The Negotiator Magazine

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The results were remarkable. They led to higher value, better alignment and dramatic reductions in both perceived and actual risk. In complex situations - for example, multi-country roll-outs, they several times enabled IBM to move to a winning competitive position - even in situations where competition offered better technical solutions. The point was, this approach created trust and confidence that we could and would do as we promised.

These workshops may be similar to the approach at Honda. My memory is that we more often used flip charts than whiteboards, but I suspect the outputs were much the same! And of course, they occasionally led to the conclusion that we were not well matched and that either the project needed to be scaled back, or that an alternative supplier would be a better answer. Powerful organizations that really care about their customers have to be ready to make those tough decisions - and gain greater respect and trust because of it.

But sometimes our approach simply wasn't accepted. First, it was often hard to persuade Sales to engage in what they saw as a 'high risk' approach. It was unfamiliar to them; it was unfamiliar to the customer; and it was being proposed by a traditional 'business prevention' group - so there must be some trick behind the idea. Many sales representatives were nervous about having the necessary teams sitting in a room together - they feared they would lose control. And they were certainly uneasy about some of the tough conversations that honesty entails.

Second, it was not always easy to persuade customers that they should invest time in these sessions, even when we could demonstrate that they typically reduced negotiation times and added value to results. But we soon realized this resistance was mostly in situations where the other side felt they had the power, where they were viewing technology as a commodity. So then we had to do some marketing, or give up and wait for a better opportunity.

So in summary, there is plenty of evidence that win-win or collaborative approaches work and can bring significant extra benefits to any complex or high-risk relationship. There is also extensive evidence that business executives and negotiators believe (at least at a theoretical level) that they should follow collaborative approaches. But if we are going to make substantive progress towards this goal, it will only be achieved if the more powerful parties start to embed it as an organizational strategy and methodology. That will be the real break-through to a 'win-win' world.

Tim Cummins is Executive Director of IACCM and worked with the Founder Corporations to establish the Association in 1999. He has more than 25 years experience in commercial contracting, gained with corporations that included NatWest, British Leyland, BAe and IBM Corporation. Tim has led negotiations up to $1.5bn in value and has lived or worked in over 40 countries. While working in the Chairman's office at IBM Corporate Headquarters, he led studies on the business impacts of globalization and then successfully managed projects to reengineer IBM's global contracting processes. Tim was a member of the UK's Commercial Lead Body and has had papers commissioned by both the US Department of Labor and the UK Department of Education. For more information you may visit the association website at www.IACCM.com.


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July 2007