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Getting past yes: negotiating as if implementation mattered.

  • Ertel, Danny
Published Article
Harvard business review
Publication Date
Nov 01, 2004
PMID: 15559446


Many deals that look good on paper never materialize into value-creating endeavors. Often, the problem begins at the negotiating table. In fact, the very person everyone thinks is pivotal to a deal's success--the negotiator--is often the one who undermines it. That's because most negotiators have a deal maker mind-set: They see the signed contract as the final destination rather than the start of a cooperative venture. What's worse, most companies reward negotiators on the basis of the number and size of the deals they're signing, giving them no incentive to change. The author asserts that organizations and negotiators must transition from a deal maker mentality--which involves squeezing your counterpart for everything you can get--to an implementation mind-set--which sets the stage for a healthy working relationship long after the ink has dried. Achieving an implementation mind-set demands five new approaches. First, start with the end in mind: Negotiation teams should carry out a "benefit of hindsight" exercise to imagine what sorts of problems they'll have encountered 12 months down the road. Second, help your counterpart prepare. Surprise confers advantage only because the other side has no time to think through all the implications of a proposal. If they agree to something they can't deliver, it will affect you both. Third, treat alignment as a shared responsibility. After all, if the other side's interests aren't aligned, it's your problem, too. Fourth, send one unified message. Negotiators should brief implementation teams on both sides together so everyone has the same information. And fifth, manage the negotiation like a business exercise: Combine disciplined negotiation preparation with post-negotiation reviews. Above all, companies must remember that the best deals don't end at the negotiating table--they begin there.

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