Hey Negotiator, Did Someone Say “Audit”?

by drjim on May 1, 2013

An audit is an important part of any negotiation

An audit is an important part of any negotiation
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I was wondering, could you take just a moment and remind me why we go to the effort of participating in a negotiation? Yeah, yeah – I know that one of the reasons is so that we can reach a deal with the other side. However, I don’t think that that is the only reason that we do it – we’re actually expecting the other side to do what they’ve promised to do!

The Power Of Auditing

Just exactly what happens when a negotiation is over and done with and we’ve all put away our negotiation styles and negotiating techniques? Once we’ve reached an agreement with the other side of the table and we have a deal that both sides can live with, more often than not we move on. We hope for the best in regards to the other side living up to their side of the deal that we just agreed to, but often that does not happen.

What is missing from this story is what we call the negotiation audit. The word “audit” often fills people’s heart with dread – everyone fears getting audited by the government’s tax agency. However, that’s not the type of audit that we’re talking about here and our type of audit is actually much easier to design and to execute.

Since you have the agreed to deal with the other side, you have the basic outline of your audit already. You know what should be being done and you know when the work should be performed. Often negotiators make the mistake of auditing the creation process (“I want to visit the factory and see the boxes being loaded”). Instead, what you really want to do is to focus on the outcome (“Are the boxes being delivered on time in the correct quantities?”)

Why Negotiators Don’t Audit Enough

As simple as a negotiation audit might be to do, for some odd reason we negotiators don’t seem to do enough of them. There actually are a number of different reasons for this.

In its simplest form, one of the reasons that negotiators don’t generally perform negotiation audits is because we naturally assume that what has been agreed to during the negotiations will, of course, be performed. We then compound this problem by leaving the checking to make sure that the work is being done up to “somebody else”. Of course this checking never gets done, and often times the deal is not being lived up to either.

One of the reasons for our reluctance to design and execute an audit of our negotiating partners is because it will require that we do some work. We are going to have to go poking around in places where negotiators normally don’t go. Simply because this is different, sometimes it means that we don’t want to do it. However, the negotiation is not truly over until your negotiating partner has passed their negotiation audit!

What All Of This Means For You

One of the classic mistakes that a negotiator can make is to assume that the negotiations are over when a deal has been reached with the other side of the table. It turns out that nothing could be further from the truth…

The real goal of any principled negotiation is to get the other side of the table to actually do something. What a negotiator needs to realize is that just because the other side promised to do something does not mean that they are actually going to do it. This is when the power of conducting an audit of the other side comes in. It’s your responsibility to make sure that they are actually doing what they promised that they’d do.

The good news is that conducting an audit of how well the other side is implementing their part of the deal is fairly straightforward to do based on all of the work that you put into your negotiation. The key is simply remembering that this is yet one more step that you need to take care of before you can consider a negotiation to be complete.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Negotiating Skills™

Question For You: Do you think that you should surprise the other side with an audit, or should you tell them that it’s coming?

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