The British/EU BREXIT negotiations appear to be making little progress. Could it be that the British APPLICATIONS biased approach focusing on practical results is in conflict with the EU PRINCIPLES based approach based on the legal principles and issues of disengagement? (Thanks to Erin Meyer’s ‘Culture Map’ (Public Affairs, 2014) for the helpful terminology.)
We vividly remember a Franco-British disagreement which was slowing down a major motorway rebuilding project in the UK. The French downed tools because the paperwork wasn’t up to date and the project was 12 weeks behind schedule. How was the problem resolved? The British project manager got together with his French counterpart over a good lunch (perfectly possible in UK, whatever you might think) and agreed that if the French team got back to work the British team would make sure the paperwork was done to requirement and in time. Within six weeks the project was back on schedule.
We’re not suggesting a good lunch would solve all of Barnier’s and Davis’s problems, although it might help. However, application of Roger Fisher’s Harvard Process of Principled Negotiation might make a difference.
The key principles are these:
- INTERESTS NOT POSITIONS: Look for the real interests behind the position stated.
- SOFT ON THE PERSON HARD ON THE PROBLEM: Focus on the problem, don’t blame the person.
- OPTIONS: Think of lots of possible positive outcomes, not just one.
- OBJECTIVE CRITERIA: Be ready to cite international standards to support your argument. Difficult for Brexit. This is a first.
- WALK-AWAY POINT: Know your ‘walk-away’ point. In the UK, the ‘No Deal’ option.
- BATNA: Always have a BATNA – Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement.
- KEEP TALKING: Never close the doors. Make sure you have a way to keep relations open.
Fisher and Ury have many examples of political and commercial negotiations in their book, ‘Getting to Yes’ (Penguin Books 1981), but check the points above out in your JV and M&A planning and operations. They will help you in difficult international negotiations.
With experience of 60+ countries FortisCL are specialists in international negotiations – what to expect, how to communicate with your counterparts and how to manage the negotiation process.
Barry Tomalin, Cross Cultural Lead, FortisCL
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