Saturday, 27 February 2010

The Negotiation Process In Action

This week we put together what we had learned about BATNA and conflict negotiation strategies and studied the process of negotiation. We began with the 5 step negotiation process (Robbins, 2005):

1. Preparation and Planning
2. Definition of ground rules
3. Clarification and justification
4. Bargaining and problem solving
5. Closure and implementation

Following this we were split into groups of six which were further divided into teams of three. One team took on the role of an advertising agency and the other took on the role of an accounting firm. The aim of the exercise was to negotiate a win-win solution to link the two in a business partnership for the long term. Unfortunately, in the time we were allocated, our team only reached step 4 - bargaining and problem solving.
We were having some issues in settling on a mutually acceptable price (both teams had been briefed that they were not permitted to pay/accept more/less than a fixed amount - these amounts were too far apart). Although we expanded the pie, neither teams were willing to break the rules, even though we were also briefed that we were aiming to establish a long-term relationship.

This case study led me to realise that there is no simple method for settling a negotiation, especially as each situation is different. The theory provides a good structure for the process, and offers explanations for certain outcomes, but the skills needed to settle can't be learned by simply studying conflict. They must be practised and rehearsed.

After this lecture, my realisation was confirmed when I began reading 'Negotiating A Job Offer' (Thompson, 2005, pg 354) and found the following advice: "When negotiating a should be comfortable with your own bargaining style. You should be well versed in building trust and rapport, know the ins and outs of power and how to handle creativity".

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Local Councillors Stuck In The Dark Ages

West Dorset District council recently uploaded a video on You Tube to communicate its plans for new offices in Dorchester, Dorset. In the six minute video, chief executive David Clarke explains that the current offices are not fit for purpose and shows viewers what the new buildings will look like.

Local websites such as and happily embedded the clip into their websites and the video received over 200 hits in just three days. That's pretty impressive for the small historic county town of Dorchester.

What happened next literally astounds me. Instead of embracing this new form of free, two-way, accessible communication, local councillors were apparently outraged that they had not been consulted about using You Tube (ironically this was probably because were concerned about the risk to their reputations). Then instead of resolving the issue internally, these councillors went straight to a popular local newspaper and voiced their concerns to the entire local area!

In the Dorset Echo article entitled 'Anger over West Dorset District Council's Charles Street release on You Tube', Councillor Molly Rennie, said: “Why don’t we listen as a council? Consultation is not about leaflets and it is certainly not about You Tube. How many of you look at YouTube to find out what is happening? It should be about talking directly to the public and listening to what they have to say.”

If this comment isn't enough to get you social media enthusiasts fired up, in the same article Councillor Stella Jones said: “How much did this video cost and why do we have to go to YouTube to see it?”. Hang on - why do we have to go to You Tube?? Forgive me if I'm wrong but You Tube isn't a Mount Everest climb, it's a free website that everyone in Dorchester (and the rest of the world) can access from the comfort of their homes.

This is certainly a reality check. I must admit I found it difficult to believe that there are still organisations in the UK with such archaic views. Below is the video that was uploaded onto You Tube:

If you are on team social networking, perhaps a few comments on this You Tube video would set them straight.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Bargaining and Banter...I mean BATNA.

In bargaining situations, your BATNA (your best alternative to a negotiated agreement) includes the alternatives a negotiator has outside the current negotiation e.g. "If I don't buy your car, I can buy my Uncle's car for £2,000" (Thompson, 2005, pg 78). Related to this is your target point and your resistance point. You should aim to discover this information from the other party, but there are rarely situations in which you should disclose yours.

In a class exercise we were instructed to act out the sale of a car in pairs - one the buyer and the other the seller. We were told that the car's market value was £5,000. In my pair, I took on the role of the buyer. In order to identify my BATNA I created my reasons for buying the car. I imagined that I was a car dealer buying the car for resale, so my best alternative to a negotiated agreement would be to find another seller who would offer me a better deal. I set my aspiration point at £3,000 and my resistance point at £4,500. I had to buy it for less than its market value in order to make a profit. Once negotiations had begun, we both began to realise that our settlement rages did not overlap, so neither of us were willing to shift our resistance points. I later found that the seller had decided not to sell the car for less that £4,700. If we had only been using distributive negotiations, it is likely that we would have reached deadlock and no deal would have been made.

