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Fail to prepare? Then prepare to fail

Andy Archibald
Negotiation Preparation Tent [Converted]
© Adobe Stock

Recently, I was away camping and hiking on the beautiful coast of northwest Scotland. The weather was a bit wet and wild; the wind at times was so strong it felt like someone very big was falling onto my tent and it was only a matter of time before it blew away with me still inside.

Luckily, it didn't blow away. And I had managed to pitch my tent earlier when it was dry and relatively calm. Unfortunately, this was not the case for another group of campers, who arrived when the weather was absolutely horrible. They badly struggled to pitch their tent in the conditions, and while the thought did occur to me that I should probably help, I easily talked myself out of it given the conditions and that I was comfortable sitting in the dry, drinking whisky.

The next morning they explained that it was the first time they were using their tent. Hearing that brought two things to mind. First, they were unlucky to arrive when they did. And second, I couldn't help but think of the expression 'fail to prepare, prepare to fail', which in their case was failing to prepare by practising pitching their tent at home.  

We see this same lack of preparation in negotiations. Our research tells us negotiators often do not take the time to prepare beforehand, failing to define their desired outcomes and the questions they'll ask the other side, and at times, entering a negotiation with no intention of making any concessions. All of which can lead to frustration, sub-optimal outcomes and sometimes, deadlocks. 

In order to prepare for success in negotiations, firstly, do what you can to allocate time beforehand to prepare. And then define and agree on the desired outcome, considering what is important to you and what might be important to the other side; and prepare the questions you'll ask to fill in any gaps in your knowledge.

And if you're away camping and using a tent for the first time, practise pitching it at home beforehand.

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