The Negotiator Magazine

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There are a number of steps people can take to improve cross-silo communication in order to make cross-silo negotiations yield wise and durable agreements:

After doing your initial homework, it is critical not to allow your next actions to be driven by the assumptions you have made. Rather, the crucial next step is to do a reality check on those assumptions. Your colleagues' information may be out of date, their personal experiences may be based on different personal chemistry, or business conditions may have changed the interests driving the activities of your tribe or others. Undertake the reality check of your assumptions by asking open-ended questions of relevant members of other corporate tribes. Rather than looking for a 'yes' or 'no' answer, give the people with whom you talk the opportunity to express themselves in their own words. You will gain much more information that way - as well as demonstrate that you are treating them with respect.

When multiple tribes have different pieces of the decision-making and implementation action, it will probably be more effective in the long-run to do your initial discussing with people from one group at a time. Decision-making by multiple parties dealing with multiple issues can be chaotic and inefficient if the participants try to deal with everything at once. A better approach is to take what you've learned from preparatory discussions with individuals and use that information to develop a mutually agreed agenda so that any negotiations involving multiple interested groups proceed in an orderly fashion. Moreover, with an agreed-upon agenda, the participants are more likely to be prepared with the information needed for productive collaboration.

Negotiating with people who represent different corporate silos should be a normal part of keeping disparate elements of an organization working effectively to achieve common objectives. Recognizing that those silos exist and being prepared to approach them with both good information and an open mind can empower you to keep corporate tribes from waging war instead of waging peace.

Steven P. Cohen, author of Negotiating Skills for Managers (McGraw-Hill, 2002) is president of The Negotiation Skills Company, Inc. (www.negotiationskills.com), a global coaching and training firm headquartered near Boston, Massachusetts.


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October 2004