Negotiating an Unscheduled Change

    Although projects may only live for a duration of time, during the time between the project’s start and the project’s finish changes may emerge.  In the scenario where a customer asks for an additional component to be added to the project there are several options.  The most common framework for dealing with this involves applying the negotiating techniques of Fisher, Ury, and Patton in their now classic book, Getting to Yes.  This book is appropriate because at the moment this new work is introduced it creates  conflict that introduces a need for negotiating.

    Principled negotiation requires separating people from the problem.  By isolating the actual areas of conflict from those who are expressing them the areas that need to be addressed can be addressed.  In the scenario listed above separating the person from the problem means reviewing the project’s scope–particularly the area that discusses the scope’s limitations.  After reviewing this I would get my customer to agree that the additional work is not within the project’s original scope, and therefore not within the project’s projected budget.

    The next phase presented in Getting to Yes is to invent options for mutual gain.  This can’t be done until both parties agree on the problem.  Here the focus is on collaboration, not compromise to create a solution that works for both the project management team and the customer.  What exactly that solution is, is beyond the scope of this conversation, but it should be created with the customer to help establish mutual by-in.

    The next principle that applies is insisting on objective criteria.  This can be done by focussing on principles instead of positions.  Principles are the goals and intents of an effort.  Positions are the results.  If both parties can agree to a set of principles first then they can use the overlapping of those principles to create objective criteria both agree upon to use when rating their solutions.

    If the negotiation fails then it’s my job to be aware of my Best Alternative To A Negotiated Agreement (BATNA).  Evaluating the BATNA prior to negotiation is key.  Depending on the situation within my business I may be in a position where I have to evaluate the long-term customer relationship in exchange for a short-term outcome.  

    By following these principles I believe I’d be able to effectively work through the conflict created by the request for new work.

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