The Harvard Negotiation Project has developed an effective and widely-used negotiating method that changes the game and often yields better results than old-style hard ball. Instead of focusing on winning the day for your position, the Harvard method enables you to operate on a deeper level where your true interests — and the interests of your customer/supplier — reside.

Alan Goldman, a management professor of practice at the W. P. Carey School of Business, is teaching the Harvard method in the negotiations class at the 2012 Small Business Leadership Academy (SBLA). SBLA is presented by W. P. Carey School’s Center for Executive and Professional Development. Goldman is a disciple of the Harvard Negotiation Project and has taught university classes and coached corporate leaders on the method for years. This week, the small business owners in the SBLA class practiced some of what they have learned by role playing actual negotiating scenarios.

The exercise gave students an opportunity to try out one of the key components of the Harvard method: discovering options. This is the opposite of driving toward a position — the hallmark of old-school negotiating.

“Look at the bits and pieces; ask ‘what if this’ and ‘what if that,’ ” Goldman said. “This can be scary because it feels like you could lose control.” But at the end, exploring options can uncover a solution or deal that addresses the real, underlying interests of both sides.

The main principles of the Harvard Negotiation Project* include the following:

  • Separate the people from the problem (go easy on the people, hard on the facts)
  • Focus on interests, not positions
  • Invent multiple options looking for mutual gains before deciding what to do
  • Insist that the result be based on some objective standard

The next class in the Small Business Leadership Academy is “Building High Performance Teams,” taught by Ruth Barratt, clinical assistant professor of management at the W. P. Carey School.

*From “Getting to Yes: Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In,” Penguin Books

The Small Business Leadership Academy (SBLA) is an intensive executive education program designed to strengthen the business acumen of small business leaders in Arizona. The program was jointly developed by the W. P. Carey School of Business and the Salt River Project (SRP), the program’s founding sponsor. Other seat sponsors this year include: Arizona Lottery, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, Hahnco and U.S. Bank. Each week we will bring you a few salient points from each class as well as comments from the professors themselves and the impact the information has had on the students.

For more information about the Small Business Leadership Academy, please visit SBLA’s website.