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Welcome to the NEGOTIATEx podcast! Aram and Nolan are discussing multiparty negotiations today. Your high school project team is a classic example: More than 2 people are involved, but everybody has their own interests.
These can be internal or external negotiations. Sometimes multiple departments within the same company or government agency are involved.
Whether you’re managing 3 people or 300, the situation gets complex fast. In fact, sometimes even agreeing on the process by which to negotiate is the first hurdle.
That’s why we recommend using the 4P Framework: Purpose, Product, People, and Process for multiparty negotiation. Make sure everyone is consulted, respected, and heard.
The Purpose is typically required first: “Why are we here?”
Make sure that you present this clearly. Formulate it intentionally. In other words, don’t leave it to be discovered. In fact, it should define the reason negotiations are happening in the first place.
Secondly, consider your Product: “What is the result we want?”
This could be a signed contract, a tentative framework for an agreement, or a memorandum of understanding. However, it can be as simple as logistics in multiparty negotiation. For instance, a business may want PR photos taken: Are you releasing things to the media?
Next, think about the People: “Who needs to be here—and in what capacity?”
Ask yourself who has to be present. From there, decide how much you’ll engage those involved. It helps to know how everyone is connected to parties that aren’t at the table.
Among other things, this can reveal whether or not you have the right people at the table. NEGOTIATEx excels at this kind of relationship mapping.
Lastly, analyze the Process: “How are we going to discuss all of this efficiently?”
Find an efficient strategy for the group to follow. Consider each meeting’s agenda as well as the long-term project plan. Try to inspire buy-in early, too. The overall multiparty negotiation process is easier when everyone’s aligned.
Do all your work openly and transparently. Use a whiteboard (or if you’re on Zoom, the whiteboard feature). While you’re at it, keep the agenda that you’re following in front of everyone.
Draft a document beforehand, as well. You don’t have to finish it entirely. In fact, just present an idea or two: The text’s true purpose is inspiring better attempts from everyone else.
Aram likes bringing a 50-60% draft for parties to review. Next, he asks, “What would be wrong with this?”
People love to criticize. As a result, their input often reveals their interests. This can reveal better options. Sometimes it also highlights possible solutions.
Pre-negotiation can help, too. In other words, consider meeting with some of the parties involved before multiparty negotiation starts. This can help build relationships, develop an agenda, design more efficient processes, and much more.
Nolan and Aram dive further into multiparty negotiations in this episode of the NEGOTIATEx podcast. Questions to firstname.lastname@example.org are always welcome. Don’t forget to drop by negotiatex.com and leave feedback, either. There’s a downloadable prep tool there for you.
Your time’s important to us. Thanks for listening!
Nolan Martin : This is the Negotiate X podcast, show number nine! So, Aram with that, what are some takeaways that our listeners can have, can implement to help become more effective negotiators?
Aram Donigian : Sure. Multi-party negotiations are some of the most complex and challenging we face. This four P model that we shared with you today is just gives us a framework to ensure that all the parties… let's start from the very beginning, to work together jointly, everyone gets consulted, everyone's respected and heard. They get to explain their reasoning and share their interests. We create space for creativity and creative solutions, and we create a joint problem solving dynamic that strengthens the working relationship between the parties involved. That's our goal. You're listening to negotiate X radio, helping you elevate your influence through purposeful negotiations. If you're here looking to learn about how to become a better negotiator in both business and life, then you're in the right place. Stay tuned and be sure to join the others who have benefited from negotiatex.com. Your home for negotiations, training, and consulting online.
NM : Welcome to another episode of the Negotiate X podcast. I am your co-host Nolan Martin with me today is my good friend, Aram Denesha. And how are things in the upper valley Aram?
AD : They're great Nolan. And that's a nice reference. Most people out of this area, this area that's around the Connecticut river up, in upstate New Hampshire and Vermont, they wouldn't know that. So I'm impressed. How are you doing today?
NM : Yeah, I'm doing alright. It's warming up here, you know, but it's kind of been like fluctuating, so it's a little frustrating. It's like break out the shorts at 70s-60s and then today it's in the 40s. So, a little bit frustrating, I imagine it's still pretty chilly there. Although warming up to you is probably much different than it is to me.
