Seeing the big picture in the midst of battle, or a rancorous negotiation, is difficult but important. A brief article on the website American Diplomacy traces the strategic consequences of three battles (Waterloo, The Somme, and Omaha Beach) to show how those battles and the geopolitical forces they unleashed shaped world politics. The article also highlights how difficult it is in the middle and immediate aftermath of battle to comprehend the true meaning of the event.
Seeing the big picture in these situations is vitally important. Designing a strategy to fit the new or changing conditions is a hallmark of success. In posts on this webpage we have often underscored the importance of adequate preparation for a negotiation. One part of that preparation that we have not much discussed is anticipating what the aftermath of the bargaining will mean for all the involved parties. Although hard to do, thinking about the business or governing environment that will follow the negotiation will be a guide to conducting the negotiation itself.
Another planning activity associated with negotiation preparation is what might be called “after action analysis” or debriefing the negotiation. After the negotiation is completed it is useful to convene those in your organization who have been involved to discuss what happened, what could have been done better, and where you stand now that the bargaining is finished. For multi-party, multi-dimensional negotiations that span long periods of time the after action analysis might be a rigorous and formal study. Other after action analyses can be accomplished by bringing together your organization’s folks around the conference room table. This kind of informal conversation can often benefit from the services of a mediator to keep participants on track.