Top Tips – Avoiding Common Negotiation Pitfalls

This is my full article contribution as published in TheSource e-news earlier this week.

Fail to prepare and prepare to fail! Negotiation is often 90% preparation and 10% execution and so we have enlisted senior procurement professional George Vrakas to give us his top tips on avoiding common negotiation pitfalls.

When you use logic as your approach to conduct a negotiation, the human element of the process still needs to be considered, and thus you need to be able to identify and avoid common errors in reasoning (the so-called logical fallacies) to ensure a successful outcome.
Here are George’s top 6 tips on dealing with the most common logical fallacies:


1) AD HOMINEM (go against the person not the argument)

Definition: This is encountered when someone tries to counter a claim or a position by attacking the person rather than addressing the argument.

Example: “The current system is ineffective; the vendor who implemented it was only bothered about saving costs.”

Attacking the vendor because of their alleged motives does not address the issue. What is meant by “ineffective”? What were the specifications we gave the vendor? What can be done about it? Is the system used properly? What you need to remember is that character flaws are not evidence of the validity of an argument.

2) FALSE DICHOTOMY (either/or)

Definition: This is encountered when someone reduces the possibilities in a negotiation to a simplistic dilemma i.e. it is “either black or white.”

Example: “Japanese car makers must implement green production practices, or Japan‘s carbon footprint will hit crisis proportions by 2020.”

This is a logical fallacy because it assumes there are only two options: either Japan implements green production practices or Japan will have a disastrous carbon footprint. This logic fails to consider that there may be other reasons that contribute to the carbon footprint. It also limits our thinking e.g. focusing solely on green production we may miss out on another solution such as the increase of use of public transport.

3) SPECIAL PLEADING or ADHOC READONING (the rules don’t apply as I am special)

Definition: This is encountered when someone suggests that he/she has special privileges that do not or could not apply to others.

Example: In 1996, Steve Jobs exercised a special pleading when he, misquoting Picasso, stated that “good artists copy, great artists steal,” and continued, “we have always been shameless about stealing great ideas.”

Subsequently, Apple went on with a lawsuit against HTC for allegedly infringing on 20 of Apple’s patents. Thus, this is a logical fallacy because what Steve Jobs implied is that Apple can “copy” or “steal” ideas as good artists do, but HTC cannot.

4) APPEAL TO AUTHORITY (It is correct because he/she said so)

Definition: This is encountered when someone appeals to an “authoritative” person or agency to support one’s claims. i.e. “Manager X believes Y, Manager X speaks from a position of authority, therefore Y is true.”

Example: The Swissair airline was once so financially solvent it was called the “Flying Bank.” However, they began to believe they were invulnerable and as a result of failing to question poor decisions and gross mismanagement, and the airline eventually went bankrupt.

This case strongly implies a case of “groupthink.” Instead of looking at the data and the shifting conditions, Swissair executives seem to have been persuaded that top management knows best, and so, did not challenge this notion until it was too late.

5) NON SEQUITUR (It doesn’t follow)

Definition: This is encountered when someone reaches a conclusion which does not necessarily follow the premise of the argument.

Example: “This is new, therefore it is better.”

The fact that something is new and shiny does not mean that it will be better. New processes are generally an enhanced version of older ones, but before you make a decision, you will still need to investigate on whether: a) there is value in changing; b) the process is suitable for your specific needs; c) there are no inherent flaws etc.

6) APPEAL TO TRADITION (If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it)

Definition: This is encountered when someone claims that because something has been done in a particular way for a long time, this is the correct way of doing it.

Example: “We do not need a new ERP system. We have been doing alright using excel spreadsheets for years!”

Quite simply, there is definite value in looking to change the ways we go about things – new technologies (e.g. ERP systems), new processes (Six Sigma, Lean, TQM), the list goes on. Appealing to tradition is particularly prevalent during change management processes when people who are resistant to change raise this argument again and again.

The above six logical fallacies are just a small sample of the wide variety of bad reasoning out there. However, these are a good start on the journey to establishing integrity in logical arguments during a negotiation.

Now, put them to the test in your next negotiation!

[Image courtesy of Les Haines /]

Top Tips – Avoiding Common Negotiation Pitfalls (as printed in TheSource e-newsletter)

Thanks to the team from TheSource for their hospitality in publishing my article Top Tips – Avoiding Common Negotiation Pitfalls where I discuss 6 tips on how to avoid common errors in Logic during a negotiation.

