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The first of these organizing structures is embodied within the widely used concept of BATNA, one of those handy mind-jogging acronyms, standing for Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement. In its simplest terms, BATNA focuses on the perceived balance of power between two parties to a potential negotiation. It is, therefore, a dynamic rather than a static measure of the relative position of the participants, an evolving measurement always capable of changing as new information is discovered throughout the negotiating process. Cohen explores the concept in depth.
To define the BATNA in any negotiation, Cohen leads his reader into the essential and invaluable inquiry process required to thoroughly prepare for interest-based negotiating. We are confronted with answering critical questions. Why are we negotiating at all? What are our alternatives? What is our bottom line? How would the other parties in this negotiation answer these same questions? These are solid questions and if we follow Cohen as he uses this method, we go into negotiations with knowledge of the subject, our interests and priorities and a set of assumptions to be tested about the interests and priorities of the other parties.
To further refine the preparation process, Cohen introduces a second method that he terms an Interest Map©.* The map is a graphic representation developed by the negotiator in concert with others in their organization. It is designed to assist in identifying all of the stakeholders to the negotiation and their interests and priorities.
Using the Interest Map©, the negotiator seeks to assess the nature of the interests it identifies. Which interests appear to be common? Which can be characterized as complementary? Which are in conflict? Can some of these interests form clusters with the potential for alliances that can be leveraged in the future negotiations? It is a method any negotiator will find useful.
The advantages of interest mapping are many as a tool for analysis, a platform to encourage input and buy-in by critical stakeholders in the negotiator’s organization and a vehicle to demonstrate that critical interests were cared for in the negotiations after an agreement has been concluded.
There are also some downside risks and the Interest Map© must be approached with those in mind. The map is by its very nature a highly confidential and sensitive document and must be treated as such. There is little that can be more revealing about an organization and its stakeholders than this type of document. It must be treated as Top Secret.
It is equally important that the negotiator always keep in mind the true nature of the map.
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*Copyright © 2001 by Steven P. Cohen. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2002, The Negotiator Magazine