The Power of Understanding

Increasing Negotiation and Leadership Performance through the Power of Understanding

Laws of Power 35: Identify Integrative Strategies

By Karen S. Walch

Efforts at goal achievement in classic theories of negotiation power tend to focus on tactical maneuvers and actions. Much of the preparation in this classic sense is on how a negotiation “battle” is fought and won. Success becomes a matter of how good the tricks and tactics are. This tactical maneuvering finds it roots in political and military strategy, and in more contemporary business and economic theory. But, what happens when tactical sophistication has little to no connection with an appropriate strategy? This week we will focus on fundamental criteria for negotiation strategy often overlooked in the classic tactical approaches.

We will emphasize how important it is to remember that strategy is distinct from tactics, and needs to be fully developed first.

One common mistake many negotiators make is to spend too much time on tactics, but have very little clarity about their strategy. Tricks and maneuvers of an engagement without a focus on how different engagements are linked can lead to suboptimal results.

The spotlight this week is on how to develop an integrative strategy and then the tactics. Tactics are the terms and conditions about how to get what is needed, and the strategy is about whether the agreement and the relationship should be pursued at all.

This week we continue with the series on integrative strategies as a planning and alignment tool and as a way to get what you need in a negotiation. The focus here is more on the strategic framework of an integrative or problem solving negotiation strategy despite challenges that might be posed by the counterpart.

Throughout the laws of power, we have highlighted the impact of negotiation preparation on satisfying outcomes. Effective strategy and planning are the most critical precursors for achieving negotiating objectives.

With effective planning and target setting, most negotiators can achieve their objectives. Without a strategy it is more about chance! I have observed that no matter the national culture, industry focus, or organizational position, systematic planning is not something that most negotiators like to do willingly.

Time constraints and work pressures make it difficult to find the time to plan adequately. It is universal that many think of planning as boring and tedious. Most people (with experience or not) could easily put it off in favor of getting into the action quickly.

However, devoting insufficient time to planning is one weakness that leads more often to either unsatisfying negotiation experiences or disappointing results. Some of the consequences of no plan or strategic approach include: Negotiators do not have a benchmark for evaluating offers and packages without clear targets or objectives.

Negotiators get confused or defensive and delay the process, causing the potential partners to lose patience. If negotiators neglect their homework, they may not understand the strengths and weaknesses of their own positions or recognize comparable strengths and weaknesses of the other party’s leverage.

As a result, they are not able to formulate a convincing leverage to support their own position or influence those who debate with them.

Rachel, an alumna, recently noticed how many negotiators depend on being quick and clever during the give and take of a negotiation, as opposed to being prepared. She noted from her and others’ experience that without a plan for an integrative strategy of problem solving, it is easy to wear down and lose energy if a counterpart stalls or holds strong positions.

She noted that if a negotiator has not prepared fully for a problem solving strategy, negotiators tend to use tactics that may be illegal, inefficient or ineffective.

Not only does the application of an integrative strategy begin by exploring the broad process of preparation, it also requires a good definition of the negotiators’ goals and objectives.

Although development of a strategy requires an understanding of the issues and goals, it also requires knowledge about the stages and phases of an evolving negotiation. Tactical maneuvering often neglects the mindfulness about the social and psychological factors that impact one as a negotiator, how to influence others, or know when to walk away. What is being explored in the Laws series here is referred to as the integrative negotiation strategy.

This strategic approach is also known as cooperative, collaborative, win-win, mutual gains or problem solving. The fundamental structure of an integrative negotiation situation is such that it allows both sides to achieve their objectives.

Though the situation may initially appear to the parties to be win-lose, discussion and mutual exploration will often suggest alternatives where both parties can gain.

In addition, if a potential negotiation agreement leads to suboptimal results, negotiators can be prepared to walk away to alternative solutions that will align with their own values and needs.

Negotiators who plan to use an integrative strategy need to work hard to overcome the inhibiting facts of past experience, biased perceptions and the nature of egoism and leverage over another in negotiation practice. It is also a strategy that aligns with their own integrity and values as a negotiator – in both personal and professional situations.

In Rachel’s case, she developed an integrative strategy for a very contentious negotiation. Her tactical moves were to create a free flow of information, attempt to understand the other negotiator’s real needs and objectives, emphasized commonalities between the parties and searched for solutions that meet the goals and objectives of both parties.

She led a process of problem identification, understanding the needs and interests of both parties, and worked to generate alternative solutions.

When her business counterpart, who also was an extended family member, used tactics which lacked integrity and were abusive, she felt confident that even if the integrative strategy did not work with him, she was able to walk away from the business opportunity with a sense of her own integrity.

Law 34 Exercises

1. Focus on the commonalities rather than the differences with your negotiation partner.

2. Plan to address the needs and interests, not the positions, you and your counterpart have.

3. Prepare to lead an exchange of information and ideas without committing to solutions first.

Extra Credit

For a very basic reading on integrative negotiation, read the classic: Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement without Giving In (Penguin, 1991).

48 Laws for 21st Century Global Negotiators: Join Thunderbird Professor Karen S. Walch, Ph.D., as she explores the laws of power for 21st century global negotiators. Each Monday she discusses one law and provides an exercise to identify and enhance individual negotiation power. Go to the main menu for the series.