One of the most common activities we do is negotiate. Every parent trying to get their children to bed must become an expert negotiator to remain sane.
Negotiation is one of the key activities of a project manager. You must negotiate every aspect of the project that you are managing ”its scope, objectives, risk management, staffing requirements, and so on. In addition, getting buy-in from your stakeholders will also require negotiation.
Again, there are many excellent books on negotiation and reading any of them will give you some valuable tips and techniques for negotiating with your team members , stakeholders, and management. However, one book that helped us a lot in developing some of the techniques in this book is Getting to Yes by Robert Fisher and William Ury (1983). We also like Fisher's and Ertel's Getting Ready to Negotiate (1995), as it has a number of great tools to help you get ready for the negotiation.
These excellent little books contain powerful frameworks for negotiation and the following are some of their key models.
As shown in Figure 21.2, when most people commence a negotiation, they state what is termed their most preferred position (MPP). However, they also have a least preferred position (LPP).
Figure 21.2. Negotiating positions
You go to your boss to state clearly that you need a holiday, a raise, and a bigger office (your MPP) and instead you leave the meeting being made the project manager of the project from hell (LPP).
Typically, when two people are negotiating, their MPPs are far apart, but hopefully there is some overlap between each person's LPP. If there is no overlap, there will be no change for a win “win outcome, as one person will have to use his or her LPP (win “lose) or, alternatively, both parties will not be prepared to shift their LPP and both will walk away (lose “lose).
One of the keys to successful negotiations is to understand clearly both your own and the other person's MPP and LPP. To do this, you must be open in stating both your MPP and LPP during negotiation in an effort to gain an understanding of the other person's MPP and LPP.
For example, you are having a meeting with a key stakeholder whose clear MPP is to attend your RAP session for one hour only as he or she is busy. This person's LPP is to attend the RAP session for the two days that you have requested . Your MPP is that the stakeholder attends for two days and your LPP is that this person doesn't turn up at all. There is thus some room here for you to negotiate.
Fisher and Ury (1983) provided a number of great principles for negotiation but the three that we use all the time are as follows :
These principles can help you in the preceding situation. First, try to use facts and hard data to support your negotiation. If, for example, a sponsor is holding firm on a deadline, you could show him or her the results of your RAP session. In the RAP, six critical stakeholders agree that the project needs another six months. Faced with the fact that six other people agree with you, the sponsor must negotiate. Next, separate the person from the problem. Your stakeholder is busy and the work pressure is the problem, not the stakeholder. You could ask if there is something you could do to relieve the work pressure on your stakeholder to free up his or her time. For example, you could ask your project sponsor to talk with the stakeholder's boss to see if schedules could be rearranged to free up time. Finally, invent options for mutual gain. Perhaps you could break up the RAP session into a series of one- or two-hour sessions over a couple of weeks. This would allow your stakeholder to be away from his or her work for smaller periods each day.
Remember, by showing them that you understand the pressures that they are under, you build a better relationship with your clients .