Use the Seven Elements Tool
How professionals define their measures of success will influence how they prepare and negotiate. The following seven elements can help negotiators define success:
1. Interests. Interests are the underlying needs, aims, fears, and concerns that shape what somebody wants. In a negotiation, professionals should search for an outcome that satisfies the full range of interests for all parties involved.
2. Options. Options are the solutions generated that could meet the interests of all parties. The final agreement that professionals draft should be the best of the many options.
3. Standards. Standards are external, objective measures that can be applied to an agreement to assess its fairness. Professionals should aim for an agreement that will be considered fair by everyone involved.
4. Alternatives. Alternatives are the options that negotiators have if they cannot reach an agreement with their counterparts. Once alternatives are identified, professionals must consider which is best.
5. Commitments. Each party makes commitments to do or not do certain things. These promises must be operational, detailed, and realistic and should be made by somebody with the correct authority to carry them out.
6. Communications. An agreement should be the result of effective communication. Effective communication makes the negotiation more efficient, yields clearer agreements, and builds better relationships.
7. Relationships. Professionals must build strong working relationships built on mutual respect, well-established trust, and side-by-side problem solving.
As professionals define their measures of success, they should aim to satisfy the requirements of all seven elements. Once they use the seven elements to establish their definitions, negotiators can move onto questioning their assumptions.