and improvements of controls across a specific process. As you can tell, it is very pertinent to the auditing and compliance world. In fact, auditors created it to place measureable controls on processes. A control measures the performance of a process or method against its defined objective or goal. For many, it means, “It makes sure your garbage is certified garbage, it doesn’t necessarily mean your garbage is good.”

Q: So what makes the best methodology?

Good question, however the answer requires some due diligence, research and dare I say, soul searching.

A: No super seedlings here. The methodology of choice varies with the maturity of the organization, the level of IT governance, the integration of matrix organizations, the complexity of the IT solutions deployed, and the Regulatory restrictions of the business – Just as the soil pH balance and water sources must be carefully accounted for in planning a garden, all of these aspects will help you determine the appropriate size and complexity of your “Process Garden.”

Here is what I’ve learned:

ITIL is a process oriented framework. Seriously consider it if you’re deploying SDLC or Six Sigma methodology. Both require massive amounts of data. Without a firm process framework, you will quickly outpace your staff’s availability and willingness to change. The scalable ITIL process framework allows you to tackle the age old question of “How do I eat an elephant;” and the answer is “One bite at a time.” Its scalability makes it a perfect choice for organizations that are planting their first “Process Garden.”

Q: Which comes first, the process or the controls?

A: Should I plant the garden, then put up the fence, or vice versa? As silly as these questions appear at first glance, it’s a discussion that warrants attention. Controls are typically seen as detrimental knee jerk managerial decisions. They seem to only benefit the receiving end of the control, and not the user. At first glance, that is.

By utilizing a process-based approach, we can see the critical path, and thereby determine the best place to “put up fences.” Without a comprehensive process plan framework, we have increasing difficulty illustrating the overall picture to our neighbors, not to mention the tangible benefits of putting controls in place.

Process engineering can leverage any methodology you throw at it, whether it’s SDLC, Six Sigma, or COBIT for that matter. So long as the process comes first, you will always win.

Control methodologies, like COBIT, use metrics and measurements to ensure control. Without a process methodology first, where these data points are identified as viable, and then collected and evaluated, the control points are empty. You may build the perfect fence, but to the determiment of your garden’s health and prosperity.

Q: How does a methodology differ from a framework?

A: Quite simply, a methodology systematically approaches the measurement of quality against a framework. A framework provides governance and overall accountability to a process. Without a framework, measurements typically fall out of focus and lose their context. Without a methodology, a framework is simply a picture on the wall, without the context of “how does this help me?” A framework keeps you on track, and helps explain why you are tilling the ground and researching fertilizer, instead of just throwing seeds on the grass; and hoping for the best.

Q: Which combination do you prefer?

A: As my career has evolved, I’ve found a correlation between the number of methodologies available and my propensity to utilize less of the “whole” and more of the “pieces.” I think that without a PMO, process improvement frameworks become almost useless. Without project prioritizations and clear connections between the business and IT, executive support withers faster than a garden fed by saltwater. Define your “water supply” and irrigate accordingly.

Secondly, depending on the maturity of the PMO, some methodologies must first be introduced to facilitate that preliminary PMO framework, such as SDLC or Project Management. These methodologies typically help the PMO, and IT as a whole, simply because they help everyone “DO” a lot better.

Thirdly, at a critical threshold, as the PMO’s portfolio has started to take root and the framework you have chosen has reached it’s breaking point; it is best to re-invest through an overall process improvement framework such as ITIL. It helps build the continual improvement plan across all disciplines, regardless of the methodology. It’s best to realize the weakness of the organization and the frameworks or methodologies early. Without organizational self-awareness, the propensity for day-to-day interruptions will turn a tool into a self-destructive force of its own.

Lastly, a governance model is an important piece to the puzzle. Without a fence, varmints and well wishers alike, will trample your garden.

So to recap:

· Keep it simplePick framework and methodology “companions” that compliment your organization
· Be self-awareUtilize a process based approach, so your controls don’t starve or saturate your organization
· Just start doing it, within your meansCareful planning will foster a bountiful harvest of efficiencies and profits
· Don’t forget to re-evaluate your executive “water sources” and lessons learned after the first “harvest.” What may work one season, could ruin your “soil” the next.

I look forward to hearing about how these strategies affected your organizations, please give me feedback by way of the comments section on this blog.

In the next article of this series, we will address how to blend methodologies, and more importantly, how to do it without being tarred-and-feathered. Until next time, choose your companion plants carefully!

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