Special thanks to Andrew, Brendan and Alice for their support and for putting together another great issue of TheSource e-news.

You can find the newsletter with many great articles here. The direct link to my article can be found here.


The 9 Elements of an Effective Team (Part 2)

Last week (Part 1), I listed the 9 Elements that make an effective team.

These are:

1) Clear Goals

2) Good Team Structure

3) Right Culture and Skillset selection

4) Trust

5) Good Communication

6) Positive relationships

7) Accountability

8) Leadership

9) Feedback

Then, I specifically explored the first 4.  Let’s now look at the remainder.


5) Good communication – Establish the environment for thriving innovation, participation and motivation within the team environment.

Conflict will come about. The important thing is to address it straight away and not let it eat away the foundations of the team.

Focus on strengths, frequent, positive and constructive feedback.

6) Positive relationships

The leader should give the example of taking risks and accepting that not all things will succeed. Then, praise the successes and support the missed targets enabling the team to lift their performances to the circumstances.

Some simple tips:

●     Select team members wisely.

●     Make choices based on merit.

●     Open communication channels between the team members. Each team member learning about each other is important so that each one appreciates and supports each other.

7) Responsibility and Accountability

Giving credit where it’s due but also holding people fully accountable for their actions or in-actions is always important.

As Roger Connors et al. highlight in their great book “The Oz Principle

“Individual and organizational results of people improve dramatically when people overcome the deceptive traps of the victim cycle and take the Steps To Accountability.”

But how do you identify if your team has such issues  e.g. if the team is trapped in the “victim cycle”.

A good first step is to observe if any of below practices are existent during the team’s interactions. Does the team:

  1. Ignore an issue or deny an issue exists
  2. Displays a “It’s not my job” attitude
  3. Engages in “Finger Pointing”
  4. Displays a constant “Tell me what to do” attitude.

8) Leadership

Maintain the context and scope of the team’s existence relevant and current to the shifting organisational goals.

Communicate the purpose and engage with each team member so that everybody understands how they fit in the wider picture and why what they do matters and affects the success of the company.

Lead by example!

9) Feedback.

Feedback is the underlying factor that ties everything together.

Unless there is a clear positive mechanism for non judgmental feedback loops then errors get repeated and eventually all the 8 other elements get affected.

A great feedback model can be found (here).


So, it seems that despite the varying nature of teams nowadays there are some elements that are common for every successful team.

Creating an effective team unit aims at a simple target best elaborated by Jim Collins when he described “superior work environments” this way:

“When you combine a culture of discipline with an ethic of entrepreneurship, you get the magical alchemy of great results.”

The above may seem quite intimidating at first but as suggested here, focusing on one thing at a time you will find that, not before long, the team will start entering the virtuous circle of effectiveness.

You can also find more resources on Team Development in previous posts dealing with measuring employee satisfaction, 3 essential targets for employee engagement, as well as, some thoughts on employee motivation versus employee engagement and why the latter is the real target.

Are there other elements you believe to be crucial for effective teams?

[Image credit:]

How to conquer tomorrow?

The accelerating nature of progress in our era makes the challenges and tools required for achieving success quite different from what was relevant 10 or even 5 years ago.

Generic Core Tools for the Future

In general terms, the two core tools that will be essential to individuals and organisations, for attaining success, in the 21st century seem to be:

  1. The ability to continuously learn, connect and adapt.
  2. The ability to nurture a culture of Creativity and Innovation that keeps the value proposition ahead of the competition.

Talent, Tools and Expectations Redefined.

It is apparent that the competitive landscape is changing very fast (e.g. see what happened to Nokia among others, even Apple is starting to show weariness).

It is also becoming apparent that the Customer is not interested anymore in Customer satisfaction as, this is considered a minimum standard “everyone” delivers. As Tom Peters observed, the Customers are now interested in who can guarantee their Success instead.

As a consequence, we are witnessing the Product life cycles dwindling and companies that were thought invincible to wax and wane at a faster pace than ever before.

As the markets evolve allowing, more or less, uninterrupted access to labour and materials, the changing landscape also forces:

  1. Individuals to compete in the talent market on a global scale. Each professional is now competing to be successful in the Talent pool, competing against highly skilled and highly qualified professionals from the developed and the developing world. Furthermore, competition is also against the automation of processes that is eliminating tasks that until now were done by blue or white-collar workers.
  2. Organisations to continuously compete on three fronts: R&D / Innovation and Strategic Cost Management.


