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How To Avoid Screwing Up Negotiations Like EU & UK

Posted: Friday, 4 January 2019 @ 13:43

As the Brexit negotiations continue, both parties are to a greater extent continue to misread what the other party is thinking and in fact display classic signs of negotiation failure namely they have their heads in the sand and avoid facts.

On the EU side according to Ambrose Evans Pritchard in the Telegraph(premium)  “The established narrative in EU capitals and the European press is that Britain has gone off the rails and is committing egregious self-harm. ….They laughed at ‘Brexit means Brexit’. Now they are repeating the error with ‘better no deal than a bad deal.’ A leaked memo from the European Commission suggests that the two key officials, Michel Barnier and Jean-Claude Juncker, have been shocked by British resistance.They are belatedly waking up to the risk that the UK will walk out if pushed too crudely on the €100 billion divorce bill, and if it is made to sign before talks start on the future relationship.”

On the UK side, the country is totally unprepared for the economic impact of leaving the single market.

Evans – Pritchard concludes “What is clear is that the EU and the UK are now living in a parallel universe. This has the makings of a suspense thriller.”

Suspense thriller or not, both parties could do worse than read Jim Collins’s classic work Good To Great and apply the principle - Confront the brutal facts.

We live in an age of knowledge and information; however, it is of little use if we do not do believe what we know to be true. High quality leaders get the information; accept the facts; and, act.   Information comes to the leaders of organisations in a variety of ways.

Surveys and other research techniques can provide data, but often the most critical and most important information comes from people within the organisation, if there exists a climate where information can flow freely.

During the Second World War, Winston Churchill established a department that was entirely outside of the normal chain of command; he called it the Statistical Office and the primary responsibility of the office was to provide him with information that was up-to-date and unfiltered.

Churchill created a climate of truth from which he could confront the brutal facts.

While it is unlikely that Prime Minister May/EU Commissioner Junker will create a “Statistical Office”, there are other ways they could create a climate of truth including:

• using questions, such as why, to gain understanding

• encouraging dialogue and debate where people are engaged in a search for the best answers

• discussing mistakes openly, without blame, to seek understanding and learning

• building mechanisms that force leaders and negotiators to pay attention to information.

Sadly even though there is so much at stake it is very unlikely that both negotiation parties will do this primarily as they are too prejudiced and too complacent.