Getting to We Follows Getting to Yes

Many of you probably remember the bestselling book Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher and William L. Ury, and its influential take on negotiation and cooperation.

I’m thinking about this book today in a couple of respects. First,  it was published about 20 years ago at about the same time that modern outsourcing began to take off as an accepted business strategy. Some food for thought there it seems to me.

Second, after about two decades we’re still trying to find the best ways to negotiate and collaborate, and I think it’s fair to say that Vested Outsourcing and it’s collaborative approach to achieving the win-win and ‘What’s in it for We’ is in many respects a modern day updating of Getting to Yes — sort of a ‘Getting to We.’

The subtitle of Getting to Yes, “negotiating agreement without giving in” is not as harsh as it might imply or as the book’s message ultimately bears out.

The problem of reaching an agreement, according to the book, is that arguing about a position leads those involved to lock-in to their positions, leading to less than optimal agreements, or no agreements at all.

The authors talk about “hard” and “soft” positional bargaining – hard being to not give in, soft being to make concessions. Neither way of course is likely to produce an optimal agreement, because doing it the hard way can damage the relationship while acting softly will produce too many concessions.  This is very similar thinking to Dr. Oliver Williamson’s description of the “muscular” and “benign” approaches to contract negotiations, which I’ve talked about in previous posts.

Playing nice will get you only so far; it’s just as important to be credible, flexible and hard-nosed when necessary.

Fisher and Ury suggest parties should negotiate on the merits of the problem, using principled negotiations while viewing the participants in a negotiation as problem solvers – not as friends or adversaries. They continue that the goal should be to achieve a “wise outcome” efficiently and amicably, not just to get an agreement or to win.

They also say: “Separate the people from the problem,” and “Be soft on the people and hard on the problem,” “Focus on interests not positions,” and “Invent options for mutual gain.”

Wise words from the past that are remarkably resonant today with Vested Outsourcing’s Five Rules and the need for credible contracting, such as focusing on outcomes (Rule 1), focusing on the what (Rule 2) and agreeing on clearly defined and measurable outcomes (Rule 3) that produce mutual benefits and the win-win.

On that note. one of my favorite philosopher-bloggers, Seth Grodin, wrote about winning recently, and especially about what winning means as we mature as people and institutions.

For example, he writes, “A toddler wants what she wants, now. That’s a win. A little later, when we’re more mature, we might define winning as getting what we want at the expense of someone else.”

Godin continues: “What happens when you define a win as getting closer to someone who wants the same thing? Or when you define it as improvement over time? Or in creating trust?

“What if the win is the ability to give a true gift?”

Is there any need to answer those questions?

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