Negotiation and Chaos/Martin Rosenfeld, JD

Posted on February 13, 2019


The negotiation on the Wall was, at its worst, chaotic. Government shutdowns, twitter storms, aborted meetings,etc surely point to a lack of order or purpose. Is chaos a sure sign of a failed negotiation? The answer may be “No”. In 2014, Professor Michael Wheeler of Harvard Business School,wrote a book entitled: “The Art of Negotiation: How to Improvise Agreement in a Chaotic World”. To cut to the chase, Wheeler asserts that “All negotiations large and small, are chaotic.” The negotiation text points out that Win-Win only works when the other player is also interested in collaboration. The hard-line approach (e.g. my way or the highway)may work, but only once. The party subjected to such treatment will likely not come back for another go-around. Since this world is often chaotic, negotiations too may contain elements of chaos. To that reality, Professor Wheeler suggests that we must learn to manage chaos. We have to adapt and orient our strategy to that which unfolds. At times, we need to think “outside the box”. As General Dwight Eisenhower once observed about military planning. “Plans are worthless. Planning is everything.” A carefully crafted plan may become ineffective once the other party begins to negotiate. However, careful planning will give you alternate methods by which you may yet achieve your goals. Adaptation and flexibility are necessary tools.History may judge that the Democrats were more successful in managing the chaos of the 2019 Wall negotiations by careful and creative planning.