The Negotiator Magazine

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Reader’s Review

John Baker

Negotiating Skills for Managers
By Steven Cohen
200 pp. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2002
Paperback Edition: U.S. $14.95

This book is a part of the McGraw-Hill Briefcase Books series, written for the busy manager. As such, it is by design a short overview of its subject, focused on practical issues and filled with examples, sidebars and provided with a "Manager’s Checklist" for each chapter that summarizes its key points.

Steven P. Cohen’s Negotiating Skills for Managers achieves the series’ goals and moves well beyond the reader’s expectations. It is not surprising, therefore, that it is a book being translated into Spanish, Russian and Chinese and about to be published in a separate edition in India.

The author is a leading exponent of the "interest-based" approach to negotiations, knows his subject well and presents it in an engaging and eminently useable manner. He has produced a work of solid value for every student of negotiations.

Steven Cohen defines the premises of the "interest-based" negotiations approach clearly, demonstrates its possibilities for transforming negotiation into a cooperative creative process and provides specific techniques to prepare and assist the negotiator to accomplish its potential. It is no small task and Cohen handles it with great effect and skill. The reader is never left behind in this important quest for understanding negotiations and the practical skills it requires to succeed in the field.

"Interest-based" negotiation, Cohen explains, is "… an approach to negotiations where the parties focus on their individual interests and the interests of other parties to find a common ground for building a mutually acceptable agreement" (p.5). They are, therefore, designed to operate as a far different process than the confrontational, position-based approach to negotiations.

The payoff from "interest-based" negotiations is manifold and can lead to some surprising and valuable gains for all of the parties in the process. In its essence, this form of negotiations is about exploring new possibilities rather than limiting the process to an agenda that confines its potentials to those anticipated and chosen by the parties working independently toward firm and finite goals before their meeting has even begun.

Steven Cohen makes a compelling case for the "interest-based" approach and then turns to what he calls the key to negotiations: "preparation, preparation, preparation" (p.57). For this fundamental work, he examines two organizing structures to identify and prioritize the various interests likely to be in play in the negotiations and to analyze their potential inter-relationships to the overall goals of the endeavor. It is no small undertaking, but one in which the author shines and the reader can find gold.

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