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Updated: 26 Mar 2021

Harvard Business Essentials – Negotiation (Summary & Book Review)

harvard business essentials - negotiation

Summary

Our review and summary of Harvard Business' thinking on negotiation. Heavily biased towards theory, yet reasonably comprehensive. (July 2003)
Level: Beginners
Category: Academic
Publication Date: 2006-11-20

by Michael Watkins

Concepts and Principles of Negotiations

Negotiation is part of a series of books produced by the Harvard Business School. This book is well written and uses simple language to facilitate the needs of the novice negotiator. It’s also a practical tool for any business manager. The book gives an excellent structural foundation in the essentials of negotiation skills development. Additionally, there are a number of well-crafted worksheets to help develop and apply the concepts illustrated by the book, as well as free access to a variety of online tools developed by the Harvard Business School.

However, the book is very theoretical in nature and academically biased. More real-world examples would have served well to better to illustrate essential points.

Negotiation describes the basic types of negotiation we are likely to encounter. Harvard’s book explores the succinct differences between distributive negotiation, or what many us know as just plain old bargaining or haggling, and integrative negotiations. The authors follow with a description of four critical concepts:

Prepare to Overcome Barriers

Essential to any negotiated business venture is the need to prepare well before getting into the nitty-gritty of any joint partnership. Once the authors explain how to prepare prior to a negotiation, they then examine the various tactics to employ at the negotiation table. They also examine which tactics are a great basis for any successful negotiation.

As in any endeavor, there are always a number of barriers that might prevent or hinder a negotiation. The authors show how we can navigate these rough waters by learning how to recognize the outlined barriers. We learn how to circumvent certain issues (like the tactics of die-hard bargainers, gender differences, lack of trust) through additional tactics. We also learn how to enhance our negotiation skills and to facilitate agreements that might otherwise fail to materialize due to a lack of experience and knowledge.

Another problem that many negotiators face is mental errors that need to be identified and then remedied. This helpful chapter details mistakes that might result in disastrous consequences such as losing the deal or making an unfavorable deal. Once we recognize these errors, we as negotiators can understand how to be proactive in countering potential mistakes, which even experienced negotiators can make.

Experience is the Best Teacher

The final portions of Harvard’s book cover the essential concept of developing business relationships. Strong relationships help ensure durable deals that include our:

  • Customers
  • Employees
  • Suppliers
  • Any other people who represent an important relationship

The book details a method that illustrates the positive benefits of developing a relationship. Next, the authors illustrate the pros and cons of either acting as a third-party negotiator or using one to act as an agent for our interests.

The final chapter shows how to enhance and increase your negotiation skills. It also outlines the characteristics of effective negotiation. Experience is the best teacher in acquiring and developing the skills we need to be successful.

In Conclusion

This book is a useful developmental tool, providing the sound basics in learning negotiation skills. We have, however, stopped recommending Harvard’s book to our Sales Negotiation Training graduates, due to its dry nature. We favor some of the other books available that are dense in stories, which we have also reviewed.

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