Redlines. That Millennial expression so beloved of people nowadays to state where their position cannot move beyond.
♪♬ I’m dreaming of a right Brexmas, just like the one I voted for ♫
Yes, it’s that seemingly perennial favourite, Brexit. And a nation can rejoice. Or breathe a sigh of relief.
First phase talks around “divorce” got signed-off today. (“progress snatched from the jaws of stalemate“)
When nail-bitingly close or distant from agreement earlier in the week, down-to-the-wire merchants had a field day. Apparently there are some so well schooled in taking such dialogues to their absolute limits, that they themselves are mighty proud of their unnerving tactics; “This is a battle of who blinks first, and we’ve cut off our eyelids”. O-oh. (hat-tip; The Sun newspaper).
This particular stage appears to have hit its quicksandish sticking point around the choice of one word from three; alignment*, convergence, equivalence. How finely balanced such deliberations can be. (* the ‘winner’, with adjective ‘full’ as its conjoined prefix.)
Elsewhere, the media’s darling Brexiteer has enjoyed a well covered couple of days. Here’s his two main duly reported soundbites from Parliament across the week;
“Is it not essential that the red lines on maintaining the United Kingdom and on regulatory divergence whence the benefits of leaving come are indelible red lines?”
“Before my Right Honourable Friend next goes Brussels, will she apply a new coat of paint to her red lines because I fear on Monday they were beginning to look a little bit pink.”
Indelible. New Coat Of Paint. A Little Bit Pink.
These are indeed tremendous ripostes to have at your disposal during a negotiation.
In fact, any mix of red and your diluting colour of choice can be suitably swapped in for ‘pink’.
When we solution sellers are allowed (expected, sometimes) to conduct our own deal finalities, the redlines which bound us are fairly standard. Minimum margins, immovable timescales, protected products.
So the ability to defend, and defend well, becomes crucial.
This week’s London exchanges also brought to mind my time living and working in Africa. There a concept is ingrained. The indaba. This term pretty much extends to any big meeting. Yet it made global headlines back in 2015 when a particular tactic of them was widely credited as achieving the previously thought near-impossible agreement of 195 countries to sign an environmental deal.
Instead of repeating stated positions, each party is encouraged to speak personally and state their “red lines”, which are thresholds that they don’t want to cross. But while telling others their hard limits, they are also asked to provide solutions to find a common ground.
My indaba experience is not as glowing as that famed example. Sides can overstate their redlines and provide as the solution that the other party caves. Still, this style of “position” starting point does seem to be gaining traction.
“Indabas were first introduced in climate negotiation talks in Durban in 2011. In the last minutes of the meeting, negotiators reached a deadlock. To prevent talks from collapsing, the South African presidency asked representatives from the main countries to form a standing circle and speak directly to each other.”
We may not be able to go to quite this level of indaba-do, yet the upfront explicit redline reveal does have the feel of a win-win about it. Can it apply to one of your tricky stalled closing talks?