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Negotiation Theory for Geeks


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This presentation was given at 2013 and borrows heavily from a negotiation seminar led by David Eaves that I participated in prior to OSCON 2011, with slides adapted from a presentation (unpublished) on this same topic by Dave Neary.

The best Open Source hackers are great at the "soft skills" related to hacking - resolving conflict, gathering support around a direction for the project, and understanding what the user *really* wants in a bug report. Every feature request and implementation discussion, bug report and mailing list thread is a negotiation.

There is a well established, common sense, very effective way to think of negotiations which will help you improve as a developer, and make your project better at the same time, from the Harvard Negotiation Project. Using this theory, you will be able to get better outcomes when dealing with frustrated users, colleagues and bosses. You can even apply the principles to domestic debates, wage negotiations and dealing with used car salesmen.

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Negotiation Theory for Geeks

  1. 1. Negotiation Theory for Geeks Leslie Hawthorn Red Hat @lhawthorn 2013
  2. 2. “The projects thathave been themost successful...are good at allsorts of ‘softskills’” David Eaves
  3. 3. Negotiations in FOSS Projects a.k.a. “Why we’re all here today”● Mailing list discussions● Bugs marked as “won’t fix” then reopened● Patch reviews● Bug triage● Roadmap creation / feature prioritization● Personal grievances
  4. 4. Harvard Negotiation Project Several books in this ‘series’ including ● Getting to Maybe ● Getting Past No ● Getting Together: Building Relationships as We NegotiateImage Source:
  5. 5. Having conversations with your friends is easySee
  6. 6. We needlessly assume other conversations must be painfulSee
  7. 7. Be Willing toAsk for What You Need
  8. 8. ● Ask the other party what they need to be successful● Find common ground● Reach agreement● If you cannot reach agreement, find the most optimal solution for both parties● It is OK to not reach agreement
  9. 9. Practice Radical Honesty Radical honesty !=being a tactless jerk
  10. 10. Behaving Diplomatically …is not the fine artof being disingenuous.
  11. 11.
  12. 12. on outcomes instead of goalsprecludes finding more optimal results
  13. 13. Do you wantto be right? ~ or ~ Do you want to win?
  14. 14. Ways to Win Using Objective Criteria to Reach Agreement● “Health and safety standard requirements require that we build in at least two drains ....”● “The Kelly Blue Book listed value for this car is 10000 USD less than the price quoted ....”● “We may be too close to this topic to effectively understand each other’s point of view. A mediator would be helpful ....”
  15. 15. Your Project: Creating Ways to Win Objective Criteria for Software● Conforms to style guide● Passes unit tests● Provides full test coverage● Modding up feature requests / bugs in the issue queue
  16. 16. Effective Communication Builds Relationships
  17. 17. Having conversations with your friends is easySee
  18. 18. When You Cannot Reach Agreement a.k.a. The Power of a Positive No BATNA: Best Alternative to No Agreement ● What compromise can be effective for both parties? ● How can the relationship be preserved?
  19. 19. Solicit Commitment ● State explicitly planned next steps ● Ensure both parties understand what is expected of them ● Call people on it – gently – when they don’t follow through.
  20. 20.
  21. 21. How To: Communicating Successfully● Listen to Other’s Viewpoints● Mirror / Paraphrase Their View● Acknowledge Their Interests● Affirm Their Goals● Create Agreement or BATNA
  22. 22. The OnlySecret You Need
  23. 23. The secret to being an effective community leader isgenuinely caring about the health and well being of your project, your community members, and your fellow human beings.
  24. 24. …even especially when they annoy the crap out of you.
  25. 25. Thank you! Questions?Leslie Hawthorn — @lhawthorn
  26. 26. Resources● Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture:● David Eaves’ Blog:● The Center for Non-Violent Communication:● The Harvard Negotation Project: ch_projects/harvard-negotiation-project/
  27. 27. The Legal BitsAll images in this presentation are copyright theirindividual owners and are used under a Creative Commons license or considered fair use. This presentation is licensed CC-BY SA-3.0 Please use, remix and share widely!