Internal and External Negotiating …. The Pie Contradiction.
When the discussion on this type of topic comes up, it is important to understand several key points. First is the fact that negotiations of this nature are done by one group (or institution) to another group. Now, knowing this it is also safe to assume that groups of people are not a collective of one mind and one thought, and thus the group will not act as one.
Inside these groups, many different and sometimes conflicting ideas and interests are bound to hinder a straightforward negotiation. These internal problems creeping into the wood work before the other party has even made in to the table will ultimately create new layers in the bargaining process. This is not to say all internal negotiations are bad. In my opinion if a group will argue between them to smooth out all the potential internal interests and concerns; then it can also be sure that as a group the entire entity was come to the bargaining table with the knowledge that all of its main views have already been addressed. Then as a result the bargainer knows what as a group they would accept and decline.
As it was briefly covered in the article the internal bickering within one group does have its downfalls which in the long run hinder the group more then promote it. If certain people within the group have personal agendas such as personal wealth or influence in mind, these views of the few that can go against the optimum deal for the entire group. Then as these people fight to have their views and solutions pushed forward the group may lose more in the long run. (Albeit the few people in the group may come out even stronger.)
I believe the key to getting beyond the internal negotiations and out onto the bargaining table with the other party is to as a group not bicker over 1 or 2 minor things, but to look at these deals “one pie” which may have many different ingredients within it. The pie is only ready for the oven (ei. bargaining table) by the group when they have all added their own ingredients, and come to a resolution on these ingredients and the level of each. Once this is done, then it is time for external negotiations. I will use the cooking of a pie as a simile for the bargaining process to outline my views. In this way I hope to outline the reasons as they are presented in the article in my own way as I understand and agree with them.
As it was rationalized in the article, external negotiations must be completely different process. Just as one doesn’t add more ingredients to a pie after it’s put in the oven, internal bickering within a group of what should have or shouldn’t have gone into the pie has no place in the negotiations with the other party. Sure it is possible to change the ovens cooking time and even add new ideas to the pie before entering the oven, if that is what is needed to form an agreement. But as stated before, the pie represents the interests (hopefully the best interests.) of the group, and thus external negotiations should be keep out of the directions to make it.
That being said, external negotiations will usually have conflicts within them due the large chance that the two party’s interests are usually in conflict. One groups pie will bake in 5 minutes while the other’s needs 10 minutes due to the ingredients in the pies, and thus the oven temperature will need to be addressed. This is when each group must appoint a “chef.” These people should know all the ingredients within each other pies as well as why they were put in the pies in the first place. They need to be an expert in how to shape the oven so that both groups pie with be baked to their mutual satisfaction, but yet work together in hopes the “BATNA” has be reached. To do this the chefs (negotiators) must work together, they a partisans, try to find out how using the ingredients of each group will be baked into the pies without wreaking the pies or causing one of them to be burnt.
One other major importance is the chefs will have to understand that some ingredients of the pies may have to be rearranged or taken out to reach an agreement. The chefs will need to share in this process, but as it is likely to occur, each pie may have “secret” ingredients or amounts within them that either chef may not want to revel. When this happens it can cause serious problems as to what the optimum temperature is going to be, so disclosing the ingredient may come around, but the amount of the ingredient may be left out and thus making it possible to reach a solution. (Or vice-versa) If these problems come to a head, it needs to be up to the chefs to individually address their respective groups responsible for the insertion of the ingredients and advise them the needs for altercations. It is hopeful each group has appointed a chef with lots of “cooking” experience in getting the pies fit for human consumption, and to each of the group’s tastes.
Agents – Hidden Agenda or Strategic Tool?
As I read over this article, several points were made in both directions leaning towards the use of agents and also why the use of agents can also hamper ones negotiation. I will overview what I thought were the key points in both views and then expand them with my views on each.
As outlined in the article, the obvious effect of agents is the complication that the agents cause in the transactions. The principals are not personally interacting with the party they are trying to bargain with. This may in turn limit the principal’s input and knowledge as well limit the agent’s usefulness if they do not properly understand the principal’s views and limits. A break down in communication, representation and coordination are all increased with the use of agents, and can multiple as the number of people representing the principal increases. This came be especially the case when dealing in a negotiation in which a lot of bargaining goes on and the different principals mediating between agents becomes very complex such as in a lease or business takeover. It could become over complex in the technicalities of the deal and loose sight of the real goals the principals are after.
There are other strong points of view made in the article which caution the use of agents, foremost being agents may have alternative motives. When I read the article I came to agree that these are plausible arguments which one must take into account. First, if agent may have alternative motives on top of the ones you have hired him/her to work towards, the two motives may in fact conflict. The agent depending on the level of conflict may be able to negotiate around them, or settle on something less then perfect for the principal so that the agent can reap future rewards. The example used in the article is that of a lawyer who is paid by the hour. The longer he works the more he is paid, so even though he could of reached an agreement in 5 hours of negotiating, he takes 9 and the principle fits the bill in the end.
That being said, the other hand shows many useful reasons for incorporating an agent into ones negotiation tactics. The first and in my opinion the foremost reason is an agents expertise in the area the principal may be negotiating in. The article outlines 3 different ‘stripes’ of expertise: Substantive knowledge, Process expertise, and Special influence. All 3 have excellent points and depending on the situation the principal is in many help the principal immensely. Thus in my view when the situation calls for the use of an agent it is mostly if not always wise to consider using one. If I for one were arrested for Tax Fraud, I would want a tax lawyer to help me out. Likewise if I’m pulling for a seat on city council and I had a friend on it already, then I would be inclined to ask for his help and to pull some strings for me. This brings the point of tactical flexibility. In it, agents can play key roles between the principal and the other party, either by playing the agent in a role of ambassador with no real power and thus collaborating against another party. The article quotes many phrases for example such as the “stalking horse” or “good cop/ bad cop ploys.” All these are good suggests for using agents, but only when the ideas call for it and could be used effectively. There would be no real point in using a tactical flex plan on another party who has nothing significant or personally important to gain or lose from the deal, it would be implausible and the principal using the agent would most likely lose out in the long run.
There are other strong reasons for leading towards representation, one being the nice and pleasant process of divorce. As outlined in the article, when the opposing principals have problems between them and negotiating a deal between them is hampered by interaction, it would be advisable to seek representatives to handle the talks. The main point would be that human nature can call emotions onto the playing field between two ex-lovers opposed to two formal lawyers a lot more often and for a deal to be signed with any fairness and rationality one would need outside help.
Overall the use of agents boils down to the given situation. In most cases when the principal is either over this head or even looking for an angle over the other party then an agent can be considered useful, but as outlined above, the agent may cause more problems their they’re worth. In my opinion it’s a scale one needs to be weighed on an individual base, and then determined if an agent is needed and then if needed, what type of agent would produce the best results.