Team Negotiations

Federal Emergency Management Agency Director Michael Brown was recalled to Washington to oversee national hurricane Katrina relief efforts. His replacement is Coast Guard Vice Adm. Thad W. Allen, who was overseeing New Orleans relief and rescue efforts.

Team negotiations are often essential in today's business environment. They function like any other team and become dynamic entities in their own rights. By expanding a group, additional talents and perspectives are added. Additional members also increase communications and focus challenges. This can be beneficial to the process, or detrimental.

Like any other aspect of negotiations or management, teams need to be well managed.

If you are heading a negotiating team, you need to manage the people on your team. Even if they are "professionals" you are responsible for their preparation, research, and the role they will play. This is especially important if they are "professionals". Too often clients delegate the preparation and research aspects of a settlement conference to their legal staff. This would be fine if the issues were going to be resolved by simply applying legal principles. When it comes to other issues and overall strategy, the responsibility is ultimately vested solely with the lead negotiator. You need to insure that everyone on your team knows their role, is prepared, and most importantly, that you have set the global strategy for the session and the parameters for settlement.

If you find you have a weak team member, replace that person quickly. If they have been engaged in the fray, do so in a fashion that does not impair the progress you have made. Negotiations is little more than small group management.

In the case of Michael Brown, he had to be removed because he had become a liability. Michael Chertoff tried to smooth over the impact of his removal by saying it was part of a larger need: "The effort to respond and recover from hurricane Katrina is moving forward. We are preparing to move from the immediate emergency response phase to the next phase of operations," Chertoff said during a press conference. "Importantly, we must have seamless interaction with military forces as we move forward with our critical work in New Orleans and the surrounding parishes. At the same time, we are still in hurricane season and need to be prepared to deal effectively with the possibility of future hurricanes and other disasters."