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Axel Springer in 2014: Strategic Leadership of the Digital Transformation Negotiation Strategy / MBA Resources

Introduction to Negotiation Strategy

Negotiation Strategy solution for Axel Springer in 2014: Strategic Leadership of the Digital Transformation case study


At Oak Spring University, we provide corporate level professional Negotiation Strategy and other business case study solution. Axel Springer in 2014: Strategic Leadership of the Digital Transformation case study is a Harvard Business School (HBR) case study written by Robert Burgelman, Robert Siegel, Jason Luther. The Axel Springer in 2014: Strategic Leadership of the Digital Transformation (referred as “Axel Springer” from here on) case study provides evaluation & decision scenario in field of Leadership & Managing People. It also touches upon business topics such as - negotiation strategy, negotiation framework, .

Negotiation strategy solution for case study Axel Springer in 2014: Strategic Leadership of the Digital Transformation ” provides a comprehensive framework to analyse all issues at hand and reach a unambiguous negotiated agreement. At Oak Spring University, we provide comprehensive negotiation strategies that have proven their worth both in the academic sphere and corporate world.


BATNA in Negotiation Strategy


Three questions every negotiator should ask before entering into a negotiation process-

What’s my BATNA (Best Alternative To a Negotiated Agreement) – my walkaway option if the deal fails?

What are my most important interests, in ranked order?

What is the other side’s BATNA, and what are his interests?



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Case Description of Axel Springer in 2014: Strategic Leadership of the Digital Transformation Case Study


In 2013, Mathias Dopfner, CEO of the publishing house Axel Springer SE, a premier source of content in Germany, with its popular newspapers and magazines such as Bild and Die Welt, was evaluating the progress of his company's digital transformation. The advent of the digital revolution at the end of the twentieth century had caused an appreciable shift in the publishing industry. Traditional print media players were confronted with major technological advancements and changes in consumer tastes and how news was consumed. Thus, the challenge for Axel Springer was in finding fresh ways to disDopfner had directed Axel Springer to approach this task with a two-stage digital transformation strategy process. Beginning in 2006, the company focused on organic growth and late-stage digital acquisitions. This stage of the strategy process had centered around profitability and the infusion of digitization into the corporate culture. In 2013, the second stage of the strategy process was driven by Dopfner's formulation of the firm's corporate mission to become "The Leading Digital Publisher" and his defining the company's business as its branded content and not its distribution channels. With this new strategy, Axel Springer intended to espouse early-stage investments and entrepreneurship and grow revenue through three business models: paid content, marketing, and classified advertising. As of 2013, Dopfner's two-stage digital transformation strategy had been a stunning success. Axel Springer had more than 12,800 employees, total revenues of $3.9 billion, and EBITDA of $625 million. The company had exceeded the goals it had set for digital media contributions to revenue and EBITDA, achieved reach in 44 countries, and serviced 98 million unique digital visitors worldwide. Looking forward in April 2014, however, it was clear that the future still held many challenges. Dopfner knew that Axel Springer would need to continue to successfully balance digital and traditional media business strategies, further reestablish the firm's identity, and continue to pioneer the cultural transition within the organization. Most importantly, he realized the urgency of preparing his organization for the looming battle between digitally transforming old media content providers (like Axel Springer) and new giant digital technology experts (like Google) transforming themselves into media companies. He also pondered whether it would be possible, and if so how, to mobilize a sufficiently powerful coalition to help the digitally transforming old media content providers in that battle.


Case Authors : Robert Burgelman, Robert Siegel, Jason Luther

Topic : Leadership & Managing People

Related Areas :




Seven Elemental Tools of Negotiation that can be used in Axel Springer in 2014: Strategic Leadership of the Digital Transformation solution


1. Satisfies everyone’s core interests (yours and theirs)


By interests, we do not mean the preconceived demands or positions that you or the other party may have, but rather the underlying needs, aims, fears, and concerns that shape what you want. Negotiation is more than getting what you want. It is not winning at all cost. Number of times Win-Win is better option that outright winning or getting what you want.





