Negotiation skills are not only handy when closing on a house or buying a new car. Within the agile world and its fast moving parts it can also be helpful to have a more negotiative mindset.

It seems obvious – when buying high-price objects we tend to accept that there is some wiggle room for changes in price or features. When being in an agile transition, this negotiation space seems not to be so obvious, though. It can be hazardous to not keep that in mind, for example in business intelligence products.

Making ways in product based negotiation

If working Scrum sprint based or with another agile setup, there are always touch points for getting customer feedback and aligning on the next steps. What from my experience happens when a company goes from a more traditional way of working to a more agile approach:

  • Sprint plannings and refinements, together with the Stakeholder, are not based on a collaborative negotiation yet. They are based more on a commanding manner, focused in getting the most out of a contact with the developers. This might be because in the past you had to try to get as much as you can while you can – or simply because scoping is still an unknown
  • When the stakeholders see that with an ongoing agile approach not only a relationship with the developers will emerge, but also they will relax a little and get more into the Kaizen-based mindset of little steps of progress (or a little bigger steps, depending on the size of the dev team)
  • Eventually the stakeholder and the developers will negotiate very briefly about the scope that brings the most value in the next period of time. Usually by now the stakeholder has understood that she/ he can steer the next steps with their input and will negotiate with the team what can go into the next iteration

It can be helpful to go into those negotiation sessions with a mindset of respect and openness.

Read up

For a bit of literature about this, I recommend „Never split the difference“ by Chris Voss. He has much stronger real-world experience with being a former FBI hostage negotiator. He makes a few good points about actually listening and caring about the other person. It is worth a read only to understand his journey how he helped shaping the negotiation tactics of today.

Title Photo by Headway on Unsplash

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