However, we then strayed into integrative bargaining, which means that other resources are brought into the equation. I disclosed the fact that it would cost me to clean the car and have it serviced before resale. The seller then agreed to have the car cleaned before handing it over. This shifted my resistance point slightly. I explained to the seller that I would be able to pay for the car and take it off her hands as soon as it was ready. This shifted the seller's reference point slightly. The seller then explained that the car has a new satellite navigation system installed (which I knew to be worth a few hundred pounds) and that I could keep the music system. This shifted my reference point a lot because I would be able to sell the car for well over the market value with these extras. As a result, we finally agreed on £4,650.

My partner and I did what theorists would call 'expanding the pie'. The trigger was when we began to share information with each other: "Negotiations would not go anywhere if negotiatiors did not communicate their interests to the other party...[however]...A negotiator should never ask the other party a question that he or she is not willing to answer truthfully" (Thompson, 2005, pg 80). We shared some of our issues, but not our resistance points. Once we discovered what issues were affecting the bargaining, we began to think of ways we could help each other resolve them: "To capitalise on different strengths of preference, negotiators need to compare and contrast issues and trade them off" (Thompson, 2005, pg 81).

Thursday, 18 February 2010

An Hour with ITN Political Correspondent Chris Ship

Yesterday evening I spent an hour in the company of Chris Ship as he gave a talk to journalism students at Southampton Solent University (a few other PR students and I gatecrashed).

I went along partly because my dissertation is on the subject of political blogging and the socialisation of young people into politics. Unfortunately Chris was there to talk to students about television journalism rather than politics. Although I raised my hand a few times, the journalism students were so keen to get their answers too that he didn't get to me - the girl at the front in the bright pink cardigan - until the very moment supervisor said 'time's up'. I did get a sympathetic nod from him, which is something.

The talk, which covered Chris' tactics in covering stories from Lord Mandelson eating an apple to the war in Afganistan, provided some interesting insights from a PR perspective. Understanding the tactics that television correspondents use to try and coax information out of politicians will prove helpful in the future. E.g. As a PR professional briefing a client about to be interviewed after a crisis.

Chris told us that when he is not filming live, he will often ask the same question over and over again in order to get a more in-depth answer before editing the clip. He said that many politicians are wise to it and will repeat exactly the same answer in exactly the same words however many times and however many ways in which a question is asked. These camera-smart politicians have prepared a message and they stick to it.

We were then shown the following video of ITV News Political editor, Tom Bradby, interviewing the new commons speaker, John Bercow. Bradby was attempting to stir up Bercow about the fact that he is an ex-Conservative MP who gained most of his support from the Labour party. As you can see, Bercow was having none if it:

What I would like to know is who do you think comes off worse in this clip - Tom Bradby or John Bercow?

Monday, 15 February 2010

What is the personality of this blog?

Apparently Typealyzer has the ability to analyse your personality type according to your blog posts. Yes, you read that correctly! According to my blog, this is me:

INTP - The Thinkers

The logical and analytical type. They are especially attuned to difficult creative and intellectual challenges and always look for something more complex to dig into. They are great at finding subtle connections between things and imagine far-reaching implications.
They enjoy working with complex things using a lot of concepts and imaginative models of reality. Since they are not very good at seeing and understanding the needs of other people, they might come across as arrogant, impatient and insensitive to people that need some time to understand what they are talking about.

I would be interested to know how accurate those of you who know me personally think this evaluation is. I know you won't say I'm arrogant, I'm far too brilliant. Now hurry up and comment, that is if you are intelligent enough to think of anything worthwhile to say...I'm joking of course! ;-)

This diagram apparently shows my brain activity when I am writing:

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Working towards collaboration

Today in our Persuasive Communications class we were asked to fill out a questionnaire to determine our personal approaches to conflict. We were not told what the approaches were until we had found our match in order to get a true result. The approaches, by Huczynski and Buchanan (2004), include:

1. Competing/Forcing: Get your own way (my score was 12)
2. Avoiding: Avoid having to deal with conflict (my score was 7)
3. Compromising: Reach an agreement quickly (my score was 9)
4. Accomodating: Don't upset the other person(my score was 10)
5. Collaborating: Solve the problem together (my score was 13)

I am satisfied with my scores because whilst I have a spread across the different approaches, my highest score is in the collaborative method which is seen as the ideal. However this questionnaire only determines where you sit naturally, and does not necessarily mean that I have the ability to determine when an alternative approach is required. If this result is true, I am probably more likely to switch to the competing/forcing approach when things go wrong.