AD : Yeah, but you got to love the weather. The weather is a little schizophrenia, isn't it?
NM : Yeah, I do think that we have to start opening up with something other than the weather. I feel like when we're in our seventies and retired and just talk about the weather every time.
AD : We've talked weather, we talked kids, we've talked puppies. I think we're doing okay.
NM : Okay. Alright, good. Well, I am excited about today's episode. I know I say this a lot, but today we are talking about multi-party negotiations and kind of how this may differ from a regular negotiation. And we'll kind of get into more of that here in a second, but to kind of set this up, isn't every negotiation, a multi-party negotiation Aram?
AD : Well, it's, it's interesting that you asked that question Nolan. So, before I answer or give you my thought, I'd like to know what your thinking is behind that question.
NM : Well, you know, we talked little bit about this before hitting record, but if I were to go purchase a car and my wife were not to be there, you better believe that I'm going to be calling her and she's going to be part of whatever I negotiate or however I go about buying that car. Same thing with the salesman, whatever I work out with him. I mean, ultimately he's going to have to answer to his boss. His boss is involved in that negotiation. So it'd be foolish for me to think that it's really just between me and him and foolish for the salesman, if he's smart. And if he's a good salesman to think that this is just between me and him as well.
AD : Yeah. That's a, that's a great point. And I, and I hope everyone's listening. I mean, there's very few negotiations where the two negotiators at the table are not representing other stakeholders, right? And those other stakeholders - even though they're not at the table - are affecting each party's concerns, what each party can do, what each party will do when you go to implementation. They can be some of the greater challenges or roadblocks to executing the terms of the negotiation really well. So, you've got to take them into account.
NM : Yeah, exactly. So...
AD : That's not what we're talking about here though. So we're going to, we're going to split hairs a little bit folks. So, what Nolan’s talking about is absolutely… in most bilateral negotiations involving two parties, there's two there's, there's multiple stakeholders involved. Well, we're talking today is actually when you have more than two negotiators at the table, and those negotiators are representing distinct perspectives, different parties, different viewpoints.
NM : Yeah. So, what you're calling a multi-party negotiator is multiple negotiators at the negotiating table.
AD : Yeah, that's correct. So, distinguish multi-party negotiations from two-party negotiations that have multiple stakeholders. So, I know that's a little bit nuanced, but it also helps us do some distinguishing and just consider some of the challenges that show up, that are more unique. When now all of a sudden, you're managing 3 – 30 – 300 people, whatever it might be at the table, and now you have to get them aligned. That can be a huge challenge.
NM : All right. So, my question to you then Aram is do multiple business lines within the same company, are they going to fall into the same category of a multi-party negotiation?
AD : Yeah, they do. So, earlier I said something about, you know, the parties being distinct or representing distinct, different interests. Multi-party negotiations can be internal as well as external. So even if they're different business units or, or lines, anytime you're getting multiple people at the table and they are trying to reach consensus or agreement, that is going to be a multi-party negotiation. That's the key setup for what we're talking about.
NM : Okay, whenever we start talking about something new, I kind of like discuss, like, what are the challenges we're first going to kind of experience as we, focus on one of these new topics.
AD : So, I mean, the challenge is, I think most of our listeners are going to realize that they've all been involved in, in multiparty negotiations at some time or another. The old high school or college project team for better, or for worse is, is an example of a working group between different business units or government agencies. There's another example, we've certainly seen a lot of multi-party negotiations over the last year in dealing with COVID informing people, rolling out the vaccine. So you've seen, you know, multi-party negotiations between federal, state, local governments working together with different health agencies or businesses, pharmaceutical companies, and so on. And that all of a sudden, you had everybody… you have multiple people at the table, it gets to be a fairly complicated network of interconnected relationships.
NM : Yeah, and I'm guessing most of these relationships probably have some sort of history. I imagine that a lot of these have different perspectives from where these different people are coming from. And I imagine a lot of those people have different perceptions of how they're going to see each other, especially when we're all sitting at the same table.
