If It Were Only That Easy

There’s a post by Seth Godin from 6/16/2011 (HT Bruce Hembd from Horn Matters) where he discusses the perils of negotiation brinkmanship amidst the current period of intense financial distress. Not only is it short and sweet but it sums up much of the root problems from some of the headline dominating labor relations disasters this season. At the same time, it demonstrates how the same approach was actually productive back in the day…

Putting your demands on the table at the last minute is traditionally a successful negotiating strategy. It’s at the last minute that people are focused, that the stakes are higher and that you’re the most likely to extract concessions.

This was very much the case between boards and musicians throughout the 80s and 90s. In some cases it was more of a wink-wink, nod-nod arrangement than anything but by the mid 90s things started getting particularly nasty (not to mention personal) and fortunately, things boiled back a bit but the agenda laden approach came roaring back in 2008.

Godin wraps up his post with a simple suggestion.

Either you negotiate to make the whole bigger, to have both sides benefit–or you negotiate to have the other side lose.

It would be wonderful if things were that straightforward but common sense and vision tend to be the first casualties when it comes to brinkmanship.

Read Godin’s entire blog post.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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