The elements of constructive project negotiation

Differences in expectations between project or program management and other stakeholders can result in tension between the two parties. Large, multi-party projects mean you will face opportunities to effectively work through challenges involving resources, team members or issues with scope. In order to maintain a productive and healthy relationship, there will eventually be a need for negotiation.

Unfortunately in today's business world, negotiations are often confused with competition. When one or more parties are convinced that the process must result in a clear "winner" and a clear "loser", then the difficulty of the process is compounded. In some instances, a decision is reached that will clearly favor one party, but program managers should approach all talks open to the possibility of a "win-win" result. 

The Harvard Business Review argues that properly preparing for a negotiation is crucial for success. Negotiations can go south for a number of reasons, including egos or misunderstandings, but most often they falter because one party had not yet comprehensively reviewed their position.

Before entering into a negotiation, both parties should have considered possible outcomes and understand what concessions, if any, their organization is willing to make. By obtaining the necessary approvals for any possible concessions before entering into negotiations, it is possible to avoid lengthy delays and frustration. 

Program management consultants learn from experience the importance of proper preparation, which also involves building an understanding of the other parties' goals. By having a thorough understanding of what's important to the other side, including their motivations, challenges and goals, it is more likely that a solution can be reached that is mutually beneficial, which strengthens a business relationship.

If your organization is currently facing challenges with vendors or project sponsors, strategic business consulting can provide insight on the best practices that will lead to a positive outcome for your organization.