Dear friends, colleagues and fellow negotiators,
Welcome to VUCA, Blu Bonsai’s first e-newsletter!
 Every two months, we will take a look at high stake negotiations and high-profile events conducted on the world stage. We will observe and analyze from a negotiation process perspective. It is not intended to state fact but rather to provoke thought.  Let’s have some fun!

VUCA June 2020
When in doubt, Shut up! 
Justin Trudeau was stunned into silence when asked about Trump using tear gas against protestors. 
Or was he?
Was this a leader caught off guard and rendered speechless or was this a strategic negotiation play to achieve his OUTCOME objective? 
On Monday June 1st, Trump threatened to send the military into local communities to corral demonstrators and then made the decision to forcefully clear protestors from outside the White House so he and his aides could walk to the nearby St. John's church for a photo opportunity. 
On Tuesday, June 2nd, Justin Trudeau, Canadian Prime Minister was asked about the words and actions of the US president in response to the protests and widespread unrest sparked by the death of 
George Floyd
The Canadian leader, 48, stood silent for 21 seconds.
What was happening during those 21 seconds? Was he not prepared for the question or was he very prepared and delivering his response?
Re watching the video we observe his non-verbals: 
  • He took a big inhale as the question was being asked. This may suggest that he was NOT taken off guard rather relaxing his body for the 21 seconds to come.
  • He diverted his eyes downward left for a split second suggesting he is not being transparent vs looking up when we are trying to think on the spot.
  •   He bit his lip - a reflex we have when we are worried about what we may say.
  • He tightened his lips together again another gesture to hold back our words.
  • He licked his lips and said “ummm”, preparing to speak.
  • He then jiggles ever so slightly prior to his verbal response.
Does this suggest he needed time and was thinking of his response? Or the contrary, he was holding tight not to speak while he in fact was answering- his answer was silence. 
We will never know for certain what was going through Justin Trudeau’s mind during those 21 seconds we can only analyze and speculate. The OUTCOME however is clear: 
  • Everyone perked up and listened to his silence. The words that came after – “horror” and “consternation” were therefore intensified. 
  • Footage of the Q&A went viral on social media and has been seen hundreds of thousands of times. 
  • His silence has gotten more reaction then his words did that day. Headlines picked up on his silence even timing it exactly to 21 seconds.
  • There is nothing that the Trump camp can say one way or another with respect to Trudeau’s silence.
Take aways?  These few moments, or 21 of them to be exact, highlight aspects in negotiations that we should recognize: 

Power of Silence- when used properly silence can gain more attention than a loud voice. Silence slows down the pace of the interaction allowing you more time to think. Silence gives a sense that you are purposeful in your response, that the matter is serious. 
Be aware that while your words are on mute, your body is still talking, so when using silence as a tactic, awareness on your non verbals is essential. 

Negotiations are chaotic in nature and often intertwined with other negotiations. While the content of the negotiation changes, the personal needs, emotions and relationships are carried from one to another.  Canada and US are highly interwoven ln many fronts, and Trudeau’s responses in one instance are carried over to the next Canada- US interaction. This adds to the complexity of a response. 

Planned or otherwise, 21 seconds of silence, WAS his answer. 

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BluBonsai’s Negotiation Newsletter | February 2021 
 Every few months, we take a look at high stake negotiations and high profile events conducted on the world stage. We analyze from a negotiation process perspective. It is not intended to state fact but rather to provoke thought.
Let’s have some fun! – Susie

“ We are all out of Pfizer, would you like a J&J? ”

The Beauty of a BATNA

COVID cases were surging out of control with little relief in sight. Then on November 9th, 2020,  the world got some good news. Pfizer and its partner, BioNTech, announced results that suggested they had a very effective vaccine. We sighed with relief, we felt, well, okay and then… it was time. The players entered the “Big N” arena.  The Formal Negotiation Time Zone had begun. 

Through our Negotiation Process lens, let’s have a look at what is transpiring as we move from
vaccine creation to mass immunization. What we can pull from these massive deals as
key negotiation takeaways?

