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Globalization, Entrepreneurship and Small Business
Negotiations, The Harvard Method
There are several negotiation strategies. One of them is the Harvard Method, which is explained in the
book Getting a Yes from Roger Fisher, William Ury and Bruce Patton.
Another perspective is from Richard Shell, from Wharton School, and it can be read on the book
Bargaining for advantage.
The book Difficult Conversations from Douglas Stone, Bruce Patton and Sheila Heen, has the focus
on human behavior. Negotiations are developed by people, so it is important to understand their
behavior.
This article is focused on the Harvard Method, the MIT Negotiations Course, and the Harvard
Negotiation Project.
The method is framed on four basic aspects: people, interests, options and standards (objective criteria).
The premise is that negotiations should be based on principles, which means that each negotiator
should focus on objective criteria and legitimacy.
Before start a negotiation, some work must be done. Analyze yours and other parties interests. Align
both interests, develop options for mutual gains. Be prepared to avoid bargain positioning and to return
to principles, and objective criteria.
When evaluating options, observe the quality of information, do not overestimate choices, have a broad
knowledge of the context and market, and avoid emotional or subjective evaluations.
Now, returning to people, interests, options and standards (objective criteria), Let us analyze each one.
People:
Separate people from problems. Be aware that the valuable incentives may diverge from one party to
another. What is fair allows different interpretations. Develop mutual understanding, trust and respect,
and sustain the negotiation within the reason field. Avoid emotions.
Avoid fixed positioning. If some divergence comes up, try to revise opinions, share information, and
clarify some points by understanding the other party, making questions or asking for help. Sustain the
focus on objective criteria and principles.
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Experienced negotiators are prepared for people issues, analyze emotional traps, have strategies to deal
with emotions, have active listening and empathic actions.
Interests:
Interests are what we want to achieve. Positioning is what we decided according to the interests. For
each interest we have different positioning.
We negotiate to attend interests, and negotiation is the use of power, time and information, though,
they should be optimized.
To accomplish it, we need to be accurate on the negotiable issues, must recognize the interests of the
other party and demonstrate it, maintain the process strictly on objective criteria, standards and
principles. However, we should be affable, polite, with a constructive spirit and a facilitator.
In the case of impediments to develop further the negotiation, try to identify the reasons, suggest
alternatives by asking why not, discuss other options with a if we, and try to involve the other
party with some question like: why should we do that way?.
Options:
Before start the negotiation, some options (alternatives) should be already planned. All involved must
be attended on their interests, or, at least, close to. The objective is to have a balanced negotiation and,
at the end, have all parties satisfied, without hard feelings or a feeling of frustration.
What makes harder the search of options, with mutual gain, is the vision of a unique answer to the
problem, or a premature judgment, or to keep the focus on the interests of only one party, or still
believe in zero-sum games, when someone wins and someone loses.
The unique solution tends the negotiation to the impasse, because the absence of options. With a
premature judgment, alternatives are eliminated without the correct evaluation. Observing only one
party interest will provoke difficulties and delays. The zero sum-games perspective diverges from the
vision of mutual benefits.
Standards (Objective Criteria):
The definition of objective criteria is fundamental to be able to use the Harvard Method, because the
method is based on principles, clear values and impartiality.
A common feeling is that, what is on the table, it is not fair. So, all issues must be clear and dont have
any doubts. The best is to have transparency, impartiality and that the standards (objective criteria) are
accepted by all, that they are easily understood and applicable.
When defining them, must have in mind the balance of mutual interests and impartiality, be open to
different perspectives, and not give up under pressure, when the matter is about principles and
objective criteria.
If the objective criteria are clear and impartial, the negotiation is facilitated, the stress is reduced, the
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If the objective criteria are clear and impartial, the negotiation is facilitated, the stress is reduced, the
relationship is preserved and it will be opened the possibility of new businesses in the future.
Final considerations:
Experienced negotiators know that, when one party leaves the negotiation in disadvantage, the
repercussion of that deal can have a multiplier effect, provoke futures damages to the business, region,
or country in future negotiations.
Experienced negotiators plan to avoid people issues, analyze emotional traps; have strategies to deal
with emotions, have active listening and empathic actions.
None method is perfect or unique to accomplish all necessities or varieties of negotiations, and, above
all, when we deal with human beings.
Because of that, it was mentioned, at the beginning, other possibilities and books, and tools to improve
negotiations skills. It is also important to know a little more about the human behavior, understand
emotions, empathy, synergy, and subjectivity and conflict resolutions.
There are other aspects to study, like the BATNA, Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement, to know
the gap between the best and the worst agreement, to know when to leave, pause or stop a negotiation,
to ask to change the negotiator, if possible, to understand the possibility of veiled interests, to
understand the possible existence of an hidden power or stakeholder, and so on.
Discussion
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