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Reader’s Review, August 2011

By John Baker

Built To Win: Creating a World-Class Negotiating Organization

By Hallam Movius and Lawrence Susskind
256 pp. Boston: Harvard Business Press, 2009
Hardback (USA) $ 29.95

Hallam Movius is the principal of the Consensus Building Institute (CBI) and teaches in The Program on Technology Negotiation at Harvard Law School. The Institute is dedicated to improving the theory and practice of public consensus building and conflict resolution. Dr. Movius is an expert in the assessment of organizational negotiating capabilities.

Lawrence Susskind is the Ford Professor of Urban and Environmental Planning at MIT, Director of the Public Disputes Program at Harvard Law School, and the founder of the Consensus Building Institute. Dr. Susskind is an expert in negotiation and mediation training.

Both authors have extensive experience in training and corporate assessment. Each of them has an extensive publication record in the field. They come to this subject as true experts.

The fundamental premise of their book is that the capacity to effectively practice negotiation is vital to success in human interaction. This is true on an individual basis and on an organization basis. This work focuses on the development of negotiating strength in institutions.

Built to Win assumes that every organization requires excellent negotiation capability and concentrates on how institutions can build “a world-class negotiating organization[s]” (sub-title). The authors point out that despite the expenditure of an estimated $1 Billion US Dollars annually by United States firms on outside negotiation training, “…there are few indications that the way people are negotiating and the results they are achieving represent a measurable improvement” (p. 168). It is a disappointing assessment on the impact of off-the-shelf outside negotiation training courses as a means of improving institutional performance from two experienced trainers.

The central theme of this work, however, is not a treatise on outside training at all. Instead, the authors present an alternative plan for the development and accomplishment of an effective institutional negotiating core. The essential force for this change is the institution’s leadership. The remainder of the book is a presentation of the authors’ thoughtful and practical ten-step guide for institutional leaders to effect such individually tailored change. Let us look at a few of those key steps to illustrate the structure and the depth of the guide.

The authors assert that the fundamental focus must be the development of negotiating capability as an “organizational competence, not just and individual skill” (p. 158). To accomplish the real power of negotiation, every institution must begin there.

That premise established, the broad course is clear. Outside off-the-shelf training courses can teach basic skills and approaches, but they are unable to produce “organizational competence.” The only way to effective institutional negotiating excellence requires that internal leadership commit itself and the resources to the task of building upon the unique qualities and challenges of the institution itself.

It is institutional leadership that must set the goals; deal with institutional roadblocks and fiefdoms that may threaten change, and oversee essential changes in internal methods, procedures and mindsets. Quite clearly, the authors demonstrate, it is a process of systemic and long-term evolution that is afoot.

The authors make clear the steps upon the path and explore such key direction markers that must be addressed from the selection of the fundamental model to be used and to the language stemming from that basic theory. The leaders must commit to the performance of a ‘systematic negotiation audit) by outside experts; invest the resources required for the tailored training; and recognize the criticality of ongoing support and resource commitment to the effort (pp. 158-160).

The book includes four Appendixes which are of importance to supplement their text. It also includes a detailed Notes section enriched with a wide range of valuable bibliographical citations and a thorough and helpful index.
Highly recommended.

John D. Baker, Ph.D.

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The Negotiator Magazine August 2011 Copyright © 2011 The Negotiator Magazine