I predict a spike in the birth-rate at the beginning of August 2017 because thousands of people, in the US and around the world, were making babies last night. There is much anecdotal evidence that after a trauma people take solace with each other. How many couples will have gone to bed last night whispering to each other ‘WTF (Will Trump Flourish?)’ before rolling over and occupying themselves with other things?
Shocks and worries in 2016 have come in so many different places – Dilma Rousseff stepped down as Brazil’s president, Kim Jong-un became increasingly aggressive as North Korea continued to escalate their programme of nuclear tests, Brexit, the rise of nationalist populism in Eastern Europe following the waves of refugees arriving from Asia and Africa, and now the election of Donald Trump.
The newspapers call this a time of uncertainty. They are wrong. This is a time of hyper-uncertainty. We haven’t seen the tip of the iceberg yet. Still to come: elections in France and Germany, the possible unravelling of the EU, perhaps a snap general election in the UK if the Brexiteers begin to struggle, escalating tensions in Egypt and Saudi Arabia, cyber insecurity an increasing threat, the leaking of Donald Trump’s tax returns, and…and……and……!
What impact will hyper-uncertainty have on the day to day lives of managers who run the factories and stores and service industries which make the world go round? Market movements become more difficult to read, exchange rates unpredictable, inflation more likely, availability of labour more difficult or more expensive. One thing is certain; all these volatilities create negotiating opportunities, some welcome and some not; either way the result is that negotiating competence is more and more vital.
Scotworkers don’t fret over theory; we are practical negotiators. Rather than concentrating on why things over which we have no control happen, we want to offer some useful advice on how to handle the fallout. Over the coming months we will try to give guidance at the strategic, tactical and personal skill levels. To kick off, here is one of each.
Strategy: You and the parties you negotiate with may have many conflictual issues. But hyper-uncertainty is an issue which you share. So identify how uncertainty will affect the relationship from the perspective of each party and create a narrative which encourages a joint approach to the external problems. In the recent UK Marmitegate episode, where Tesco and Unilever temporarily fell out over price increase strategy, it was their shared horror at the way the media portrayed the problem as ‘a plague on both your houses’ which brought them to a speedy settlement – joint action killed the mutually unacceptable onslaught.
Tactics: Hyper-uncertainty allows powerful parties to demand renegotiation of contracts on better terms, because the uncertainty has changed the status quo. Find ways to create power. If your analysis of the power balance suggests that you are lagging behind, work on ways to change the dynamic. Power is not an unalterable given, you can change it. Israel’s El Al Airline has a long running dispute with its pilots. The pilots think they hold the balance of power, because they can ground the airline if they strike. So El Al is now chartering planes and pilots from other airlines at random times to demonstrate to the pilots that they do not have that power.
Skill: Improve your persuasive skills. Contemporary thinking that ‘Data is King’ and that you make persuasive arguments by using that data effectively didn’t stop Donald Trump incessantly spouting ridiculous half-truths and lies and still making them stick. Watch him at his rallies, and see how he uses voice, body language and repetition to change minds.
More to follow, so keep reading the Scotwork blog.