Negotiation is the process of trading something of value for something you value more. Deadlock is where there is no movement.
It happens when creating a contract, during delivery, around change proposals. It happens within organisations – particularly where groups must work together but have different agenda’s or outcomes.
Sometimes deadlock is real – there is no agreement to be had. The parties cannot accrue enough value to make agreement worthwhile. It is most visible in failed negotiations, which is very disappointing outcome because the parties typically wouldn’t be negotiating in the first place unless they had perceived value. We see it manifested most often as “long and arduous negotiations”, or protracted and unresolved disagreements in contracted service delivery.
Living in argument, contractual or otherwise, can only reflect an awful relationship that takes its toll on both the people and the service.
The parties are arguing their positions, not negotiating. In the first case, it is a terrible way to start a relationship and the second it’s is an awful way to exist in one.
It is unlikely that those who created the problem are going to solve it. Positions and opinions become entrenched positions, defended by emotionally held beliefs. Tunnel vision develops and only one pathway to resolution becomes visible. My way or the highway.
An external review can help. We do this with a rapid workshop and use experienced facilitators to look for the truth behind problems and explore alternatives. The workshops are reflective and challenging – the more rapid they are the more personally confronting they can be. Participants are invited to put their views, which they are asked to support with evidence rather than opinion.
They are also asked to examine the problem from the other party’s perspective. This is to establish empathy, not necessarily agreement. It does open opportunities toadjust positions to get the value you want.
This can be undertaken along a continuum. The simplest is to engage an experienced and successful negotiator as your advocate. A skilled negotiator will not only identify indirect pathways to success, but will employ language and techniques that simply improve the chances of success.
In more challenging circumstances an independent facilitator or mediator, working with both parties, can be extraordinarily helpful. It does require agreement of both parties but, particularly when dealing with emotive participants, can add structure to the considerations. It can be done by mutual agreement acting in good faith, or under the formal rules of mediation.The impacts of each approach need to be considered before embarking down this path.
Experience and Training
Finally, building teams that can negotiate and manage contracts requires an investment in the individual. Most of us can play tennis, few of us can be great, none can be successful without coaching and training. It is the same with negotiation.
Some people have a talent but most can be more than adequate with training and experience. Help yourself by giving your team the skills and knowledge to plan and engage better. We recommend programs tailored to your organisation’s needs or developed specifically to address the strategic skills and knowledge required.