Missed Opportunity for Negotiation on NHS Reforms

The Bill to reform the National Health Service has finally received Royal Assent, but the debate about the National Health reforms is a good example of not choosing the right negotiating behaviour for the type of negotiation at hand. Every negotiation calls for different behaviours, depending on the subject matter, the stage the negotiation has reached and the personalities on the other side.

In the case of the National Health reforms, the Government has been negotiating with both health care professionals and with the public at large. The Government has been deploying arguments based on reason – about the need to use resources more efficiently and take medical decisions away from bureaucrats in hospitals and back towards medics. The Reforms have proposed to abolish NHS Primary Care Trusts and Strategic Health Authorities and transfer their £60-£80 billion of commissioning of health care funds to “clinical commissioning groups” principally run by GP’s, as well as the establishment of “Monitor” as an economic/competition regulator. Primary Care trusts would be amalgamated into “foundation trusts” and NHS hospitals would be allowed to earn much more of their income from private patients – up to 49%.

Lack of Emotional Argument

However the NHS is an emotional subject. It is an emotional subject for GP’s and Health care professionals such as Nurses, most of whom enter the profession on a vocational basis. It is also an emotional subject for the public at large, with the NHS forming an iconic part of Britain’s social welfare heritage. The Conservatives are not trusted with this social welfare agenda precisely because (maybe unfairly) they are perceived historically as addressing it in pounds and pence rather than as an emotionally-based priority. The Government also got off to a […]

By |April 20th, 2012|Blog|Comments Off on Missed Opportunity for Negotiation on NHS Reforms

Finding the key to open a Deadlocked Deal

Deadlock in deal making can arise for a number of different reasons.

However, one reason which is particularly common is that the parties get stuck having a positional negotiation based solely on what they want- this price, that delivery date, that number of units, etc…

Positional negotiations are bad news as they don’t give the parties any flexibility. If I want to buy something for £50 and you want me to pay £1,000, then there is no obvious way of resolving the disagreement without one of us disappointing the other which is very frustrating for everybody. In this situation it’s quite common for the negotiation to be marked by bad feeling, as if you are attacking my position it can feel as though you are attacking me personally.

One way to avoid this kind of positional deadlock is to focus on “why” people need the things they say that they want:

If you want a high price off me there can be lots of different reasons why you need that. For example maybe getting that high price may make you feel that you have achieved something special;

or maybe it will make you feel reassured so that you can trust me;
or maybe it will make you feel respected;
perhaps it will make you feel that you and I belong in the same club;
or maybe you are just desperate and you need that high price in order to avoid going bust.

If I am able to work out why you “need” that high price than we can find another way of structuring the deal which meets that need but may not be about price. Suddenly we have far more options.

For example if you have a need for reassurance I might be able […]

By |August 16th, 2013|Blog|Comments Off on Finding the key to open a Deadlocked Deal

Lessons to be learned from Cyprus Bailout Deal…

There has been a big negative reaction to the Cyprus bailout deal – but why? Well, there are a number of big problems here from a negotiating perspective;

1) There was no warning before the EU attempted to foist a bank raid on the citizens of Cyprus. If you are going to push someone around in a negotiation then it’s important to give a signal first. If you just spring it on them as a surprise then you create a lot of resentment, as the EU has discovered, because the discomfort is compounded by the fact that it was unexpected.

2) People in a negotiation are always more concerned with potential losses of things they already have, than opportunities to gain more. So, take away their deposits and you can expect howls of protest.

3) If you show you can’t be trusted people will be very wary of dealing with you. This scenario shows that the EU will contemplate forcing ordinary citizens to take the rap for the failings of their Banks. At a time when the EU most needs to build reassurance in its institutions and its currency, It has instead showed that it cannot be trusted with your money.

Investors and ordinary citizens in other countries will take note…

By |March 26th, 2013|Blog|2 Comments

The sweet smell of snake-oil

Great to watch the salesmen and women at work at the moment on a pitch at the end of Oxford Street, just by Tottenham Court Road tube. They are selling bottles of perfume and a willing crowd is always gathered round them (no doubt containing some of their own stooges).

