Facilitation and Negotiation

One of our operating principles is that people and organizations already have (nearly) all of the resources needed to achieve anything they can clearly envision. Better outcomes may thus result when vision is clarified, and when resources are connected more effectively with needs.

Sometimes an outsider can help shift perspectives long enough for pieces to fit together differently and better. In an old proverb, the passing of a village elder causes terrible confusion. His worldly wealth, 17 camels, is willed to his three sons according to this formula: 1/2 to his eldest, 1/3 to the second, and 1/9 to the youngest. How to apportion this odd number of beasts, while leaving them fit for caravan duty? Then a wise man comes into the village. Told of the difficulty, he offers: "I will give my camel to you until your problem is solved." So the eldest son gets nine camels (half of the 18), the second six, and the youngest two. That makes 17 all told, and the visitor mounts his own camel and continues on his way.

We have applied such principles to a variety of highly productive transactions on behalf of clients worldwide. In some cases, negotiations are internal: how to apportion resources, credit, authority. In others, it is a royalty or licensing deal requiring an objective third party to determine fair allocation of benefits and costs to all sides, or to bring in other models for doing business.

Values hierarchies for broader benefits

"Win-Win" is a comfortable clichÞ, not always easily achieved in practice. As "triple bottom lines"—profits, people, the greater operating environment—become more important, more stakeholders need to be accommodated. Finding an acceptable overlap set of wants and needs becomes ever more complex. Moving from an aspirational slogan to concrete reality requires a willingness to define real criteria: the minimum, necessary and sufficient set of requirements to be satisfied.

We have faced challenges ranging from retaining valued but disgruntled employees, to striking royalty deals that fairly balanced investment and risk with payback to both sides, to guiding a multi-billion-dollar strategy that resolved structural conflicts between internal exploitation and external licensing of key intellectual property. We have worked with public and private for-profit companies, divisions to be bought or sold, academic spin-outs, and nascent and established joint ventures. In each case, breakthrough was achieved by developing trust between sides, identifying common interests, and using the resulting collective creativity to devise new solutions to which all parties could commit. Ultimately, it is a process of transforming constraint into opportunity.

Another important application of facilitation is in meeting management. We have conducted critical business, technology, legal and regulatory meetings for clients world-wide, in some cases adding specialist expertise, always supporting more effective transactions.

Beyond effectiveness, many organizations struggle with efficiency. Most professionals spend much of their time in meetings, and many agree that a great part of this is wasted. In addition to managing selected critical sessions, we have trained many people in advanced meeting management and facilitation skills. Some of these have become professional facilitators, with a major task of helping others learn and apply these skills. Our general approach here integrates the same principles of focusing on results, planning before acting (even in crisis), incorporating others' needs and values, and managing time and attention.