Negotiating Backward

[via Jeff Nolan] HBS Working Knowledge has an article by James Sebenius:

When you map a negotiation backward, you envision your preferred outcome and think in reverse about how to get there. Here are the basic steps:

1. Draw a “map” of the parties who are currently involved and those who might potentially get onboard, along with their interests and their no-deal options.

2. Estimate the difficulty and cost of gaining agreement with each party as well as the value of having that person or group onboard.

3. Identify key relationships among the parties: who influences whom, who tends to defer to whom, who owes something to whom, and so on.

4. Focus on the most-difficult-to-persuade playeryour ultimate target or someone else who’s critical to the deal. Ask these questions: Which prior agreement or agreements among which set of the other playersif such agreements were in placewould maximize the chances of the target saying yes on your terms? Whom would you like to have onboard when you initiate negotiations with the target?

5. Ask analogous questions about the player(s) at this next-to-final stage: Whom would you ideally like to have onboard to maximize the chances of the most difficult player at this stage saying “yes”? How can you win that party over?

Map backward in this fashion until you have found the most promising path through the cloud of possibilities.

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Rajesh Jain

An Entrepreneur based in Mumbai, India.