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How do you know how well you actually did in a negotiation? I mean, you have a result after the fact, but does that really tell you anything? Sure, you learn whether you got the result that you wanted. But getting the result doesn’t tell you anything other that you got a result.

Does it tell you what worked? Not really. Does it tell you what didn’t work? Definitely not. Does it tell you what you can do better next time? Again, no.

The other party certainly isn’t going to tell you how you did against them. 

So how do you know how well did you actually did?

A way that you can consistently improve your negotiation ability is not necessarily to look at the result, but to look at what you did and said. The military calls these strategic debriefs, After Action Reviews (AAR’s). The military uses the AAR process for analyzing what happened, why it happened, and what can be done better by the participants for the next engagement. AAR’s are tight. They’re not like post-mortem’s or debriefs. They’re designed to be very focused on specific actions of individuals and can be run on short cycles (after each engagement within an overall attack).

Sidenote: An AAR presupposes that you had a plan, of course.

Why can’t we treat our negotiations the same way that the military treats their military engagements? Most of us don’t of course. Hence this article. But, I think we should. If we’re going through all the effort of developing a plan, and we’re trying to execute on that plan, then why aren’t we doing a post engagement analysis to determine what went well, what didn’t, and how we can do better?

Perhaps the most important part of AAR’s is the recording of the AAR so that it can be referenced for future use. Once you begin recording AAR’s after multiple engagements, you’re essentially creating your own personal negotiation performance  database. Think about how powerful that database could be for you if you were really disciplined in this process. Think about how much you could learn about yourself and your negotiation ability.

Turns out that I’m not the only person that think this could be super powerful. I recently had an amazing conversation with Michael Wheeler (Harvard Business School Negotiation Professor) about the role of improvisation in negotiation and we got on to the topic of AAR’s. Mike believes in the power of this tool so strongly that he actually developed an app (called the Negotiation 360 app – you can download it on the App Store or Google Play) that walks you through this process. I downloaded this app yesterday. It’s very slick.

Full disclosure: I have no financial interest in this app whatsoever. But I wish I did.

I’ve typically gone through my own informal AAR after each negotiation, and recorded my performance as carefully as I could, but this app takes that to the next level. I love it when someone applies logic to technology to make my life easier. I’m taking this app for a spin after my next negotiation and if it goes well, I’ll likely start using it. My big concern right now is whether I can export my data after multiple uses. Because if the app crashed and I lost that information, I would be inconsolable. 

Regardless of whether you use the app, you should be having a ‘dear diary’ moment with yourself that cover, at minimum, these 3 basic questions:

  • What went well?
  • What did not go well?
  • What can I do better next time?

After action reviews work for the Navy Seals. Why not you?