Analysis of 'Getting to Yes' and Negotiating Agreements

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Abstract

“An open mind is not an empty one.”

This paper explores how the book “Getting to Yes”, negotiation course concepts, and an article called ‘The Pros and Cons of Getting to Yes’ are uniquely integrated. The book “Getting to Yes” was written by Roger Fisher and William Ury. Originally published in 1981 it has sold more than one million copies worldwide. Fisher and Ury believed positional bargaining impeded the ability to have good negotiations. They believed this was illustrated in the 1961 breakdown of talks under President John F. Kennedy during the mists of the Cold War. Creating a new method called “principled negotiation” or negotiation on merits in this book, Fisher and Ury provide an acceptable solution that is determined by needs that are fixed and flexible for negotiators. Principled negotiation is providing a third option by blending hard and soft tactics and using four main points to negotiate. These four points are people, interests, options, and criteria. Negotiators who use this method should focus on settling disputes and negotiating fair agreements. Fisher, Ury, & Patton, 2011) The article ‘The Pros and Cons of Getting to Yes’ challenges the legitimacy of the book. James White suggests that the book is puzzling, not rigorous and analytical, but rather anecdotal and informative. (White, 1984)

Analysis of ‘Getting to Yes’ and Negotiating Agreements 

“Judgment hinders imagination.”

Have you ever felt like you just made a bad deal? Every day each of us is faced with a profusion of conflict in our lives. Asking your boss for a raise, satisfying a complaining customer, or even working on a business deal; believe it or not we have all learned the basic skills of negotiation. The book “Getting to Yes” sets up a complete framework of “principled negotiation” for anyone interested in negotiation to understand. Positional bargaining has become an inefficient means of reaching a good agreement by neglecting the interests of both parties involved. Have you ever felt like you got the short end of the stick? You have! Principled negotiation is an alternative dispute resolutions method which is a step up from the common method of positional bargaining by providing a better way to reach an efficient mutual agreement. (Fisher, Ury, & Patton, 2011)

The four basic elements of principled negotiation the book focuses on are vital to the method’s success. These elements are; separate the people from the problem, focus on interests instead of positions, invest options for mutual gain, and insist on using objective criteria. Using the four elements effectively results in a win-win agreement. Analyzing, planning, and discussion are three stages in the negotiation process that also enables an effective and amicable agreement. If each negotiator is rational in thought, then satisfying basic interests become mutual and satisfying options are achieved with fair standards. There are real-life scenarios within the book that provide an easier understanding of the concepts. Providing these scenarios in each section of each chapter explained in detail how each part of the principled negotiation process worked or didn’t work. (Fisher, Ury, & Patton, 2011)

Course Concepts & The Book

In section 1.10 of our class readings, it explained how Paul Nitze, a negotiator for the US delegation and Yuli Kvitsinsky, a negotiator for the Soviet Union delegation, used the principled negotiation method. Since they could not reach an agreement, they decided to take a “Walk in the Woods.” During their walk, the two men realized both countries had a lot in common. Although the two men achieved a genuine understanding of each other’s interests and were able to come to a compromise, an agreement was not reached. It is said that no agreement is better than a bad agreement, but in this case, these men were acting as agents, so they did not have the authority to make a final decision.  Negotiation Agents are employed in negotiations specifically because of their expertise, specialized knowledge, and experience but that does not give them the final authorization to make a deal. (Lewicki, Saunders, & Barry, 2015)

In section 2.1 they did a study of the impact of framing on collective bargaining. The book stated that negatively framed negotiators were less concessionary and reached fewer agreements. On the other hand, positively framed negotiators were fairer and reached more agreements. Being able to process and organize information provides a perspective of the problems or issues for a decision-maker. A negotiator can understand the importance of facts or issues concerning each other. A negotiator can see facts or issues and determine many possible outcomes or consider contingency actions to solve a problem. Using a framework allows a negotiator to consider all possible solutions and make a good choice. (Lewicki, Saunders, & Barry, 2015)

In sections 2.2 – 2.5 the book talks about emotion and being rational when negotiating. In the book “Getting to Yes” it also suggests that it is important to recognize and understand your emotions. A good negotiator should understand the emotions of the people they are negotiating with. It also suggests that both sides should make emotions explicit and acknowledge those emotions as legitimate factors in the negotiation process. If each negotiator releases their steam and does not react to emotional outbursts, emotion can be a positive tool while negotiating instead of negative experience. It is not wise to suppress your emotions because the information is still perceived and can be communicated by body language. Building up emotion may cause a negotiator to make a choice leading to a bad agreement. Constructively sharing emotion allows a negotiator to gain a true understanding of each other’s position. Remember we all want to win, let’s be fair. (Lewicki, Saunders, & Barry, 2015)

Creating a well-negotiated agreement means you need to avoid the pitfalls of being framed while simultaneously, understanding the impact of positively and negatively framing the person or person’s you are negotiating with. Framing is a cognitive bias that may have a significant negative impact on the performance of each negotiator. The framework can also enable a negotiator to make rational decisions that lead to a rational good agreement. The best agreement according to principled negotiation is an agreement both parties can walk away happy with. (Lewicki, Saunders, & Barry, 2015)

Negotiators have different negotiating roles, so a negotiator should create different reference points. A reference point is important because you can predict and compare the outcomes for your success. These points also allow a negotiator to evaluate in terms of the different comparisons. Reference points separate the domain into regions of desirable outcomes (gains) and undesirable ones (losses). If a negotiator can recognize gains and losses, can negotiate more effectively. (Lewicki, Saunders, & Barry, 2015)