AD : Yeah. That's, I mean, that's, that's exactly right. People have a long, a long memory and each party represents, typically represents widely different perspectives, interests, positions, and then they're trying to manage those concerns. And you also have to be aware of everybody's different alternatives, what their walkaways could be. And then there's just the sheer volume of information when you have that many people at the table. Some of that information is shared, and then some of it is concealed, or some of it's just inaccurate or vague.
NM : Yeah. I imagine another kind of complexity that's involved in this is probably when he gets someone to agree. And you were able to work out with an agreement with someone that doesn't necessarily meet what someone else may want at the negotiating table. So, I imagine you can't satisfy everybody. And so there's going to be a lot of disagreement there.
AD : Yeah. That's very, that's very true. Then if you're trying to determine, you know, who do you negotiate with first and then in what order to what end, agreeing on a process of negotiation that all the parties can align around. I mean, that's all very challenging just to say the least and all the while each of those parties is continuing to have to kind of navigate internal stakeholder alignment. So, what we talked about what's happening in a biparty or by bilateral negotiation, all these parties have to do the same thing and heaven forbid, but you know, this is all occurring within the context of uncertainty around an ever-changing political or economic landscape.
NM : It's an extremely difficult situation. I think we've definitely made the point to our listeners. So now how do we get about solving this complex problem?
AD : Okay. You know, me, I like simple frameworks, fortunately for me, or for us, our friends and colleagues at Vantage Partners have a great model for managing the new challenges around multi-party negotiations. They call it ‘the four P framework’. The four Ps or:
NM : Yeah. And I think we start off with purpose. I know we're talking from a military background with both of us. It's probably at least in my opinion, one of the most important of the four Ps, because, we're used to - as leaders of giving a task and a purpose, whenever we want someone to do something. And usually majority of the time, the purpose is going to be more important to the tasks or more important than the task. Because as long as someone understands what we are trying to get them to do, then they're able to use some common sense as to what they actually need to do, to make that happen. So, is that accurate in this same sense?
AD : Yeah, it is. Right, it is. And so one of the things we need to do to manage that well is to be really clear and clarify, or communicate clearly what the purpose is. So that purpose needs to be intentionally formulated. It shouldn't be discovered over time, and it should really define incredibly well, our reason for coming together that we're negotiating in the first place. You know, it could be, maybe negotiating just to exchange information. Could be to understand the concerns of all the parties involved. It could be to brainstorm something, to plan, to motivate people, or to decide on something, right? So, is, does that purpose involve joint action? Is it going to involve relationship building, maybe something else, and again, purposes need to be forward thinking, what is it that we're trying to achieve going forward? And before parties go any further, they need to align on their purpose. It will dictate everything else we discussed.
NM : Yeah, so then after we've kind of figured out purpose now, are we going to go to product so talking product, or is that just the outcome, the agreement from the negotiation?
AD : Yeah, it could be, I mean, you could be as simple as a signed contract, it can also be a tentative framework for an agreement or a memorandum of understanding, but I could also imagine other products that might be desirable by the parties involved. You know, it could be a list of questions that we need to consider and define. It might be further ideas that we're trying to expand upon that might involve us taking those ideas back to different stakeholders, and getting their take on them, before we come back and negotiate further. It may just be a clear understanding of the problem, especially with all these different people involved in it.
NM : Yeah, and I imagine some of the things that need to be worked out is simple logistics. Like, ‘Hey, when are we going to meet next? Is this, you know, are we going to release this to the media? Is there a press release? Are we going to be able to take a photo?’ I imagine, you know, probably some companies are really proud of being able to negotiate an outcome and could really use the publicity that, that this way generates. So I'm sure all of these different things probably need to be decided, and it may help to kind of get this on the table sooner rather than later.
AD : That's right. I mean, it could be some sort of agreed upon joint presentation and a trade conference, right? I mean, there's just an endless number of products, but we really need to be clear on what it is that is coming out of this meeting. Now, once we have that, once we are clear on what our purpose is, we're clear on desired instate product.
AD : Well, then we can look at the people, who needs to be there so that we can accomplish everything we need to, and in what capacity should we most efficiently engage everyone involved?
NM : Yeah. And I think as we kind of do this for our clients, I think this is something that we really excel in and that's kind of the network analysis of trying to really figure out how is everyone connected and what levers are we going to be able to pull? I mean, that's something that we've done in the military. And I know that's something that you kind of taught us at West Point. Um, what are your thoughts on that?
