Get your BATNA out for the lads; did Wayne Rooney learn from Harvard? (Part 1)

Rooney is staying at Manchester United – a bit of a shock after all the things he said about ‘lack of ambition’ at the club!

But was this all part of his negotiating strategy; was he merely building his BATNA, or the appearance of his BATNA? The ‘Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agremeent’ was described by Fisher and Ury in their classic negotiation book, “Getting to Yes“, which came out of work done in the Harvard Negotiation Project.  It is still the best non-academic, practical yet thoughtful book on negotiation I have read; it can’t cover every aspect of the topic obviously in one slim book but it is essential reading for anyone in procurement or business more generally.

The point of the BATNA is that it determines how strong your negotiating position is, which obviously in itself plays a big part in determining the likely outcome.  In simple terms it means this; what are you going to do if you can’t get what you want from the other side?  If your answer is ‘I don’t know’ or ‘panic’, then you’re not ready to negotiate; you need to go away and do some work on your BATNA first.

I don’t dismiss all the writing and training courses I see that go on about body language in negotiation, applying emotional intelligence and so on; that all has some importance in some negotiations.  But I would say that having a strong BATNA is far more important than any of the softer aspects in virtually all business negotiations.

We’ll look tomorrow at how Rooney – and perhaps Man United as well – developed their BATNAs during the negotiation process; consciously or unconsciously, that was certainly happening!  And we saw something else this week in Manchester; how your own BATNA, however much you try, can be influenced by events outside your control.

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