The five mentioned approaches are based on two dimensions - how assertive or unassertive each party is in pursuing its own concerns, and how co-operative or uncooperative each party is in satisfying the concerns of the other. The following graph that illustrates this:

There are other elements to conflcit resolution. It is not just about the approach, it also depends on the type of conflict and the methods being used to resolve it. Three types of dispute resolution are:

1. Interest-based: Attempts to help parties find a resolution that satisfies their needs and interest e.g. mediation during a divorce
2. Rights-based: Attempts to determine which party's position is more valid e.g. legal code
3. Power-based: Each party coerces the other into doing what that party wants e.g. strikes by employees
(Conrad and Scott Poole, 2005)

Conflicts may begin with one of these types of resolution and move on to another. For example, the Royal Mail strikes have shifted between all three types of resolution over many years. If only to be a fly on the wall at the TUC meetings between RM bosses and the CWU and note the conflict styles in play!

Thursday, 4 February 2010

The Marshmallow Test

I showed you a video not long ago about an experiment using marshmallows to test deferred gratification in children. E.T. (Expressionable Thought) then sent me a link to the blog 'Mind Ova Matter' where there is a video of the same test being carried out elsewhere. It's so cute I had to share it with you.

The concept is that a child is left in a room with a marshmallow for 20 minutes with the promise that if they don't eat it, they will be brought another marshmallow after that time. You can imagine how that would be tough for a child, although there is plenty of comedy value in watching it.

The Marshmallow Test from Jérôme Magron on Vimeo.

I actually asked my parents whether I would have eaten the marshmallow and they answered no. They said my younger brother would have though! Interestingly we both have similar intelligence yet he is playing in a band and has his own house and I'm two years older, have no money, am studying for a degree and living at home. I'm clearly still waiting for my second marshmallow!!

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Flexibility Holds the Key to Success

Sorry for the delay with this entry - third year priorities and all that! You will be please to know that my dissertation presentation (for which you followers were dumped for, sorry) went very well and I am on track with conducting my primary research. I'll keep you posted! Anyway...

Last week in our Persuasive Comms lecture, we discussed the different perspectives or 'frames of reference' for dealing with conflict:
1. Unitarist: sees organisations as essentially harmonious and any conflict as bad;
2. Pluralist: sees organisations as a collection of groups, each with their own interests;
3. Interactionist: sees conflict as a positive, necessary force for effective performance;
4. Radical: sees conflict as an inevitable outcome of capitalism. (Buchanan and Huczynski, 2004, pg 792)

We were told that most of us will already hold one of these perspectives naturally, and that we will therefore deal with situations according to these views. I'm pretty sure I naturally hold an interactionist view - I agree that there needs to be conflict to achieve successful outcomes but that there is an optimum level which should not be exceeded. I am definitely most comfortable working in this way within a team.

Radical is a bit too erm...radical for me as well as highly unethical. Although I understand how they might be appropriate perspectives in some cases, I couldn't relate to the other two frames of reference very much. Afterall, 'Groupthink' is my worst nightmare! I later discovered that interactionist is the usual management view, which tends to exist in fast moving organisations that need to be open to change in highly competitive industries. Sounds good to me! :-)
I shouldn't get too comfortable though. I also learned that it is important to be flexible in your frames of reference, as there is value in being able to view conflict from different perspectives. That's a given I suppose, because at the core of any successful PR professional is the ability to understand and adopt the viewpoints of others. Our adopted frames of reference on conflict will determine:
1. What we notice in our environments;
2. How we will interpret those noticed events;
3. How we expect others to behave;
4. How we will behave ourselves. (Buchanan and Huczynski, 2004, pg 792)

In organisations where there are different frames of references in action at once, interpretations of events will be very different and this can cause misunderstandings. So if we have a group meeting at uni and there is debate about what plan of action we should take, someone with an interactionist view may come away satisfied that the meeting went well whereas someone with a pluralist view may come away dissatisfied with how much hard work it was to come to an agreed decision. This explains why an understanding of the different approaches is important.