AD : It’s something I call ‘relationship mapping’. It can be really helpful for us to understand the different parties that are connected and how they're connected to each other and potentially how they're connected to people, not at the table. So we think through relationships of influence deference antagonism, it can be help us determine if we have the right makeup of folks at the table so that we can ensure a high quality outcome, whether it's to make a decision to enable effective implementation, or something else, it can also help inform us about where alliances and coalitions might develop, or where we're going to want to develop those alliances and coalitions ourselves. And so we often do some work around, around those issues as well. And it all stems from this idea of developing a really thorough relationship.
NM : Yeah, and I think a very simple kind of pro tip here, and it may be pretty obvious to most of the community, but you can learn a lot from LinkedIn and you can actually see people's connections and who they are connected with, and it may help understand the framework of different organizations if you're able to use that effectively. So you said something there and I kind of want to dig a little bit deeper, so considering the way you engage with different parties, uh, what exactly do you kind of mean by that?
AD : Not everyone needs to be at every meeting, so it's, it can be really helpful as we manage the third P of people to say, what is your role? And get really clear on that. What are the expected contributions we need you to make? It'd be really silly for us to think that we need to engage a decision-maker in the same way as we would engage a subject matter expert or someone who's key to implementation or someone who is a gatekeeper of information, those people are going to be engaged in different ways. And then we want to be very respectful and efficient with people's time. The other thing we want to consider is, should every meeting be plenary, should we establish committees to work more efficiently? How can we best exploit the division of labor? How do we ensure that we match talents to the people? What you and I would call ‘troop to task’, you know, multitasking? How do we assign appropriate roles? Just as terms in mediator, timekeeper, recorder, process, observer, ground rules, enforcer, a chair, so forth. Those are all key considerations as well.
NM : Yeah, so kind of quick story. Um, so it kind of brought up, jogged my memory here. So I had an old boss who used to sit down and be like, why are you making sausage in front of me? And, and when you say that, as far as like subject matter experts, and when to talk to someone about something very specific and not necessarily talk about the head honcho about a decision, that's the kind of things we're talking about here is when, when you need specific information, you go to one person, you know who that is. You don't need to include everybody in that email distro because you're just going to burn out the decision maker, so understand where you need to go. All right. I digress again. Sorry. I'm, I'm definitely going off track on this. Makes a lot of sense of where we're going. Um, and so now we're at the last P process. So I know we've discussed this a lot in the last episodes and we know exactly how important it is. So how important is it during multi-party negotiations?
AD : Yeah, it really is. And I'm not going to say it's the most important or more important than the other piece, but it is really critical to manage the process when you consider some of the other challenges that we identified at the very beginning around multi-party negotiations, they really go to the process that you're following. So, we need to find an efficient strategy for the group to follow. Is this going to be a single meeting? Is this going to be a series of meetings? How often are we going to meet? What is our agenda for each meeting versus in as well as what's our kind of long-term project plan? Project management comes into this, do we have agreed upon ground rules for how we're going to stay on target? How we'll communicate, how we'll share differences so that everyone gets heard, and that most importantly, so we really accomplish our purpose.
NM : Yeah. And I mean, you've been doing this a while. So what are you finding is an effective strategy? I mean, I'm sure a lot of people are really wanting us to kind of dive deeper into that one there.
AD : Yeah. So, you know, there's a number of things the first is, and this is really true for bilateral negotiations as well. And it's, I think it's even more critical for multiparty negotiations is work should be done openly and transparently, use a white board. If you're on zoom, you know, use the annotation tool, whether it's on a PowerPoint slide or whether it's on the whiteboard feature in zoom, but show people that they are being heard, capture the things being discussed, keep the agenda that you're following or the ground rules you've established in front of everybody. That's just a really important thing. People need to be able to visually see that the things are moving along and they've been heard.
NM : Yeah. So I'm kind of a, a big believer in processes. So can we implement any processes here to kind of keep the momentum going?