2. Is the best of many options

Options are the solutions you generate that could meet your and your counterpart’s interests . Often people come to negotiations with very fixed ideas and things they want to achieve. This strategy leaves unexplored options which might be even better than the one that one party wanted to achieve. So always try to provide as many options as possible during the negotiation process. The best outcome should be out of many options rather than few options.


3. Meets legitimate, fair standards

When soft bargainers meet hard bargainers there is always the danger of soft bargainers ceding more than what is necessary. To avoid this scenario you should always focus on legitimate standards or expectations. Standards are often external and objective measures to assess the fairness such as rules and regulations, financial values & resources , market prices etc. If the negotiated agreement is going beyond the industry norms or established standards of fairness then it is prudent to get out of the negotiation.


4. Is better than your alternatives or BATNA

Every negotiators going into the negotiations should always work out the “what if” scenario. The negotiating parties in the “Axel Springer in 2014: Strategic Leadership of the Digital Transformation” has three to four plausible scenarios. The negotiating protagonist needs to have clear idea of – what will happen if the negotiations fail. To put it in the negotiating literature – BATNA - Best Alternative to a Negotiated Agreement. If the negotiated agreement is not better than BATNA then there is no point in accepting the negotiated solution.


5. Is comprised of clear, realistic commitments

One of the biggest problems in implementing the negotiated agreements in corporate world is – the ambiguity in the negotiated agreement. Sometimes the negotiated agreements are not realistic or various parties interpret the outcomes based on their understanding of the situation. It is critical to do negotiations as water tight as possible so that there is less scope for ambiguity.


6. Is the result of effective communication?

Many negotiators make the mistake of focusing only on the substance of the negotiation (interests, options, standards, and so on). How you communicate about that substance, however, can make all the difference. The language you use and the way that you build understanding, jointly solve problems, and together determine the process of the negotiation with your counterpart make your negotiation more efficient, yield clear agreements that each party understands, and help you build better relationships.


7. Managing relationship with counterparty

Another critical factor in the success of your negotiation is how you manage your relationship with your counterpart. According to “Robert Burgelman, Robert Siegel, Jason Luther”, the protagonist may want to establish a new connection or repair a damaged one; in any case, you want to build a strong working relationship built on mutual respect, well-established trust, and a side-by-side problem- solving approach.




Different types of negotiators – what is your style of negotiation

According to Harvard Business Review , there are three types of negotiators – Hard Bargainers, Soft Bargainers, and Principled Bargainers.

Hard Bargainers – These people see negotiations as an activity that they need to win. They are less focused less on the real objectives of the negotiations but more on winning. In the “Axel Springer in 2014: Strategic Leadership of the Digital Transformation ”, do you think a hard bargaining strategy will deliver desired results? Hard bargainers are easy to negotiate with as they often have a very predictable strategy

Soft Bargainers – These people are focused on relationship rather than hard outcomes of the negotiations. It doesn’t mean they are pushovers. These negotiators often scribe to long term relationship rather than immediate bargain.

Principled Bargainers – As explained in the seven elemental tools of negotiations above, these negotiators are more concern about the standards and norms of fairness. They often have inclusive approach to negotiations and like to work on numerous solutions that can improve the BATNA of both parties.

Open lines of communication between parties in the case study “Axel Springer in 2014: Strategic Leadership of the Digital Transformation” can make for an effective negotiation strategy and will make it easier to negotiate with this party the next time as well.





NPV Analysis of Axel Springer in 2014: Strategic Leadership of the Digital Transformation



References & Further Readings

Robert Burgelman, Robert Siegel, Jason Luther (2018), "Axel Springer in 2014: Strategic Leadership of the Digital Transformation Harvard Business Review Case Study. Published by HBR Publications.


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