Time is the Enemy

I’m running down a corridor to a meeting with a supplier, a negotiation where I’ve had no time to prepare, but I know I’ll be OK, because I’m a born negotiator.

It has happened to all of us: a lack of details; a lack of big picture, but the capability to somehow get through this; pushing decisions out; regrouping; making space and time to do it right.

We hear stories like this all the time; there’s too much happening at any one time to be able to stand back and prepare enough. Even when we make some space, someone comes along and steals it from us.

There are consequences of this, naturally.

We portray an image to the supplier of being out of control, disconnected from the organization. We can’t have a full grasp of the underlying issues, the market pressures on the supplier, or the conditions surrounding the supplier. With minimal preparation, our ability to understand the requirements of the business and to get alignment is restricted. So how can we understand what we are negotiating for?

We’re not always in control of this, of course. The CEO can call and ask for us to support a negotiation this afternoon. Someone can go sick at a bad stage in the process. A supplier can collapse. Any of these could get us into a negotiation at zero notice. Of course, our stakeholders also don’t understand the details of preparing a negotiation, because we don’t show them.

However, we need to be able to do the best job we can, as often as we can. So, we need to have a clear view of the steps we need to go through to make any particular negotiation a success. The first stage is to work out when we need this completed by. To do this, we need to know what completed means: is it about contract issued, or formal negotiation finished, or first deliveries? Then we need a clear view of the steps and stages to get to that point, and the timescale they will take.

If we need to do data gathering, or supplier conditioning, or prepare a negotiation team, then we need to build appropriate time in to allow for that.

Of course, estimating time for activities is often hard to do, especially when the depth of content needed is not currently known. However, what we are trying to do is to achieve best level of activity and preparation we can for the negotiation in place.

Where we do this well, we are going to have a far greater level of power in the negotiation than we would do otherwise. Some claim that a great negotiator can do without preparation; but how many of us are great, and how much do even the best negotiators miss when they are unprepared?

Our recommendation is that for all serious negotiations, a simple timing plan must be created to be able to build and plan the steps that are needed for success. Share it with your stakeholders and they will start to see that rushing into a meeting unprepared doesn’t cut it, because there is lots to do to get the most out of the negotiation.

Written by Mark Hubbard for Positive Purchasing Ltd
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