Breakthrough International Negotiation: How Great Negotiations Transformed the World’s Toughest Post-Cold War Conflicts
by Michael Watkins and Susan Rosegrant
All negotiations are complex, but they are a vital means to conflict resolution. In Breakthrough International Negotiation, Michael Watkins, a Harvard Business School associate professor and author, and Susan Rosegrant, a case writer for Harvard and a seasoned reporter, have combined their skills to offer detailed insight into the art of negotiating by charting the actions of four major players who have shaped global politics since the Cold War.
These leading diplomatic negotiators include Robert Gallucci, who helped to defuse nuclear tensions on the Korean peninsula; Terje Larsen, who has applied his negotiation skills to the troubled Middle East; James Baker, who worked to build the Gulf War coalition that took on Saddam Hussein; and Richard Holbrooke, who helped to end the war in Bosnia.
Universal stumbling blocks
The negotiation skills explored in this book are drawn from the world of international diplomacy, but they can also be applied to business, government and private life. The same stumbling blocks faced during the resolution of long-standing global conflicts are often the same types of difficulties that hold up business deals. These barriers can be multiple influential parties, many complex sets of issues, pre-existing tensions, or troublesome internal decision-making.
Negotiators need simple tactics and an ability to persuade, but the authors propose that a systems analysis approach to managing negotiations can improve the odds of success. They believe in shaping the structure in which deliberations proceed, and use many real-world examples to prove their points.
The authors offer “Seven principles of breakthrough negotiations” to guide their readers through the case studies in the book. They say breakthrough negotiators:
- Shape the structure of their situations. Do not view negotiation situations as fixed. Involve the right people, control the issue agenda, create linkages that bolster bargaining power, and use time to channel the flow of the process. Do as much work as possible before sitting down at the table.
- Organise to learn. Diagnose essential features of the situation. Become familiar with the history, the context and the record of prior negotiations. Research the backgrounds and reputations of their counterparts.
- Are masters of process design. Know when to use one-on-one negotiations and when group negotiations would be better. Remember that bad design choices that might be perceived as unfair, illegitimate or confusing can create unnecessary barriers to agreement. Good process design can promote breakthroughs.
- Foster agreement when possible but employ force when necessary. Understand the delicate interplay between negotiation and coercive power. Implicit and explicit threats must be used with great skill.
- Anticipate and manage conflict. Craft strategies that recognise mutual perceptions of vulnerability, a history of distrust that influences perceptions, and cultural misunderstandings. Set up confidence-building mechanisms.
- Build momentum toward agreement. Break through deadlocks by proposing a formula or framework or face-saving compromise. Erect barriers to backsliding that impel the process forward.
- Lead from the middle. Skilled negotiators have a big impact on the outcomes of complex negotiations. Great leadership is grounded in credibility and skill rather than authority.