AD : Here's a few that have been developed over time that I think incredibly work. So one is work from a single draft text, and that's exactly what it is. I love working off a, you know, 50 or 60% draft and let parties invite parties to criticize the draft and around to the question, this is a really important question. What would be wrong with this? And I know one thing about human nature, people love to criticize and that criticism can be really indicative of what their interests are. So as you share a draft to shoot holes at, I mean, that's why we're doing it. We then use that all those interests, we're learning to iterate, get more creative, come up with a different set of options or possible solutions. And if we explain that process, well, it can really guide us through these sorts of negotiations.
NM : Yeah. And I think kind of just want to go back to purpose. That's something you clearly need to outline upfront. Like that's something that needs to be explained, especially if you're going to go down that road of, of doing the iterative process through all that. So, I could see why getting all parties on board with the process is extremely important. I'm a fan of processes, I’ve already stated. Um, do you ever use pre negotiations with parties to get alignment on the process?
AD : Yeah, I do. So a pre negotiation is really any meeting or meetings among some of the parties that occur prior to the formal start of the negotiations. And those can be really helpful to build relationships amongst the negotiators, develop an agenda, organize sub committees, particular issues, conduct some joint training on negotiation, share in fact finding or just to design efficient processes. And by the way, I got one more process. I'd love to share if I could. So, there are a lot of different ways you can manage these multi-party negotiations, and I think they're not better or worse, but having a process, having something that guides you is really helpful. I've certainly heard that from my students.
AD : You obviously will have a gap. That's why we're at the table in the first place. Step two is to analyze why that gap exists. You're going to do what I call ‘root cause analysis’. Once you've done that, you're going to brainstorm for solutions to the root causes, right? Again, we haven't named the problem. And then once we've done a really good job of brainstorming solutions, we're going to move into action steps. And as we take action, we now have a new current state and we can compare it to where it is we're trying to go. And again, this is the narrative process. Why aren't we there yet? We're back into step two. What else can we do rec to step three new action plan, step four. So that's just another process that can be really helpful in these, these sorts of negotiations.
NM : I think what, what kind of helps with these processes with the pre negotiations is that we're creating buy-in from the different parties ahead of time or throughout the process. And then we're creating alignment, and so it's going to help through the entire negotiation process from beginning and kind of through the end.
AD : Yeah, that's right. And we're creating alignment both with all these parties at the table, as well as helping them manage their own internal alignments away from the table. And both of those are important.
NM : Yeah, well, to our listeners today, appreciate you listening. So I know we covered a lot here and so we always do the transcripts down in the show notes. So, if you go to negotiatex.com/nine, you'll find the show notes, you'll see the transcripts and you'll be able to kind of read through the different processes. The four Ps, everything we kind of mentioned. Today's podcast show will be outlined in, in the show notes and any of the references that we also mentioned. But again, this is a podcast that is all about action items, and we're here to help elevate your influence through purposeful negotiation. So, you know, we're all about taking action and we want to help you and your business, life and organization. So Aram with that, what are some takeaways that our listeners can have, can implement to help become more effective negotiators?
AD : Sure. Multiparty negotiations are some of the most complex and challenging we face. This four P model that we shared with you today just gives us a framework to ensure that all the parties… let's start from the very beginning, to work together jointly, everyone gets consulted, everyone's respected and heard. They get to explain their reasoning and share their interests. We create space for creativity and creative solutions, and we create a joint problem-solving dynamic that strengthens the working relationship between the parties involved. That's our goal.
NM : Yeah, and I think for our listeners to kind of take away from my end is have a clear purpose and be upfront about it, about the process. And it's always kind of a recommendation to the group, get buy-in, get alignment upfront, and it's going to help out the process along the way. Next, and very important to us is, help us out go to apple podcasts or wherever you listen to this podcast, give us a five-star rating and leave us a comment, it'll really help us out and get this podcast in front of other aspiring negotiators or just negotiators that want to level up their game. We'd greatly appreciate that. If you have a question for us, when we've covered a few questions already from our listeners, you could shoot us an email at email@example.com, and we'll be sure to try and cover it in future episodes, until then we will see you in the next step. Thank you for listening to negotiate X radio, helping you elevate your influence through purposeful negotiations. If you're here looking to learn about how to become a better negotiator in both business and life, then you're in the right place. Be sure to join the others who have benefited from negotiatex.com your home for negotiations, training and consulting online.
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