I know I’m dating myself when I say that I’m reminded of M*A*S*H’s Radar O’Reilly when I think about horse trading to get what you want. Radar was the 4077th MASH company clerk and over time mastered the art of horse trading. In one show he ended up trading a barbecue for a much needed incubator.
This was an entertaining episode, but what does that have to do with business success? I remember learning from watching a master IT project manager as she worked her magic to get her project done.
I was working for a Fortune 500 company in the IT department. There was a significant business transformation project going on and the implementation involved at least a dozen groups within the IT department.
Jean was the project manager, and she had called a project status meeting in a huge conference room filled with IT team leaders.
Jean (Project Manager): “In order to hit the date on the schedule, we need the server set up by the 15th. Server OPS team – can you hit that date?”
And so it went. She masterfully worked her way around the table, clearing issues one person at a time, horsetrading her way to project success.
What did she do?
- She asked specifically for what she needed
- When she hit a roadblock, she asked “What do you need?”
- She worked to get that team what they needed so they would be free.
1. She asked specifically for what she needed.
This implies that she *knew* what she she needed, and by when. She had the right people around the table. Her plan was well thought out and included the right level of detail. She was equipped to know, and was bold enough to ask directly and ask for a specific commitment from the team doing the delivery.
2. When she hit a roadblock, she asked “What do you need?”
Note that she didn’t complain. She didn’t talk about her needs or what would go badly for her if they didn’t cooperate with her plan. She didn’t threaten them with escalating to their management.
She simply and clearly asked what it would take to clear the roadblock.
She asked specifically how she could satisfy them.
Incidentally, this is an excellent skill to develop in all of your relationships – ask what the other party needs and work to help them get exactly that.
3. She worked to get that team what they needed so they would be free.
Jean was pretty transparent about “giving you what you want so I can get what I want.” She used her relationship skills, communication skills, and leadership skills. She went directly to the person with the authority to satisfy the dependency.
When they raised an objection, she did it all over again – all the way around the room until she reached the end of the chain.
The details of this technique are outlined in a readable and entertaining way in the “business novel” Critical Chain by Goldratt.
In all the years since then I have rarely seen a project executed as elegantly or efficiently as that one.
Negotiating well is a key part of Raising Your Game.