Truly Objective Criteria

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The seminal book on negotiation is Fisher and Ury’s Getting to Yes.  While flawed it has been adopted as part of the business canon since its inception and a great deal of the material in our readings this week were based on the principles popularized by the book.  One of the failures of the Getting to Yes model deals with the training of the participants.  The model relies heavily on identifying objective criteria to use as a standard for successful inclusion or exclusion of various negotiated topics.  While the intent of referring to objective criteria is sound it often has the effect of teaching participants to refer to criteria that are expedient rather than objective.

One example of this problem is with government regulations.  Many of them are terribly detailed and readily available.  When two people within the government need to negotiate (imagine trying to get buy-in for a project to improve efficiency) often both parties will simply apply rule-based ethics and use the regulations as their objective criteria.  The regulations though aren’t terribly objective.  They’re extremely biased towards the organization and what is politically expedient.  Just because there’s a rule doesn’t make it right.

To truly apply this principle one should engage in a healthy discussion about what the objective criteria should look like and seek out criteria that meet those agreed upon requirements.  Sometimes that will include regulations, and sometimes it will not.