The process of preparing for negotiations and its significance can be summed up in the following sentence: ‘51 per cent of the negotiation process should happen before the bargaining begins’. What contributes to this 51 per cent? The basic principle for every negotiator is System Thinking and Acting (STA). We will describe this here.

The pre-negotiation jigsaw puzzle

There are two key tools that negotiators use to analyse the pre-negotiation situation (Negotiation Matrix & Analysis Table of Possible Concessions) and one tool that serves as a checklist for the preparation process (Negotiations Preparation Plan Checklist).

The philosophy of system thinking and acting is that acting on the basis of systematics, statistics and planning, including planning for the best possible reactions to foreseen scenarios, is significantly more efficient than acting solely according to one’s intuition (intuitive action resulting from experience). STA does not negate intuitive actions – quite the contrary, it treats them as a natural, important element of a decision process.

Use the potential of the entire company and its surroundings

System thinking and acting is based on the following assumption: STA is a process which allows you to use the potential of the entire company and its external potential (outsourcing) and is based on one fundamental principle: preparing your reactions in advance, in an environment devoid of stress (absence of time limits and pressure resulting from the need to react in real time). The quality of reactions resulting from such a process is relatively higher than a process with no reaction system. The reason is that STA allows for generic (not only creative) actions, which statistically give much better results. At the same time, creative actions are still an option.

Professional negotiators will foresee the variants of the negotiation situation – on the level of the entire strategy (the direction the talks are heading), on the tactical level (given that direction, the parties might either act to reinforce or weaken it, or introduce the required issues to the given strategy), and on a situational level (actions which enable the desired development of a given situation).

In order to create possible scenarios, it is necessary to make an analysis of the pre-negotiation situation and to define all the possible situations which may occur (or which we want to occur) during the bargaining.

How to perform such analysis? Below are two specific tools for negotiation analysis (time matrix and possible concessions analysis chart) and a systemizing tool supporting such analysis (a preparation template for building the elements of the negotiation plan).

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