Q&A With “The Art of Negotiation” Author Michael Wheeler
“Plans are worthless. Planning is everything.” This quotation of General Dwight D. Eisenhower is included in the linked Washington Post interview with Michael Wheeler, Harvard Business School professor, and author of the new book “The Art of Negotiation”.
It summarizes Wheeler’s essential advice on negotiations of all types – business, diplomatic, personal finance or employment. Good negotiators are as prepared as possible to achieve their priorities, but are also as flexible as possible in learning the other side’s priorities and accommodating them. The best result is always a perceived success for each side.
Wheeler’s interview advice to “read the contracts backward and forward” is spot-on from a lawyer’s viewpoint. I also agree with him that improvisation is a valuable contract negotiation skill.
Be careful, however, to avoid improvising your actual contract terms and language. In contract drafting, creativity is not as valuable as in novel writing! Always try to use contract terms and language that have already been used successfully in similar contracts. Your contract will be successful if the parties have very few occasions to revisit its terms while they are performing them, because they are clear, fair and simple to comply with.
Appendix C to my e-book, “Every1’s Guide to Electronic Contracts” offers 18 Rules for Contract Drafting and Negotiation that are based on my twenty-plus years of legal negotiating experience.