Mini Book Review – Building Agreement (Fisher and Shapiro)
Posted by markharrison on July 9, 2007
About 15 years ago, partway through by MBA course (which I never finished!) I read a really interesting book that changed the way I thought about negotiation. The book was Getting to Yes by Roger Fisher, William Ury, and Bruce Patton. One day, I’ll finally get around to reviewing that book.
However, on Friday I got my hair cut (think 50th anniversary of John meeting Paul tribute style!), which involves going into Crawley. Don’t get me wrong, I like Crawley, but the parking is awful, so what I tend to do is get dropped off, and then call for Mary (wife) or Dona (PA) to pick me up when I have the new look.
The great thing about this arrangement is that it allows me about 15 minutes to wander round Waterstones. Now, I’m a big Amazon fan – I was importing books from them in the US several years before they set up in the UK, but I still like the feel of a bookshop, and in particular I like the way I can meet interesting books that I wouldn’t have obviously found on the web. There’s a rabid economic efficiency part of me that wants to then go and buy them online, but I tend to rationalise that I’m paying a voluntary tax to help support a local community service.
Anyway, to cut things short, I stumbled across “Building Agreement”, by Roger Fisher and Daniel Shapiro. Remembering “Getting to Yes”, pretty much clinched the sale for me, and last night I read the book. (It’s about 230 pages, and I speed-read quite well.)
Roger Fisher teaches negotiation at Harvard Law School – which pretty much establishes his academic credentials – helped design the process used by President Carter in the Camp David negotiations, helped the white Cabinet and the ANC in South Africa prior to the talks that led to the end of apartheid, and helped (then) President Mahuad of Ecuador in the successful negotiation of their treaty with Peru that closed of a land dispute that had been running on and off since 1532! One of the chapters of the book “On Using These Ideas in the Real World” is written by President Mahuad.
The book’s subtitle is “Using emotions as you negotiate”. This is something I cover, up to a point, in my own book / course, but Building Agreement takes it much further. The book uses the 7-point “Elements of Negotiation” framework from the Harvard Negotiation Project and goes beyond it, to develop, in depth, many of the problems that strong emotions can cause during a negotiation. The book then goes on to give a range of techniques for dealing with these problems.
It is hard to find anything to criticise with the book from where I’m standing. About the only thing to flag up is that it’s not particularly focussed around Property Negotiation, but that would be missing the point. If you are serious about improving your negotiation skills, this is a must-read for the bookshelf.