The salesmen all wear headsets with mikes so you can hear them from some distance away. They use incentives and pressures brilliantly – the best kind of behaviour to use in the bargaining phase of any negotiation. Volume discounts are used to play to people’s natural sense of acquisitiveness. “I’m not offering you 2 for 1 ladies and gentlemen, I’m offering you 5 for 3”. And the threat that the offer will be taken away is ever-present, putting fear in the deal for the punter. “Now this offer only applies for the next 5 minutes ladies and gents, after that, I’ll have to withdraw it or I’ll put myself out of business”.

People can’t wait to hand their cash over. Of course it’s all very win/lose in terms of attitude, but you have to respect their effectiveness at getting customers to open their wallets. In these recessionary times, when it’s not easy to earn a pound note, they are an example to us all….

By |October 22nd, 2010|Blog|Comments Off on The sweet smell of snake-oil

Cancun failure will generate Climate of fear

This is the last day of the Climate talks in Cancun and it doesn’t look as if a deal is likely to get done. The complexity of striking a deal among so many participants with differing points of view is defeating the process and a simpler approach will need to be adopted if progress is to be made in future.

This may be the last chance to put a new climate change deal in place before the Kyoto Climate agreement expires at the end of 2012. But, when that deal was structured in 1997, it was easier to arrive at consensus.

Then, the industrialised countries clearly accounted for the bulk of the world’s CO2 pollution. The US accounted for 25% on its own, and the OECD countries of Europe accounted for a further 20%. The industrialised world as a whole was responsible for three quarters of emissions. So, it was not difficult to sign up to an agreement that everybody should act in accordance with their “common differentiated responsibilities”. This meant that the Industrialised countries agreed to take on legally binding commitments to reduce their emission of greenhouse gasses, and the developing countries agreed that although this was an important topic, they would not have to make any commitments at all.

The story of the failure at the Copenhagen summit last year and the Cancun summit so far, is the story of the developing countries wanting this agreement to be renewed, and the industrialised countries saying that the world has changed, and the developing countries now have to sign up to pledges of their own. The reason for this hardening of attitude amongst the industrialised countries is that now the developing countries are contributing far more to […]

By |December 10th, 2010|Blog|Comments Off on Cancun failure will generate Climate of fear

Libya – Is Negotiation the Answer?

Negotiation is the only answer ultimately, unless the Coalition not only wants to remove Gaddafi but also capture him and put him on trial. What the coalition forces need to decide is “what constitutes a win” in this negotiation. If it’s just getting Gaddafi to step down then a negotiated solution might achieve that. But, if you negotiate then you normally have to give something back in return. So if a negotiated deal is struck then it may be that part of the price is that Gaddafi and his henchmen escape justice and are given safe passage.

If the “win” is not only getting rid of Gaddafi but bringing him to account for his murderous regime, then even greater military action will be required. However, even if we send in an army as well as an air force there is no guarantee of a successful outcome, as our experience in Iraq shows. So, without negotiation the “win” will be much harder to achieve.

Response to original article here (

By |April 13th, 2011|Blog|Comments Off on Libya – Is Negotiation the Answer?

Israel/Palestine – Obama Running before the Walk

So, President Obama has endorsed the Palestinians’ demand for their future state to be based on the borders that existed before the 1967 Middle East war. Will this move us any closer to a negotiated agreement? Unfortunately, I fear not.

As I’ve said before, all efforts regarding Israel and Palestine should be aimed at getting both parties in a state of mind where they are willing to do a deal. Until that point, debates about whether to do a deal based on pre-1967 borders or any other proposed compromise are irrelevant. I don’t know why the US can’t see this, and insist on orchestrating processes and proposals which won’t get anywhere. Israeli’s and Palestinians have to get to a point where they feel that peace is better than war.

So, all efforts should go in to demonstrating that the benefits of peace for them and their children outweigh the benefits of being at war. Those benefits include stability, less violence, economic prosperity, educational progress and acclaim for sorting out a historic deal. What would stop the US funding economic co-operation between Israeli’s and Palestinians for example? As the history of the EU shows, peace can more easily be based on the prospect of economic progress than territorial deals.

