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Published: Jan 18 , 2017
Author: Stephen White

"That is why I have said before — and will continue to say — that every stray word and every hyped-up media report is going to make it harder for us to get the right deal for Britain." Theresa May has long repeated the mantra that she is not going to reveal the details of Britain’s Brexit negotiating tactics, because that would be poor negotiating practice. Yet in her speech on Tuesday she did just that. Here are some verbatim extracts – what deductions could you make from the highlighted words if you were a European bureaucrat charged with analysing Britain’s negotiating position...

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Published: Jan 05 , 2017
Author: Stephen White

Like the conference speaker who has the misfortune to be given the slot immediately after a brilliant raconteur, 2017 is unlikely to be a ‘wow’ year, following on as it does from a humdinger 2016. Unlikely, but not impossible, and it certainly got off to a great start with the unexpected resignation of the UK’s Permanent Representative to the EU Sir Ivan Rogers, an event which would probably have been called PRexit if it wasn’t so easy to mishear. Not only did he surprise everyone with his impeccable timing - the first Brexit bombshell of the year – but in his swan song note to colleagues he laid into the Government for its appalling state of Brexit preparation...

Published: Nov 24 , 2016
Author: Alan Smith

Two questions: When negotiating, do you want the other side to act reasonably? And, Is it a good strategy to be reasonable when negotiating? Most people will say yes to the first question. It would be crazy not to. The second however creates a bit more of a dilemma. We are sometimes tempted to go high or low, pad and exaggerate what we really anticipate being able to achieve. Because that is what we should do right?...

Published: Nov 03 , 2016
Author: Robin Copland

Complicated negotiations often involve different meetings, different personnel, different issues and, in the case of the upcoming Brexit negotiations, different countries! The key word in this kind of negotiation is alignment and that involves a number of different factors and considerations. We can learn from the insect world; think bees! Perhaps first and foremost, there needs to be a central “go-to” point where all the information and meeting notes are collated and stored. It is vital to have a central hive of information that teams preparing for a new round of negotiation can reference. The old phrase, “singing off the same hymn sheet” has a certain resonance in this regard. The workers need a point of reference...

Published: Sep 29 , 2016
Author: Alan Smith

Tomorrow I have an appointment at the dentist. I can state with pretty much certainty and I admit comfort, that he knows something about teeth. Partly because the last time I went to see him with a damaged filling I left with it fixed, which frankly it would be difficult for someone without any knowledge of teeth to have resolved. Unless of course he had been very lucky that day and managed to wing it...

Published: Mar 24 , 2016
Author: Stephen White

Why did President Putin suddenly and unexpectedly announce last week that Russia was pulling its armed forces out of Syria? It was an announcement that took every political commentator by surprise, and subsequently there were as many theories to explain the situation as there were commentators. Maybe he was bluffing, and not really pulling out at all. Maybe he couldn’t sustain the war effort financially. Maybe it was playing badly to his domestic audience. Maybe he had become irritated that the man he was supporting, President Assad, had become too arrogant after he discovered that Russia was to be an active ally...

Published: Mar 17 , 2016
Author: Alan Smith

Well there are actually! Negotiation involves cold logic, cutting through all the verbiage, careful and clear analysis of the volatile and unpredictable environment before coolly selecting the correct option. Problem is we rarely get the time when making the hundreds of decisions we need to make each day in the negotiations that we do in both our commercial and personal lives. Emotions play a huge part in the actions we take and to some extent the brains higher function has been argued is to sort out many of the choices we have already made and make sense of them after the fact...

Published: Aug 13 , 2015
Author: Stephen White

Last Wednesday evening was a bad time for two different groups of Londoners. At five o’clock the doors of several walk-in centres run by a high profile children’s charity called Kid’s Company closed for the last time, and thousands of children who depended on the charity for both physical and educational support were stranded. There had been suspicions about the financial affairs of this charity for some time – allegations that it was not well managed and that it was not in control of its finances. Central government was a major contributor and when the media picked up stories of financial irregularities they and other generous donors began to think twice about their funding. The final nail in the coffin came when allegations of sexual abuse of children on Kids Company premises were made; the privately donated money dried up completely, and because the charity had virtually no reserves it had to close. It is unlikely to re-open, at least in its present form. Just one hour later the iconic concertina gates at the entrance of many London tube stations were pulled closed because of a 24 hour strike called by the unions which serve the employees who work on the London Underground...

Published: Jul 02 , 2015
Author: Alan Smith

It used to be that people had so much time on their hands that they were forever looking for things to do to fill it. When I talk about wrestling with an octopus I am talking literally, not making an oblique negotiating reference about dealing with slippery salesmen or procurement slight of (many) hands. Throughout time people have been looking for ways to occupy themselves. In the 18th century, for example, fox-tossing was a popular event in Poland, in fact at one prestigious event 687 foxes and an assortment of badgers, hares and wildcats were tossed into the air using slings. Sounds fun, not!...

Published: Mar 28 , 2013
Author: The Scotwork Team

Over the weekend there were reports in the UK media that the multinational retailer Laura Ashley had written to its suppliers requesting an immediate 10% cost price reduction on all orders already agreed and contracted. The demand was accompanied by a statement that this would save Laura Ashley the need to review its supplier base – in other words, failure to agree would prompt such a review, and some suppliers would inevitably be delisted as a result...

Published: Oct 26 , 2012
Author: Alan Smith

On Sunday last week an Austrian skydiver, Felix Baumgartner, jumped from space. He set a world record for the highest jump, at 39km, and the fastest human free-fall, at 1,342km/h. Just to give some context, a Boeing 747 travels at about 917km/h. Pretty quick. The man broke the sound barrier. The planning and preparation that went into the event was staggering...

Published: Sep 22 , 2012
Author: Stephen White

Within the last few days the Obama administration have made it clear that they consider the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Assad regime on their own civilians to be a red line. What they mean is that if the Syrian government uses chemical weapons, they will have crossed the red line, diplomacy will have come to an end, and military action will follow. Similarly, in neighbouring Israel, Benjamin Netanyahu has chided the US administration for not setting a red line on the subject of the Iranian development of nuclear weapons....

Published: Dec 09 , 2011
Author: Alan Smith

In the late 1950s, a journalist asked incumbent British prime minister Harold Macmillan what he considered was most likely to blow his government off course. In an answer that has gone down in history — perhaps as much for its Edwardian construction as its content — Macmillan replied, “Events, dear boy, events.” This response hits at a fundamental truth. Things do change rapidly, and when one is least expecting them to do so...

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The Power of Adjournments

Anjana – a sales leader with an IT firm – is busy preparing for negotiations with a large bank on renewing her firm’s contract with them. Given it is a decent sized deal, Anjana has been preparing for these negotiations over the last several days by interlocking with the account delivery teams, getting buy-ins from the senior leadership & CFO on commercials, getting a handle on the likely strategies from the competition etc. It is no surprise, given the rigour of her preparation, that Anjana was feeling confident about her meeting with the Client CIO.

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