Saturday, August 18, 2007

Negotiating for Project Benefit - Information

How and where to get it

Information is the first crucial component in negotiating because it is a big advantage to learn what the other side really wants, their limits and their deadlines. However, information is recognized as power, especially in situations where one side does not particularly trust the other. Consequently, it is often common strategy for one or both sides to conceal their true interests, their needs and priorities. So often we see that serious negotiations only get under way after sufficient pressure has built up “in the system” so to speak.

Obtaining information under these conditions, especially from an experienced negotiator in an adversarial situation, presents enormous difficulties. The chance of getting key information at this stage is very remote. So, the key is to start early because the earlier the start the lower the stress levels and the easier it is for information to be gathered. Once stress levels have risen in an acknowledged formal confrontation, attitudes become solidified, defensive and closed.

Some people assume that the more intimidating or flawless they appear to others, the more they will learn. Actually the opposite is true. The best approach is to quietly and persistently probe for information, not like a grand inquisitor but rather as a humble human being seeking genuine advice. The more apparently confused and defenseless the approach, the more the respondents are inclined to help, especially with information and advice. With this approach too, it is easier to listen more than talk, to ask questions rather than give answers. In fact, you should ask questions even when you know the answer because this way you can test the credibility of the other side.

Who are the best sources of information? Anyone who works with or for the other side, anyone who has dealt with them in the past, or third parties and even competitors. This includes secretaries, clerks, engineers, janitors, spouses, technicians or past customers and suppliers. They will typically be willing to respond if approached in a non-threatening way.

Is there more to it?

In most instances, there is more to gathering information than just described. It may be necessary to give information in order to get some in return. Perceptive people will not communicate with you beyond the chit chat level until reciprocal risks are established. That is, until you share commensurate information with them. However, by giving carefully worded and controlled information during this stage, you may be able to lower the expectation level of the other side.

Conversely, if you introduce new information late in the negotiation you may stall the proceedings because of the element of surprise. Instead, by introducing the same issue early and then raising it several more times at adroitly spaced intervals, it becomes familiar to the other side. As it becomes familiar, it somehow becomes more acceptable.

Remember that change and new ideas are only acceptable when presented slowly in bite
sized fragments. Keep that in mind when trying to alter someone's viewpoint, thinking, perceptions and expectations. For most people it's easier and more comfortable to stay in a familiar groove.

When it finally comes to the negotiating event, practice effective listening techniques. By carefully concentrating on what's going on it is possible to learn a lot about what the other side is really feeling, their motivation and their real needs. Of course attentive listening and observation mean not just hearing what is being said, but also understanding what is not being said.

More to follow ...

Friday, August 17, 2007

Negotiating for Project Benefit - Introduction

You’re working on a project, right? In fact you are supposed to be in charge, but you don’t feel that you have enough authority to get things done, right? You are not alone. In fact that is the way most projects really are. So, how do you get things done?

It’s a matter of being able to negotiate. Negotiating is a vital part of every project leader’s job.
Whether you are negotiating at arms-length for goods and services for the project, or you are negotiating for coworker’s commitment to the project, a good understanding of how to negotiate effectively will help considerably.

In every negotiation there are always three crucial components present:

1. Information. The other side somehow seems to know more about you and your needs
than your side knows about theirs.

2. Time. The other side doesn't seem to be under the same kind of pressure and time
constraints that your side feels under.

3. Power. The other side always seems to have more power and authority than you think you have.

For many of us, power is a concept with threatening implications stemming from our traditional view of the master slave relationship, and because of those intimidating consequences. For example, power may be employed in a manipulative, coercive or domineering way to control people as an end in itself rather than for achieving a legitimate goal. If there is no commitment to the goal, or the goal is not acceptable, even the most appropriate means will not make it right. Let us examine each of these components in turn.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

Project Management Glossary

Project Management Glossary

A comparative glossary designed to show how many common terms mean different things to different people, thereby leaving you free to create your own distinct version for your particular project.