Complicated negotiations often involve different meetings, different personnel, different issues and, in the case of the upcoming Brexit negotiations, different countries! The key word in this kind of negotiation is alignment and that involves a number of different factors and considerations. We can learn from the insect world; think bees!
Perhaps first and foremost, there needs to be a central “go-to” point where all the information and meeting notes are collated and stored. It is vital to have a central hive of information that teams preparing for a new round of negotiation can reference. The old phrase, “singing off the same hymn sheet” has a certain resonance in this regard. The workers need a point of reference.
There should also be a central and tight group of individuals who are in charge of the overall guiding principles and objectives. For the upcoming Brexit negotiations, this will be a full-time job. Rarely will the individuals see the light of day, so busy will they be. Any sub-negotiation or meeting has to reference and check their individual meeting objectives with this central person/ group before their meeting and should report back with the results post the meeting. They need not communicate by complicated dancing, but the bee analogy still works.
One guiding principle might well be that no individual/ negotiating team is empowered to strike any binding agreement until such time as the central person or committee has okayed it. “Agreement in principle” should be an oft-used phrase. I know that this is anathema to some commercial negotiators who want to get things done yesterday, but they might just benefit from taking a short adjournment or time-out of their negotiations to consider the up- and down-sides of the deals that they strike. They have plenty of time to regret their decisions; maybe they should use some of that time to think them through first!
When it comes to the actual face-to-face negotiations and assuming that there is more than one person on the team, each team member needs to have a defined role within the team; furthermore, there needs to be team discipline so that they come across as speaking as one. I always think that it is a good idea to have someone to lead the negotiation and someone to ask questions and to clarify things. In complicated negotiations a good summariser is worth their weight in gold. You will often find that the meeting defers to that person for clarity; if that person is on your team, you have an edge.
One thing that Teresa May has got absolutely spot-on is the make-up of her top team for the upcoming Brexit negotiations. It was, I think, important to have committed Brexiteers as the queen bees organising and directing these negotiations. There needs to be absolutely clarity at the top. There can be no loose cannons; there can be no public displays of petulant disagreement. Never has it been more important to have collective responsibility than now. I hope that their lieutenants and workers are equally aligned.
This is not a process for the faint of heart or the unskilled. I hope that all those who will be involved in the Brexit negotiations are well schooled in the art of negotiation. If they are not, they should get themselves trained up – and quickly. It goes without saying that we at Scotwork are always willing to help in that, or any other regard for that matter!