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Negotiation is simply the process of discussing something of mutual interest and agreeing to terms. Negotiations typically involve tradeoffs. One side gives something of value to the other site to get something of value in return.

Negotiations may be conducted for a one-time transaction, or for an ongoing relationship.

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The ability to negotiate is a valuable skill for anyone conduction kaizen activities, particularly for a facilitator.

Specifically, a common kaizen problem lies in dispute resolutions. In many cases, conflicts are not really addresed. One person wears down the other until they capitulate. The resulting decision is not an agreement, but rather the product of coercion. The eventual outcome is easy to predict. The person doing the process that was thrust upon them resists, and doesn’t take the extra effort that might help it succeed.

Here’s the takeaway: you may be right in what you want as a facilitator, but if the change won’t stick, you haven’t improved anything. This is where the art of negotiation comes in.

Imagine you are implementing a new work area, designed as a U-shaped cell, with the ability to operate a rabbit chase. You might feel that having chairs in the work area will be a problem, but the team decides that they want them there. Rather than force the issue, it might be wise to go to the negotiating table.

You may be able to convince the team to try having no chairs for 30 days, and then give them the option to bring them back after the test period.

Or you might get the team to agree to test the new layout both with and without chairs and go with the faster one (assuming equal quality, of course).

The point is that people respond much better when they have a say in the process. And from facilitator’s perspective, 70% of something is better than 100% of nothing, so the end result is that both sides walk away with a win.

Now, negotiations in a kaizen are typical of a company in its early stages of Lean implementation. As the company gets more advanced, the discussion changes from negotiations where each side gives something up, to cooperation, an eventually on to collaboration, where the concept of sides starts to disappear, and everyone walks away better off than they otherwise would be.

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