Collaborative Edge - Summer 2007
A newsletter of the Center for Collaborative Policy Laura Kaplan, Editor
Essentials of Negotiation
Lewicki, Roy J., David M. Saunders, Bruce Barry, and John W. Minton. 2004.
Essentials of Negotiation: 3rd Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill/Irwin.
Reviewed by Laura Kaplan
As someone who occasionally is asked to teach negotiation skills or to recommend one good book on the topic, I am always on the lookout for a better book on negotiation. I want a book that, like many of the classics, provides the how-to of interest-based, integrative “win-win” negotiation. Integrative techniques are a touchstone of mediation and conflict resolution: the ability to help parties create value, enlarge the pie, and find creative solutions to previously intractable issues. At the same time, I feel strongly that anyone working in public policy needs to be equally versed in distributive “win-lose” and horse-trading bargaining techniques. Sometimes distributive bargaining is the best or only way to handle an issue, e.g. when time is limited, when specific material items really are in dispute, or when there are items of high value to one negotiator but low value to another that can be swapped to mutual benefit. Additionally, many of the clients and stakeholders in a public policy negotiation are skilled activists or political players: Distributive bargaining tactics are often what has worked for them in the past and are what they will revert to under pressure. Therefore a conflict resolver needs to be able to recognize and work with distributive techniques as appropriate.
So if I’m going to recommend a book, I want it to provide a good education in both types of negotiation, integrative and distributive, and discuss how each is best applied. But it has to be more than that if it is going to be actually read and used. I want the book to be well-written and well-constructed. Something that can be read cover to cover, but that also lends itself to skimming for the good bits. Something that entertains with hypothetical examples or stories from experience, but that also grounds itself in research. A book light enough to read in a lawn chair, yet you feel like you actually learned something important and useful.
Is Lewicki et al’s Essentials of Negotiation my holy grail of a negotiation text? Well, no, not for me as a public policy facilitator and mediator, but it still has a great deal to offer and would be an excellent addition to any collaborative practitioner’s bookshelf. In terms of readability, its chapters are organized with enough bold headings, diagrams, and cartoons to satisfy a skimmer, and the supporting text is also interesting if sometimes a little prolonged. It is well backed by research and uses illustrative hypotheticals and a few real-world stories. A slight quibble: the stories would be more engaging if they were presented from the authors’ point of view.
In terms of content, Essentials of Negotiation absolutely offers an effective treatment of both integrative and distributive negotiation, with the section on distributive negotiation the stronger of the two. The discussion of distributive bargaining techniques and strategies (such as anchoring expectations with an opening bid, making concessions, and hardball tactics like intimidation, misdirection, and issuing ultimatums) is impressively supported by research that sheds light on how such tactics are typically viewed. For example, Lewicki et al cite that across cultures, negotiators expect a pattern of reciprocal concession-making and feel uncomfortable when this does not occur. Thus a negotiator who immediately makes a straight-forward and honest declaration of his or her needs (as one might do in an integrative negotiation) would throw off the pattern of concession-making in a distributive bargaining situation where the other party would expect to see movement toward a middle ground.
The chapters on bargaining techniques are supplemented by an informative chapter on sources of power (leverage) in negotiation that includes coaching on how messages are most effectively presented. The discussion of power is useful for understanding how parties might seek to better their BATNA (Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement), and the pages on effective presentation give a good analysis of the factors that make some stakeholders at a table more or less likely to be heard and respected, regardless of their objective “power”.
Additionally, the authors include a thought-provoking chapter on ethics in negotiation. They steer clear of advocating for what they see as ethical behavior, and instead discuss the techniques that are likely to be viewed as ethically questionable, and the pros, cons, and risks of using such techniques.
Another noteworthy chapter is the one on “global negotiation” which provides the best short treatment I’ve seen yet of the complex subject of international negotiation. This chapter acknowledges the complexities and inherent challenges of talking about intercultural negotiation; yet it still manages to summarize the issues and potential adaptations to your negotiation strategy in a way that is comprehensive, sensitive (but not overly so), and actually could be put into practice.
In my opinion, these four chapters on distributive bargaining, negotiation leverage, ethics, and global negotiation are the most useful parts of the book.
The discussion of integrative negotiation covers the essential points, though it is less nuanced than might be desired by a student of collaboration. For example, it offers little in the way of examples of creative win-win solutions, guidance on how to create a group committed to consensus-building, or practical advice that addresses the obstacles to getting good information and ideas in the room. It does, however, focus on characteristics of successful integrative negotiators and techniques for generating, evaluating, and selecting alternatives. It gives a concise overview of techniques such as expanding the pie, agreeing upon criteria, and logrolling, though this section at times suggests tactics that might be considered inappropriate in a public policy negotiation, such as using “non-specific compensation” to pay a party for a concession on the negotiation at hand by giving them something of value that is unrelated to the negotiation. To be fair, the authors do not pretend nor attempt to address the public policy context, coming instead from a business / labor negotiation point of view. This is not an intrinsic weakness of the book, but makes it less useful for my purposes as a public policy facilitator and mediator.
Would I recommend this book to one of my colleagues or students as the one book to read, if you were to read only one text on negotiation? Probably not, especially since the book was not written for a public policy audience. But if you are already well grounded in interest-based negotiation and you want to expand your knowledge of distributive bargaining tactics, and see the research about how these techniques are typically used and responded to—or if you want a quick education on ways to adapt in a cross-cultural negotiation—grab Essentials of Negotiation and head for your lawn chair.
Laura Kaplan is a mediator and facilitator with the Center for Collaborative Policy. In addittion to teaching, training, and writing about collaborative policy, she enjoys working with agency and community leaders to collaborate in a complex and changing policy world.