In 1918 the Versailles treaty tried to impose territorial and other restrictions on Germany and within 20 years the world was at war again. In 1948 the first step in setting up the EU was a trade agreement – a European coal and steel deal. The EU has prospered based on its trade ever since and the desire to preserve that benefit has encouraged the Western European nations to maintain peace among themselves for nearly […]

By |May 26th, 2011|Blog|Comments Off on Israel/Palestine – Obama Running before the Walk

Dictating ‘States’: The role of Anxiety in Negotiation

It is true that if you are feeling anxious about a negotiation you are unlikely to achieve your best outcome. Our behaviours are the product of our internal “state” of mind. This state of mind is usually the result of pre-programmed filters which determine how we experience the world. We know for example that if a fire is coming towards us then that represents danger and we should run away. If someone extends their hand by way of greeting we know we should reciprocate in order to shake hands.

These filters can be very helpful, as in the above examples, but they are also capable of giving us a distorted vision of reality which is not helpful at all. So, if we are running a programme which tells us that “negotiation is always difficult and I always do badly. I want it to be over as soon as possible”, then that anxious state will create problems for us. Our bidding will be tentative, our manner uncertain, we may stammer and sweat. The other side will pick up this “anxious” state (consciously or otherwise) and start to push us around. It’s all downhill from there.

If there is a “Nervous Nellie”, as the third article here puts it (knowledge@wharton) in the team then that can affect the attitude of everybody in the team. It depends who has the strongest state. If the Nervous Nellie has the strongest state then they will influence everyone around them. So it’s important to pair such people with those who have a stronger, more assured state of mind…

The good thing is that we can choose to change our state. This is because the brain doesn’t recognise the difference between a “real” programme […]

By |June 24th, 2011|Blog|2 Comments

Collection Societies Conference highlights the Negative impact of a Hostile Climate

The account of the Music 4.5 Conference here ( on Collection Societies reveals just how hostile the climate has become between users, Collection Societies, and their members.

In any negotiation climate-setting is a crucial stage. It determines the atmosphere in which the negotiation takes place, and that atmosphere has a great bearing on the parties’ behaviours and the outcome.

There are normally 4 choices. You can have a warm climate which very open and friendly, a cool climate which is very objective and process driven, a hostile climate which is very confrontational or a wacky climate which is very fun and off the wall. Different climates suit different deals, but as between a Collection Society and its own members one would hope that the climate would be a warm and open one – they are after all on the same side, aren’t they? In fact, depending on the Society, the atmosphere often seems to be mistrustful on both sides, with a climate that veers between cool and hostile. That is why members are sometimes tempted to withdraw rights from Societies and Societies use practices such as NDA’s to ensure that only they have a clear picture of what is going on.

Meanwhile users reap the rewards of this climate schism between Societies and their members, with the result that negotiations mirror the same degree of hostility or coolness. It’s small wonder that so many users in the audience kept quiet when this issue was being discussed at Music 4.5.

An unhelpful climate creates negative thinking on all sides, and means that parties are intent on protecting their own positions rather than (for example) growing the legitimate market to the benefit of all participants in the value chain.

When climate […]

By |July 28th, 2011|Blog|Comments Off on Collection Societies Conference highlights the Negative impact of a Hostile Climate

Motorola Patents seen as big Negotiating Currency for Google

The Google bid for Motorola is indeed puzzling in some respects.

Why would Google want to compromise the independence of its Android system in this way? Now it’s in handset competition with the likes of Samsung and who have previously made big commitments to Android. Why would it want to be in the handset business at all given that it is low margin and very tough?

The only answer can lie in the 17,000 patents Motorola possesses. These are big negotiating currency in the competition between major hardware companies. Apple recently had to pay millions of dollars to Nokia and ongoing licence royalties in order to settle outstanding patent disputes. HTC is anticipating a similar outcome having acquired S3 – a company which has just won a similar preliminary ITC judgement against Apple in relation to patent infringement. Ericsson and Sony recently paid an eye watering US$4.5 billion for some 6,000 Nortel patents on the same basis.

Perhaps Google sees Motorola’s patents in purely negotiating terms, as a spoiler for competition and an important insurance policy for itself. After all, having “rules and regulations” on your side is an important piece of bargaining power in any negotiation…

By |August 21st, 2011|Blog|Comments Off on Motorola Patents seen as big Negotiating Currency for Google