Needed: A “Getting to We” Negotiations Philosophy

If you are familiar with the Vested business model, you are probably aware of what we in the Vested universe actively promote as a What’s In It For We (WIIFWe) approach for developing and negotiating outsourcing contracts.

A long time friend and expert in negotiations skills training – Jeanette Nyden – joined our UT faculty last year as an adjunct, helping us teach our Vested Outsourcing courses and creating a Collaborative Contracting class. She brings a great asset to our team – focusing on negotiations.  We have learned from working with companies that are implementing a Vested approach that they were using the tried and true “Getting to Yes” negotiation methods.  Jeannette has helped extend Vested”s WIIFWe thinking to negotiations skills – something we now call  “Getting to We”.

But what is wrong with the “Getting to Yes” approaches of focusing on interests, not positions and inventing options for mutual gain? Well, nothing is really wrong.  More like incomplete.  In 1981 when Roger Fisher and William L. Ury wrote the first version of this landmark book they introduced the world to interest-based negotiations.  We are a fan of interest-based negotiation tactics,  but we have found it is one thing to get to “yes” in a negotiation, but it’s quite another to craft a sustainable business relationship that demands a high degree of collaboration designed to create value for all parties.

Why?  Traditional negotiating practices undermine trust and rapport between two companies at all levels; that mistrust doesn’t evaporate when the ink on the deal dries.  If anything, it continues to fester. The unintended consequences of contentious negotiation practices mean neither company has an incentive to work with the other company’s representatives in a transparent, authentic manner to achieve extraordinary financial and operational results. Getting to We is a new negotiation paradigm—one that moves beyond age-old concession cycles where parties try to get to “yes” while giving up as little as they can.

Getting to We teaches negotiating skills that are specifically designed for companies that need to reach a commercial agreement with a strategic partner to solve today’s complex business problems. Getting to We is a crucial foundation for the contract and governance framework that makes the partnership go – and keep going – well after the parties have gotten to “yes”.  But how does this concept actually work in practice? This is a frequently-asked question and the purpose of this post. The Getting to We approach asks partners to pull together on the same side of rope—while putting the business problem on the other side of the rope. We’ve found there is exponential power when companies work with each other to, in effect, pull together on the rope. This collaborative power helps solve tough business problems that create value in a market that often seems to have none left, or at least not enough to go around.

In The Vested Outsourcing Manual, we say that Getting to We “is the essential precondition, the philosophical mantra, if you will, that forms the architecture for a collaborative, trusting endeavor while keeping narrow, win-at-all costs urges at bay.” We feel that Getting to We is so important as a concept and as a necessary Vested process that it deserves its own book, and luckily Palgrave Macmillan—publisher of the previous Vested books—agrees. We’re working on a Getting to We book now which will hit the streets next year.  The authors will be Jeanette Nyden and myself, with Jacqui Crawford and IACCM President and CEO Tim Cummins. I co-authored The Vested Outsourcing Manual with Jeanette and Jacqui (along with the IACCM’s Katherine Kawamoto), so we’ve been pulling on this rope together for some time. Tim will bring a huge amount of knowledge, experience and passion to the Getting to We book project, as anyone who reads his Commitment Matters blog knows. He has written extensively on the need for a new approach to contracting—one that is “user-friendly.” By user-friendly he means “contracts (and contracting processes) that are designed to respond to user needs – simple to execute, easy to understand, of practical help in reaching goals.” Tim continues that enthusiasm for a more user-friendly approach to contracting “is not simply because we believe that service providers should focus on their users; it is also because it reduces risk. A user-friendly approach will gain increased adoption; and it will also ensure more use of the contract to support implementation and performance. So who could object to that?”

That is so true! And that’s why I believe this great team will lay out the necessity of Getting to We, along with how to get there in a simple, user-friendly and transparent manner. I can assure you that this book will not be another contract negotiation tool book, just as all of the Vested books are not just books about outsourcing.

[Image: Inness tug of war by bigbahookie via Flickr]

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