Thursday, December 29, 2011

Cascade Manor

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Cascade Manor

Planning and Strategy

Before a strategy could be developed for our future negotiation with the City of Bainbridge, the first task was identifying all of the relevant issues that would impact our negotiation with the City. My partner, the Vice President of Alki, had some project concerns that were different than the list that I had compiled. After discussing each of our concerns we compiled a list of issues that would need to be discussed with the City of Bainbridge.

Our strategy was quite simple. Implementing it turned out to be the most difficult task. Knowing that we had five basic issues that we were concerned about, and the relative importance of each issue, our basic strategy was to perform a give-and-take negotiation where we would sacrifice the issues that were least important to maximize the profits on the bigger issues (height of building, real estate taxes, and open space). Our BATNA was ultimately reasoned to be zero. If we could negotiate a positive profit it would be in our best interest to conclude a deal.

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Even though we didn¡¦t have a strong BATNA, we did set an artificial limit that would guide us in our negotiation. The reason for setting an artificial BATNA was twofold 1) having a defined limit would add a firmness to our communications and possibly make it harder for us to concede points quickly; and more importantly ) it gave us a unified goal that would limit future conflict over what was an acceptable offer.

Because our strategy was to try and produce an integrative solution that would require both sides to give-and-take, we decided that the first thing to do was to try and ascertain what were the City of Bainbridge¡¦s main concerns. When the meeting started we stated that we had not heard any comments from our last meeting, and was wondering were the City stood on the project. This allowed us a starting point for negotiation, and more importantly it gave us an outline of their major concerns.

Framing the Negotiation

All of our gestures and communication were geared toward making the effect that we were seeking an integrative solution. Our frame going into the negotiation was that of aspiration, trying to meet the needs of the community and the broader vision of the company. We tried to develop this orientation through an attitude that we were here to help the city, and that our values towards our customers and employees was the most important consideration. We wanted a tall building and little open space because this would allow the greatest possibility of success and provide more potential revenue for the city.

We soon learned that the City of Bainbridge had a different orientation, and the goal then became trying to reframe the situation so that we could find a common solution. From the start the City of Bainbridge made it clear that certain outcomes were desirable, and that some specific issues were very important. Although the same issues that were very important to them were very important to us, the question became how we were going to bridge the gap from our point of view (aspiration) and the City of Bainbridge (outcome).

As the discussion went on, I began to feel that the City of Bainbridge was solely concerned with the real estate taxes and open space requirements. They seemed to be very willing to negotiate the other items, but were inflexible with those two. Obviously, those two items were very high on our list and of critical importance. At the time I thought that we might have to play hardball and see how committed the City was to those issues. It is difficult sometimes not to get sucked into the personal battles that intertwine issues, and effectively lose sight on the overall picture. We called one of our ¡§time-outs¡¨ and withdrew from the negotiation to discuss how to approach the two issues outstanding. When we reconvened we tried to reframe the negotiation by asking some direct questions about why these issues were important to them. After some intense answering and listening we were able to create a common understanding of each other¡¦s needs, and essentially identified a solution that would obtain our goals.

Lessons Learned

The biggest lesson I learned from this exercise was that asking the right questions can be more effective than stating your case firmly and repeatedly. By asking the right questions you get three benefits 1) you find out what motivates or concerns the other party; ) you can develop some trust in the other party by exhibiting concern with their point of view; and ) the answers are from the other party¡¦s mouth and are difficult to take back once spoken. Simply stating your needs and fighting over their merits does not obtain integrative solutions. In fact it becomes a battle of nerves, with the party who has the most leverage usually dominating the other.

Once both sides started asking questions about motivation and reasoning, the solutions to the problems became much clearer. If I were to do this case over again I would have approached the negotiations different at the beginning. Instead of learning what the City of Bainbridge¡¦s main concerns were and then providing our case for why we needed a different outcome with those concerns, I would start asking the following questions

„h Whose concern is this, and why are they concerned?

„h How successful do you think the project will be if that happens?

„h What options do you have?


Jason and Won (the City of Bainbridge) were a very good team. They complimented each other very well, and clearly had the same goals in mind. Some of the individual recommendations that I have for each are listed below.


„h When we asked a question about a give-and-take situation Jason would smile when he answered sometimes. We started to think that if he was smiling it was a good deal for them and a bad deal for us. I don¡¦t think he did it consciously (I do it too and I don¡¦t even know it), but it can send messages to the opposing party

„h I think Jason could be more effective if he thinks through the negotiation from the other party¡¦s perspective and have answers ready for probable questions. There were times that when asked a question the answer seemed to be difficult to come up with.


„h Won focused too much on one issue (real estate taxes) throughout the negotiation. He didn¡¦t weigh in very much on the other topics.

„h Won needs to communicate more clearly. There were several times that he asked a question and we were unable to understand what he was looking for.

„h When asked about reasons for his strong stance, Won was evasive in answering why he was sticking to his position. It made it very difficult to find a common ground, and in fact made me very inflexible myself.

Ken (My Partner)

„h Ken is very good at establishing trust, but needs to become better at buttressing his arguments from attacks. There were several times where the City of Bainbridge members would attack a statement and Ken would wiggle his way off the topic or concede their point when it wasn¡¦t in his best interest.

„h Ken needs to be more assertive in his needs. There were several times where he said ¡§we would like to have XXX but it¡¦s not critical¡¨. It was critical. I think it is just his nature, but Ken needs to develop that toughness to demand what he needs.

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