Building Bridges by Resolving
Negotiation Strategies
November 2017
BREXIT: Navigating Highly Complex Negotiations
Dear Clients and Friends,

Many of us will never be involved in negotiations as complex as Brexit, but we will certainly face our challenging situations. Perhaps mergers or acquisitions, joint ventures, labor negotiations or any other multi-party, multi-issue negotiations.

In this November '17 edition of Negotiation Strategies I am happy to share my thoughts about navigating any complex negotiations, using Brexit as a poignant case study.

The column is also summarized in the Lessons Learned bullet points at the bottom of the column.

We have created a new look for our Negotiation Strategies column to match the look and feel of our website, and it is now responsive to both mobile and desktop views. We hope that you find it as visually appealing as you find the content useful!

With Best Wishes
Raphael Lapin
BREXIT: Navigating Highly Complex Negotiations
Our work as negotiation consultants involves not only the negotiation process itself, but we are often required to design an overall negotiation structure with which to facilitate productive negotiations. This is particularly true of highly complex negotiations where multiple interest groups must be engaged, and many complex issues need to be resolved. Examples might be land usage and environmental negotiations, policy and regulation negotiations, and peace negotiations in conflict-infested regions.

In these kinds of negotiations, success is largely contingent upon how the negotiating structure is setup: who will be represented and who will represent; how will discussions and dialogue be managed; how will information be shared; what should the sequence of the issues be; how will decisions be made and ratified, and so on.

The design of the negotiation structure is, in itself, a complex negotiation which needs to precede the later substantive negotiations so as to increase the chance of overall success.

Perhaps the paradigm of extremely complex negotiations today is the Brexit negotiations – the “divorce” and untangling between England and the European Union. There are many stakeholders both in Europe and the United Kingdom, with a plethora of very complicated issues that need to be resolved in a way that all parties can live with. Issues include the looming questions of: trade; migration; Britain meeting her financial commitments to the EU budget; rights of citizens and workers; the border within Ireland (between the Republic of Ireland which will remain in the EU and Northern Ireland which will leave the bloc as part of the UK). These together with many other thorny issues will need to be negotiated.

Although most of us will never be involved in complexities of this degree, we may be involved in sufficiently complex negotiations such as mergers and acquisitions, labor/union disputes and forming or dismantling of global joint ventures.

How then do we structure these negotiations to maximize efficiency, productivity and outcomes?

To navigate these highly complex negotiations we recommend our Two-tier Negotiation Structure™ model.
Tier-one Negotiations
Using Brexit as our example, tier-one negotiations occurs at a lower diplomatic level. 

The negotiations are broken down into their various components such as trade, migration, EU budget commitments, etc. Then, small work groups made up of representatives from all sides, with subject matter expertise, are assigned to each particular component of the negotiation. One group might work on trade negotiations, another on migration and yet another on movement of labor, and so on.

These tier-one negotiations however, differ greatly from conventional negotiations. Whereas in conventional negotiations, the objective is to reach an agreement, the purpose of these tier-one negotiations is only to invent two or three innovative and creative options for each component, which all parties feel have good potential. No agreement should be reached and no commitment obtained.

At the conclusion of these negotiations, the tier-one negotiators present the two or three options for each component to the higher level tier-two negotiators for the next phase of talks. 
Tier-two Negotiations
The negotiation on this level is about how to trade and package these options across all the issues in a way that is fair and that result in a complete and integrated solution package. Rather than trying to resolve issue by issue, incorporate the best options into a total package that addresses all issues, with no commitment to anything until the parties are ready to commit to everything.

Subsequently, the task of the tier-two negotiators is to work together to package the various options into a mutually acceptable, integrated, collective agreement, which on aggregate meets all the needs and concerns of the parties on all the issues.

Although most of us will never be involved in negotiations as complex as Brexit, we will face our own challenging situations. Whether we will choose to use some variation of the two-tier model or some other structure, it is important to give rigorous thought as to what structure would be most appropriate for the intricacies and idiosyncrasies of the particular negotiation that we face. This will help to make our complex negotiations so much more manageable, satisfying and rewarding.
Lesson Learned
  • Recognize when negotiations are complex with multiple issues and various different interest groups.
  • Understand that in complex negotiations, it is important to design an overall negotiation structure that will help facilitate the difficult negotiation.
  • Make sure that your counterparts are also involved in the structure design and that you are not imposing it upon them.
  • Never try to resolve issue by issue but rather try to put together an integrated solution package that addresses all issues simultaneously and collectively.
  • Having a negotiation structure will help make our complex negotiations manageable, satisfying and rewarding.
Lapin Negotiation Services offers training, consulting, advising and executive coaching in negotiation, business diplomacy and dispute resolution services.

Our proprietary and aggressively results oriented services are designed to help your leadership, teams and individuals master the essential negotiation, relationship-building and conflict management skills that increase revenues, decrease the high cost of conflict and build strong working relationships.
Learn more about Raphael Lapin's book, "Working with Difficult People" by clicking on the image above
Our Skilled Specialists will:
  • Help your organization build a highly effective negotiation competency and culture which translates into increased revenue and strong business relationships.
  • Train and prepare your sales teams using our propriety "Investigative Selling" approach.
  • Provide advice, strategy, guidance and representation in live negotiation challenges
  • Facilitate, mediate and advise in dispute resolution.
  • Create a culture of collaboration by guiding, facilitating and training teams and divisions to engage in dialogue, to negotiate and to partner.
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