The Talent pool is expanding with ample numbers of highly skilled professionals joining it especially coming from the developing world. Moreover, due to enabling technologies, these professionals are now able to compete on global platforms (see and plenty of other such services).

Moreover, the outsourcing or automation of blue-collar work we have been witnessing for a while is followed fast by automation and outsourcing of white-collar work as well. Outsourcing to developing countries that have lower labour costs is only one example.

Another fast evolving trend is the development of Artificial Intelligence which in its most simplified form consists of the programs we now use and in its most complicated the conceptual models of Ray Kurzweil (now Google’s New Director of Engineering) and others, as suggested by various futurists and thinkers e.g. Juan Enriquez, Andrew McAfee, Rodney Brooks. These new models will most probably shape the paradigm in the years to come.

Moreover, it is viewed that in the future we will not be discussing about the competition between individual companies but about the competition between Supply Chains. This is a trend that in a form was employed e.g by Toyota, already. The integration of Supply Chains as a strategic competitive advantage for an Organisation will only strengthen and new alliances will be formed with focus on efficiency, effectiveness and cost management.

We also now see COO’s such as Tim Cook becoming CEOs (interestingly Tim Cook also headed Compaq’s Procurement before). It becomes apparent that the growing need to manage cost is fast developing. The Procurement sector is thriving and its tools and thinking constantly evolving.

Interestingly, the developing collaborative nature of Supply Chain partners focus on management of costs to a large extent. Furthermore, the need to continuously innovate and remove cost in becoming an element of modern RFP’s adding to the now more established demands for Sustainability  and Corporate Social Responsibility.

Porter and Distortive Technologies

The strength of the company’s supply chain will provide the Cost Leadership required for the company to compete. The other two forces from Michael Porter’s famous scheme described in his classic book Competitive Strategy: Techniques for Analysing Industries and Competitors, i.e. differentiation and market segmentation (or focus) are in the process of been redefined as well.

Differentiation and standardisation were incompatible trends until now. In the future though, the developing technologies e.g. 3-D printing, will make it possible to highly customise products and, at the same time,  achieve standardisation through materials used, versatile designs, programs used etc. This follows the markets demand for having unique products of high quality at the lowest price, instantly. Additionally, the consumption styles are evolving with the definition of success now becoming the creation of a platform e.g. Google, Apple, youtube, This new paradigm expands the market expectation and allows for maximum differentiation within limits e.g. smart phone technologies and apps.

Evidently we also view the rise of a growing number of SMEs that through technological advances are now empowered to compete with the status quo. The playing field has been levelled as Thomas Friedman suggested some years ago. New niches are being created every day. This century may become eventually the century of the SMEs. Considering that technology enables SMEs to enter previously capital intensive industries e.g. manufacturing, and enable individuals to become Home CEOs, the number of industries that will remain with high barriers to entry will most certainly lessen over time. Eventually, as Thomas Friedman eloquently put it:

When the world is flat, whatever can be done WILL be done.  The only question is whether it will be done BY you or TO you”.

In support of these trends we are witnessing two disruptive technologies that will again revolutionise the way we think and act. These are:

  1. IBM’s Watson which is a cognitive system that is learning through interactions and delivers evidence based responses. This development could well revolutionize the way we think about medicine, legal as well as, a variety of other specialist services which we until now thought that would be immune to the evolution of technological change.
  2. 3-D Printing which is fastly becoming accessible to a wider customer base. Actually, the news now is the concept of “4D printing, where the fourth dimension is time. This emerging technology will allow us to print objects that then reshape themselves or self-assemble over time”.


Nobody can accurately predict the future. I think though that Peter Drucker describe it best when he declared that:

“The best way to predict the future is to create it” – Peter Drucker

It seems that the only way to navigate the uncertainty of what is to come is to seize the opportunity of change.

Hence, through the two core tools i.e. a) constant learning and adaptation and b) creativity and innovation, to create the future as we dream of it.

In future posts, I will be discussing about specific tools that can be used to better organise learning, continuous improvement and innovation.

Below are some of my favourite quotations from visionaries contemplating the same concepts:

“The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.” — Alvin Toffler

“The job isn’t to catch up to the status quo; the job is to invent the status quo.” – Seth Godin

“People can be divided into three groups: Those who make things happen, those who watch things happen and those who wonder what happened.” – Anonymous

What are your thoughts about what the future brings?

What additional skills have you learned or plan to learn this year?


[Image credit:]