Every Negotiation Needs A Scorecard

by drjim on June 5, 2015

 A scorecard can be used to keep track of how a negotiation is going

A scorecard can be used to keep track of how a negotiation is going
Image Credit: David

I can only speak for myself, but when I’m involved in a detailed negotiation, things can get pretty confusing very quickly with all of the different negotiation styles and negotiating techniques that are being used. There are a lot of different issues that need to be resolved as a part of reaching an agreement with the other side of the table and the more people who are participating in the negotiation, the more complicated things can get. The best way that I’ve discovered for dealing with complex negotiations and not getting lost is for me to use a negotiation scorecard.

What Is A Negotiation Scorecard?

I’m pretty sure that even if you are not a big sports fan, you probably still know what a scorecard is – it’s how you can tell who is ahead in a game. In a negotiation in which there are many different issues that will all need to be resolved, a scorecard is simply a system that you can use to understand where things currently stand. By using a scorecard you should be able to tell how close you are to reaching the conclusion of the negotiations.

A negotiation scorecard does not have to be a complex thing. I like to use Microsoft Excel to build a simple side-by-side listing of each of the points that we are going to be discussing during an upcoming negotiation. I then go back and I document the differences in the positions of the two parties that are involved in the negotiations.

The power of using a scorecard comes from the fact that once you have created it, you will then be able to see at a glance all of the different areas that are going to require resolution in order for both sides to be able to reach an agreement. With this list, you can then prioritize what issues you want to work on (this is why I keep track of my list in Excel!). The easy ones should be very obvious and the ones that are going to require more work and perhaps some compromises will also stand out.

How Do You Use A Negotiation Scorecard?

In order for a negotiation scorecard to be useful to you during a negotiation, it is going to have to be comprehensive. If you can include everything that will be discussed on your scorecard, then you’ll discover that even the biggest and most scary negotiations can be transformed into a manageable and finite list of things to be accomplished.

Once you’ve created you scorecard, you may want to share it with the other side of the table. If you do, you’ll want to ask them “Does my scorecard contain everything that we want to discuss? If we were able to resolve all of these issues, would we be able to reach a deal?” By getting them to agree to this, you will have bounded your negotiation and will have assured yourself that you fully understand what needs to be accomplished.

One of the things that can cause a negotiation to go on and on is when there is “issue creep”. The other side keeps adding things to the negotiations that were never there in the first place. By creating a scorecard and getting the other side to agree that its contents are complete you can prevent issue creep from happening. If the other side attempts to add another issue to the negotiations, you can get your scorecard out and ask them “…but you agreed that these were all of the issues that we needed to resolve, where did this new issue come from?”

What Does All Of This Mean For You?

Negotiations can be complicated beasts. As mere humans, we can often struggle to try and keep everything straight – what has already been agreed to and what issues do we still need to resolve? The good news is that there are tools available to us that can help us get this situation under control. If we create a negotiation scorecard, we can keep track of where the negotiation is currently at.

A scorecard is nothing more than a side-by-side list of the issues that will be discussed during the negotiations. Seeing everything that will need to be resolved in order to reach a deal can help you to understand where you’ll need to spend your time. Getting the other side to agree that your scorecard is complete can help to prevent issue creep from happening and delaying the conclusion of your negotiation.

As negotiators we are always looking for ways that we can boost our odds of getting the best deal possible out of our next principled negotiation. Scorecards are one way that even when we are involved in complex negotiations we can keep track of where things are at and what it’s going to take to wrap things up. Try using a scorecard with your next negotiation and see if it helps you come out a winner!

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

Question For You: Do you think that there would ever be a situation where you should keep the contents of your scorecard a secret?

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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

In order to be successful in your next negotiation, you are going to have to show up ready to do battle with the other side. The big question that most of us face when we are preparing for a negotiation is just exactly what should we be doing in order to get ready? I mean, there’s a lot that we could be doing, but are we forgetting anything? It turns out that there is a simple way to remember what you need to be doing and it uses the acronym POST…

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