Ever wonder why what seemed like a good agreement didn’t work out? A recent book by Eric Patashnik, entitled Reforms at Risk, reminds us that success often rides on how an agreement is implemented. Dr. Patashnik argues that new policies are likely to be least successful when “old relationships persist and investment in the reform program is minimal” (Piskulich 2010). For negotiators, the lesson is the importance of thinking about who will carry out the agreement and what tools they will have to do it.
A good agreement can be undermined if those who must implement it don’t appreciate its value or know what do do about it. One of the reasons some environmental agreements we studied were not fully implemented is that those who needed to carry them out were never told the agreements had been reached!
Here are a few questions to ask yourself and the other parties when you are bringing the negotiation to a close:
1) Do I and the other parties know what concrete steps we are supposed to take to implement the agreement?
2) Have we identified the people–or parts of the organization–who will carry out the agreement?
3) Do we have a plan for explaining the agreement to the others in our organization or to our constituents?
4) Are there implementation milestones built into the agreement and do we know how those will be reported?
A plan for implementation should be part of the agreement.