Levin worked with merging medical groups to make their vision practical. "We pulled together the leadership from these groups, and we really began the dialogue by talking about why the people in the room were there, what they stood for. We elevated the conversation about what their frame of reference was, what they were about. Why did they go into medicine in the first place? What was the most important thing for them?"
"It was about creating a potential vision of what these groups would do," he adds. "It wasn't a vision statement; vision statements are rarely practical. They are aspirational, and when put under pressure, they dissolve pretty quickly. If you don't understand what people want and what their expectations are, what their self interests are, aspirations don't stand the test of battle very well."
2. Act like a hostage negotiator
Oddly enough, Levin finds that some standard hostage negotiation techniques are helpful in dealing with healthcare rivals planning on becoming partners. From the outset, when a negotiator speaks to a hostage-taker and wants him to change his position, "the one thing they do is get to a common ground," Levin says. "They have to agree on something to begin with. In hostage negotiations, they may agree, "It's nighttime, or that everybody is nervous, or "Nobody wants it to get worse than it is."
Once there is a point of agreement, "when you run into difficult issues, then you circle back to what you agreed on," Levin says. The same technique can be used in negotiations with healthcare leaders.