The following article was prepared by Mike Taylor, C.P.M., for distribution to ISM affiliate newsletters. January  2007

Bottom Line Questions

March 2008

More often than not we end up negotiating within our own company. Trying to reach an agreement with the project manager, foreman, CEO and or our boss can be a tough challenge. After all, the boss get to make the decision - right? Unfortunately those 'discussions' can easily become emotional and heated. The Supply Chain manager is raising issues which might not be what the boss wants to hear.

When an internal negotiation degenerates into an argument, the best we can hope for is try and make sure the decision is reached on a rational basis. A cooling off period might help, but it has been my experience that once the boss makes a decision it's hard to get that person to reconsider. Rather than continue the disagreement, an alternate strategy is to focus on the facts. Try approaching it this way, " I'm not disagreeing with you, I just want to make sure we have accurately understood the facts and alternatives."  It's not easy, but I think I can remember it working at least once.

When the best interests of the company are on the line, we want to be prepared to do the best job we can of raising the issues and at least giving everyone a chance to make a good decision.   I've drafted a few sample questions to keep in mind that might help raise the discussion to a higher level.  In  previous articles I've suggested that asking the right question and considering personalities can help when negotiating. In this article I'm providing some additional suggestions to help refocus an internal negotiation on the critical facts.

After the cooling off period, instead of restarting the argument, try these questions:

  1. May I have the opportunity to offer a better alternative?
  2. Since we are both trying to make the best decision we can, letís make sure we clearly understand the pros and cons of each idea.
  3. I just want to make sure Iíve clearly described the business risks involved with that decision.
  4. I must be misunderstanding your suggestion since it doesnít appear to be the most cost effective.
  5. Based on my experience the added cost will probably includeÖ.
  6. I think I can add some value to this process becauseÖ.
  7. I have some experience withÖ. Which might be to our advantage
  8. In addition to the direct cost, we need to also be sure that we have considered the following long-term, indirect costs.
  9. Is there something about my position that I can clarify for you?
  10. Are there and/or have we considered any regulatory risks associated with that course of action?
  11. Before I proceed would you please confirm I understand your direction correctly?
  12. Since this action will establish an expensive commitment I wanted to make sure we agree.
  13. Since I havenít been privy to all of the discussion, I must be missing some of the details. Can you please fill me in?
  14. Since we have some time before this become critical, letís schedule a follow-up meeting to confirm our decision.
  15. Let me see if I can separate the known facts from the assumptions.
  16. It is not obvious to me that we have addressed all of the likely or potential problems.
  17. I know itís is a trade-off between being too conservative and stretching the limit, Iím just concerned that we might have missed something important.
  18. I think this action might be a financial accountability concern. (SOX violation?)
  19. I will get that started immediately; I just want to make sure that you understand I disagree with the decision.
  20. Can you assure me that we have liability converage for this action?
  21. Are you directing me to proceed with what I think might be an illegal action?
  22. Are you directing me to violate procedures, regulations, laws, company policy?

[Personal note: The boss does get to make the decision. It's his/her ship to steer and there make be circumstances or issues we are not privy to. Once you've taken your best shot at influencing the decision, it's over. Get behind it and move forward. If you really think the course of action is illegal or immoral, your alternative is to look elsewhere for employment or become a government whistleblower.]


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