In any industry, effective negotiations play a pivotal role in ensuring tasks are completed on time and within budget, without compromising team dynamics. This stands doubly true for the medical device industry. Medical devices must meet strict safety and quality standards, and any mistakes or delays can be costly. On top of that, it involves multiple stakeholders, including manufacturers, suppliers, and healthcare professionals.
This article takes a deep dive into the intricacies of negotiation, providing project leaders with a roadmap to navigate the complexities of team dynamics, diverse projects, and unforeseen challenges.
A successful negotiation always starts with a comprehensive project schedule.
If you know what needs to be done by when half the battle is won. You can do that by assembling a robust project team and involving as many project team members as possible during the initial planning phase. This means defining the project’s scope, objectives, and tasks, collectively. It means breaking down tasks into manageable chunks, considering various functions like design, development, manufacturing, quality, regulatory, clinical, and reimbursement. These include:
- Establishing a quality system
- Setting up a documentation system
- Creating a project database
- Structuring design history files
- And so much more
Each of these components needs to be carefully considered and integrated into the overall project plan. This also involves establishing who will be responsible for each aspect.
Engaging the entire team in this process ensures diverse perspectives and expertise contribute to the project’s success. This is especially beneficial in the medical device development sector, where different components and moving parts demand meticulous attention to detail.
Being well-informed is key when negotiating with the project team and the higher-ups
Negotiation within the project team involves aligning the top-down schedule created by the project manager with the bottom-up schedule devised by the team. When discrepancies arise–as they are bound to do–negotiation techniques come into play.
There are a number of key questions that must be answered in order to navigate these negotiations effectively.
- What resources are needed by the medical device project team to match the top-down schedule? Resources may include time, budget, product, lead time, delivery time, manpower, etc. What will these resources cost? Can the project and company bear that cost? What’s the alternative?
- What tasks need to be prioritized? Are there any critical tasks to be addressed?
- What is the project’s overall priority in the company schedule and list of projects?
When you have all the details on hand, you can:
- Negotiate with team members and ask them to speed up on certain tasks and give them slack on others so that the project schedule is maintained.
- Offer the team more resources (within reason) to address discrepancies.
- Negotiate with the higher-ups for more time.
When you do that, just make sure you have carefully considered all the risks associated with doing what it takes to keep the project on schedule. And that you have risk mitigation strategies in place.
Pro tip when negotiating with the higher-ups. Especially when facing an aggressive project timeline.
Pro tip when negotiating with the higher-ups. Especially when facing an aggressive project timeline. True story. We once had a project manager enter negotiations for her project with the leadership of a large company. They said it has to be done in four months. She came back and said it would take at least five and a half months. The leadership team couldn’t accept that. So our project management consultant presented their comprehensive project schedule, highlighting their critical path, the issues they’d face if they tried to complete the project in four months, and their mitigation strategies. They then negotiated with the leadership–discussing resource allocation, budget adjustments, and trade-offs between time, cost, and features. This allowed the leadership to understand the project’s complexities and potential challenges. Leading to a constructive discussion as opposed to them just telling the project mamager “you have to get it done in 4 months, no questions asked”.
Understanding the dynamics of negotiation involves recognizing the two types of negotiators within a team.
There are two types of people in a team.
- Individuals who have a tendency to propose aggressive schedules that often fall short.
- Those who adopt a cautious stance, hesitant to commit to a schedule due to perceived data gaps.
In both cases, understanding their approach is the key to a successful negotiation.
Diplomatically convey that part of a manager’s responsibility is to provide estimates based on available data. Guide them through the process of breaking down tasks, leveraging their experience to fill in the gaps. Help them navigate their role in estimating task durations, coordinating efforts, and constructing a realistic project schedule. For the cautious team member, emphasize that while estimates are inherently uncertain, a buffer is built into the plan for contingencies.
Handling the assertion that a certain task is impossible within the given timeframe
When faced with the assertion that a certain task is impossible within the given timeframe, you need to take a systematic approach. Start by breaking down the task into individual components to reveal the hold-up. Once you do that, you can identify what needs to be done to resolve the challenge. Does the task need more resources? Additional funding? Discussion with a particular vendor to resolve an issue at their end?
If the issue is still not resolved, bring it up to management and confirm the project’s priority. If it’s a high-priority project, use the above tactic to make them understand the issue’s impact on the project schedule and budget. Ask them to consider the proposed solution.
We understand that different managers have different negotiation styles in their toolbox. The key is to ensure that the other party feels heard. Effective communication, providing context, and working with what’s important to the other party are critical elements of successful negotiations.
Possessing strong negotiation skills is a game-changer when it comes to your medical device project.
These skills empower project managers to:
- secure vital resources and funds
- navigate realistic timelines
- effectively manage risks
- align varied interests and garner support
- find cost-effective solutions while upholding stringent quality and safety standards.
Let’s just say negotiation skills equip medical device project managers to adapt to dynamic challenges, ensuring the success and integrity of their projects. Need a project manager well versed in the art of negotiation for your next medical device project?