Negotiation Strategies, Negotiating in Life July 17, 2007

Negotiating: Breaking An Impasse

You did everything right, yet you find yourself at an impasse with the other party.

What do you do now??

Too many negotiations break down for the wrong reasons. Impasses are not always caused by world-shattering issues or great matters of economics. Many breakdowns are the result of simple things like personality differences, fear of loss-of-face, troubles within the organizations, a poor working relationship with the boss, or the sheer inability to make a decision.

Any consideration of how to break an impasse must take into account the human factor. It may not be what you do, but how you do it that becomes the critical factor. Here's several moves that may be useful in averting or breaking an impasse:

1. If the impasse involves money – offer to change the shape of the money. A larger deposit, a shorter pay period, or a different payment stream works wonders – even when the total amount of money involved is the same.

2. Change a team member or the team leader.

3. Eliminate some of the uncertainty. This can be done by postponing some difficult parts of the agreement for renegotiation at a later time when you have more information.

4. Change the scope of risk sharing. A willingness to share unknown losses or gains may restore a lagging discussion.

5. Change the time scale of performance. Maybe it’s OK to complete 60% over 4 months rather than 3 months. It might be easier to start slower and still complete the job within the desired timeframe.

6. Assure satisfaction by recommending grievance procedures or guarantees.

7. Move from a competitive mode to a cooperative problem-solving mode. Get engineers involved with engineers, operations people with operations people, and bosses with bosses.

8. Change the type of contract: fixed price, indexed or scaled price, time and materials, percentage of savings, percentage of increased sales, and percentage of profit created.

9. Change the base for calculating percentages: a smaller percentage of a larger base or a larger percentage of a smaller but more predictable base may get things back on track.

10. Create a list of options or alternatives that need to be discussed. Or change the order of discussion.

11. Suggest changes in the specifications or terms.

Impasse breakers work because they re-engage the other party in discussions with his or her organization and team members. These icebreakers help create a climate in which new alternatives can be developed. Surprisingly, sometimes the introduction of new alternatives has the effect of making old propositions look better than ever.

Try to pre-plan a face-saving way to reopen discussions should an impasse occurs. If you set the stage before the impasse sets in, you are in a better position to handle the problem.

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PROCUREMENT at AMERICAN EXPRESS

THIS PROGRAM HAS GREATLY INCREASED MY CONFIDENCE AND ABILITY TO NEGOTIATE FOR MYSELF AS WELL AS MY COMPANY.

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CONTRACTS MANAGER at HEWLETT-PACKARD
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