These mammoth negotiations do not comprise of a singular event. They are ongoing and serial in nature. They are linked to past, future and concurrent negotiation, agreements, talks and milestone events such as approvals from FDA and WHO. Complicated relationships with wildly complex stakeholders are being worked on many levels. These negotiations are politically charged, and the stakes are as high as imaginable. 

Up until the Pfizer BioNTech announcement, we had been Pre-Negotiation timezone, preparing for what was to come. Relationship were being forged, mindsets being prepped and of course, the substance of the negotiation - The Vaccine - was being created.  With all eyes on the development of the vaccine, the Substance of the Negotiation, was there enough focus attributed to Process Plan?  How would we actually get the vaccine when it came out?  On the big pharma flipside, how would we sell it? 

When Pfizer first announced the good news, countries were jumping in to get their share. The Pfizer BioNTech vaccine was the “Belle of the Ball” and everyone was pushing to get a chance to dance. The deficiencies of the vaccine were not completely overlooked; indeed, there was talk, albeit relatively little talk, about the need for 2 doses and freezer storage at -94°F.  Regardless, the Pfizer vaccine was wanted.  Afterall, a viable vaccine was the alternative to death and disease. 

A few weeks went by and another joined the party.  On December 18th, FDA gave emergency use authorization for a vaccine made by Moderna.  Like Pfizer, Moderna vaccines required 2 doses but unlike Pfizer, the Moderna vaccine could be stored at –4°F . The Moderna vaccine, while not perfect, represents a potential viable option, an alternative.
In early February, J&J applied to the FDA for an emergency use authorization for their vaccine. It could be authorized by early March.  J&J’s vaccine requires only single dose and can be stored for up to two years at –4°F.  The J&J vaccine efficacy rate is less than Pfizer and Moderna, but, if approved, represents a potential viable option, an alternative.
Pfizer lost negotiation clout. Can you pinpoint when this happened? The introduction of real and credible alternatives will shift the power balance back to the buyers. As we screech through the most important negotiations of our lifetime, as agreements are forged and then as the fulfillment fails, the importance of the BATNA emerges at the top.

BATNA stands for Better Alternative to Negotiated Agreement.  Also known as BAE or Better Alternative Elsewhere. Also known as THE BACK UP PLAN!  

As vaccine options enter the arena, the alternatives to a negotiated agreement move from death and disease to potentially a better vaccine option. The availability of options shape the negotiation play. We now have 63 vaccine candidates in the works, and more countries now making their own. While the buyers are still a fair ways away from calling the shots, the more vaccines there are, the more options they will have, and the more (and maybe better) alternatives to the negotiated agreements there will be. 

For now, let’s just get what we have, in the arm. 
What about takeaways?  What does it mean to us as negotiators? 
1- Build your BATNA(s). 
  • During your PREPARATION in your Pre-N timezone planning your alternatives is a critical step. Take the time and do the work. The best BATNAs are real and credible. 
  • As you build out your BATNAs, it is possible that your BATNA evolves into the # 1 spot. 
  • When you have developed a real and credible alternative, find another. Find a Back Up to your Back Up. 
2- Strength & Courage at the table.
  • Your aspirational position in the negotiations is tied to the strength of your alternative. 
    Research proves this is especially true when women are the lead negotiator. The better your alternatives the more confident the negotiator is to open high and be aspirational. 
3- What about the Other Guy's? 
  • Remember the other side too. Do the exercise. What are the Counter Party’s alternatives? If you are coming in from the sourcing side, consider how the Other Party will fill their revenue gap?  This will help you understand just how important you are (or aren’t) to them. 
  • Sometimes when we go through the exercise of identifying the Other Party’s BATNA, our stomach churns as we realize we are THE ALTERNATIVE. In which case, we can proactively decide our strategic maneuverer. 
4- Competition has a place. 
  • Not only does competition add to the “sharpening of the pencil”, it also makes us think of expanding and adding options and identifying creative value solutions. 

One last thing- 
We have looked at only a slice of influencing, persuading and yes, negotiation activity that has taken place over the past year.  The COVID world has given us much to ponder upon, including the breakdown of the greatest of all Negotiation Myths:  Other People’s Problem are Solely Their Own. Because, until we can figure out how to get everyone safely vaccinated, we all remain vulnerable.

Until next time, 

Comments? Feedback? Questions? -