Principled negotiation in action

The article “Taking steps toward ‘Getting to Yes’ at Blue Cross and Blu0e Shield of Florida” highlights principled negotiation in practice by a major insurance company. Blue Cross and Blue Shield are aware of increasing competition, rising healthcare prices, and increased customer expectations. They wanted to highlight the other parties’ interests when creating new policies, so they do not drive away business. The authors noted that applying principled negotiation techniques came much more naturally to the executive level management team and lower levels of the management team needed more practice. (Booth & McCredie, 2004)

The authors specifically relate to how Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida Inc. (BCBSF) benefitted from the concepts in the book. BCBSF used the book’s theory of principled negotiation to look at issues based on their merits rather than defending steadfast positions. The company embraced the concept by working with Vantage Partners, a consulting firm that partners with companies to institutionalize the capability to negotiate. Blue Cross and Blue Shield were able to build and manage critical relationships effectively.  (Booth & McCredie, 2004)

In 1945, delegates from all over the world met in San Francisco to establish the United Nations. On May 19, 1995, the delegates traveled to Muir Woods to honor the memory of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. The organizers of the event hoped that the profound beauty and serenity of Muir Woods would inspire the delegates to pursue the president’s program for world peace as they met to establish the United Nations. Instead of sitting in their country seats by alphabetical order in the usual fashion, delegates sat as their respective Groups. The advisers sat behind the chief spokespersons. This arrangement enabled easy consultations amongst delegations. (Rigg, K. 2012) The United Nations is still in existence today and working on preserving world peace.

Lastly, in section 1.10 of the book, they provided a case study regarding a merger between two surgical centers. Alpha General Hospital and Omega Medical Center are long-standing rivals in the marketplace. They also chose to use the principled negotiation method and reach a common beneficial agreement. The two centers developed a hybrid model that preserved each group’s corporate model. They both achieved enough recognizable gain that each party felt they were “getting” something out of the deal. Since the two centers were able to establish enough goodwill and confidence in each other, the equal gain and the identical procedures were of less concern to debate about. (Lewicki, Saunders, & Barry, 2015)

Sharing self-interests encourages active listening from each side. Enlarging those interests’ negotiators realize they have more interests they agree with than disagree with. This helps reframe the understanding of the issues. Lastly, aligned interests set new options for a good agreement. When trying to negotiate the best possible deal a negotiator should remember there is more at stake than your interests involved in the process. Put that ego to the side. Together, both parties can solve more problems when they actively listen and try to understand each other’s underlying interests. Create a durable relationship by finding mutual, creative, and beneficial solutions.

My thoughts… “Getting to Yes” and The Pros and Cons of “Getting to Yes” 

Professor of law James J. White, from the University of Michigan, suggests that the book “Getting to Yes” is not scholarly or analytical. He believes that the method relies on anecdotal evidence. “The authors seem to deny the existence of a significant part of the negotiation process and oversimplify or explain away many of the most troublesome problems that are inherent in the art and practice of negotiation.” There is no quantitative evidence presented that suggests outcomes using this technique will typically be better than an alternative method, such as positional bargaining. White believes the book is frequently naive, occasionally self-righteous, but often helpful.” (White, 1984)

Getting to YES was a perplexing book for me. It offers a forceful and persuasive criticism of transitioning from traditional negotiating behavior, positional bargaining, to the new age method of Principled Negotiation. Depending primarily on the subject being negotiated, having a variety of clever techniques is likely to facilitate effective negotiations resulting in a “good agreement.” I believe the book is a guide providing advice on how to improve one’s negotiation skills. I believe as a negotiator you should not focus exclusively on interests because the exclusion of positions limits important functions of those positions concerning negotiation dynamics. I also realized how developing a strong BATNA also creates greater power for you by providing a point of leverage.

Since broadening my knowledge and skills in negotiation, I have applied some of these techniques on my brother and friend. The techniques have not worked out as well as I planned due to the fact, they know I am taking a negotiations class. I will remember that separating people from the problem will make a healthier relationship through the whole negotiations process. When both parties feel respected it allows them to think that they are being understood and they are negotiating with intelligent and sympathetic people whose own opinions may also be worth listening to. As a negotiator, I plan to use this advice so everyone’s side can be appreciated, and interests meet to it easier to finalize a good agreement. “The ability to see the situation as the other side sees it, as difficult as it may be, is one of the most important skills a negotiator can possess.” (Fisher, Ury, & Patton, 2011)

References

  • Booth, B., & McCredie, M. (2004). Taking steps toward “Getting to Yes” at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Florida. Academy of Management Executive18(3), 109–112
  • Fisher, R., Ury, W., & Patton, B. (2011). Getting to yes: negotiating agreement without giving in. Penguin Books.
  • Lewicki, R. J., Saunders, D. M., Barry, B., (2015). Negotiation:  Readings, Exercises, and Cases 7th ed. McGraw Hill Education.
  • Rigg, K. (2012). It’s Time for the World Leaders to Take a Walk in the Woods. OECD Observer, 96–97.
  • White, James J. (1984). “The Pros and Cons of Getting to YES.” Review of Getting to YES, by R. Fisher and W. Ury. J. Legal Educ. 34, 115-24.

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