Harvard Concept

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Harvard Concept (Fisher and Urgy)

"Getting to Yes" (also called the Harvard concept) describes a method called principled negotiation to reach an agreement whose success is judged by three criteria: 1. It should produce a wise agreement if agreement is possible. 2. It should be efficient.

3. It should improve or at least not damage the relationship between the parties. The authors argue that their method can be used in virtually any negotiation. Issues are decided upon by their merits and the goal is a win-win situation for both sides. Below is a summary of some of the key concepts from the book. The four steps of a principled negotiation are: 1. Separate the people from the problem

2. Focus on interests, not positions
3. Invent options for mutual gain
4. Insist on using objective criteria
In principled negotiations, negotiators are encouraged to take the view that all the participants are problem solvers rather than adversaries. The authors recommend that the goal should be to reach an outcome "efficiently and amicably." The steps can be described in more detail as follows.

Step 1: Separate the people from the problem

All negotiations involve people and people are not perfect. We have emotions, our own interests and goals and we tend to see the world from our point of view. We also are not always the best communicators; many of us are not good listeners. Getting to YES outlines a number of tools for dealing with the problems of perception, emotion and communication. However, the authors stress that separating people from problems is the best option. The keys to prevention are: "building a working relationship" and "facing the problem, not the people." Think of the people you negotiate with on a regular basis. Generally, the better we know someone, the easier it is to face a negotiation together. We tend to view people we don't know with more suspicion: just what is "Bob" up to? Take time to get to know the other party before the negotiation begins.

Think of the negotiation as a means to solving a problem and the people on the other side as partners helping to find a solution. Ideally both parties will come out of a negotiation feeling they have a fair agreement from which both sides can benefit. If the negotiation feels like a situation of “you versus them”, the authors suggest a couple of options: 1. Raise the issue with [the other side] explicitly…'Let's look together at the problem of how to satisfy our collective interests'. 2. Sit on the same side of the table….Try to structure the negotiation as a side-by-side activity in which the two of you – with your different interests and perceptions, and your emotional involvement – jointly face a common task.

Step 2: Focus on Interests, Not Positions

The authors use a simple example to explain the difference between interests and positions: "Two men [are] quarrelling in a library. One wants the window open and the other wants it closed. …. Enter the librarian. She asks one why he wants the window open: 'To get some fresh air [his interest]'. She asks the other why he wants it closed: 'To avoid a draft' [his interest]. After thinking a moment, she opens wide a window in the next room, bringing in fresh air without a draft." The interests of the two men are the desire for fresh air and the desire to avoid a draft. The men's positions are to have the window opened or closed. The authors say we need to focus, not on whether the window in their room is opened or closed, but on how we can meet both the need for fresh air and the need to avoid a draft. More often than not, by focusing on interests, a creative solution can be found. In this little example, each man has one interest but in most negotiations, each party will have many interests and these interests will likely be different than yours. It's important to communicate your interests to the other party. Don't assume they have the same interests as you or that they know what...
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