• Gordon Donovan

When Harry met ……. Jo!

Updated: Mar 6, 2020

"There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.” Donald Rumsfeld

In the pantheon of procurement or procurement related business tool, the most underrated yet versatile tool in my opinion is the Johari Window. American psychologists Joseph Luft and Harry Ingham developed this model in 1955 at the university of California and was later improved by Joseph Luft. The name ‘Johari’ came from joining their first two names.

When can we use?

Personally, I’d ask when we can’t use it! I have used this extensively in negotiating and relationship planning as well as in market profiling to inform strategy.

For negotiating planning, it is incredibly useful when planning what to reveal and what not to reveal especially in team negotiations or when you are prepping areas of the business. I used this to inform the team during a shortlisting exercise when leading Human resources system acquisition. We were running a series of discovery sessions for suppliers to more fully understand our business requirements and I wanted to ensure that we kept certain information (budget etc) to ourselves.

During discovery I have used it to inform our market analysis approach specifically to both inform the content of any RFI but also during supplier visits and meetings. I used this during a smart card project to both inform the content of the pre-qualification piece but also to inform what type of market approach would be best used.

For relationship planning, I have used this to help understand why a relationship may be failing. In trying to understand why a medical device company treated us poorly, when the basic data suggested we should be important revealed some interesting findings. We actually carried this out with the supplier during a pretty intense workshop. It really is a versatile tool which when mastered can be deployed in many situations.

So what is it?

Johari Window is a tool to help understand the gaps in knowledge between two parties prior to an interaction, and to plan how communication may help exchange or protect information.

1. Open/self-area or arena – Here the information will be known by the person/company as well as by others. This is mainly the area where all the communications occur and the larger the arena becomes the more effectual and dynamic the relationship will be.

2. Blind self or blind spot – Information that others know, but you will be unaware of it. Others may interpret this differently than you expect. The blind spot is reduced for an efficient communication through good questioning from others.

3. Hidden area or façade – Information that is known to you but will be kept unknown from others. This can be any information which you feel reluctant to reveal. This includes feelings, past experiences, secrets etc. we keep some of our information private as it affects the relationships and thus the hidden area can be reduced by moving the information to the open areas at the appropriate time.

4. Unknown area – The Information which are unaware to yourselves as well as others. The person/company will be unaware till they discover the hidden qualities and capabilities through observation of others. Open communication is also an effective way to decrease the unknown area and thus to communicate effectively

Source ->

How does it work?

Write down all that you know and don’t know. I find it useful to put these on post it notes, as you /your team will need to decide where they sit later, maybe the following will help as a starter

· What you want
· What else does it
· Why you want it
· Current performance,
· Contract duration
· Budget
· Previous costs
· Actual competition
· Market position
· Trends/Futures
· Bargaining power
· Evaluation weighting
· Decision timing
· Preferences of stakeholders
· The supplier’s profit margin
· Their basement price
· Their orientation towards us, how important are we to them
· Their future
· Their real capability & capacity
· Their pricing strategy

Next you need to segment between what you know and don’t know, and who else knows it/may know it. This will allow you to position this information in each box

What you know.

We need to segment between what is known by all, i.e. what is in the public domain, or we have directly told the other party, If we know something but the other side doesn’t know, (useful for negotiation prep) then we need to decide do we want the other party to know, if so when and how?

In this case, you might find it helpful to rank these in descending order of disclosure. Put the information that we would not disclose under any circumstances at the bottom, and information that we plan to disclose near the top. Arrange intermediate information in sequence between these two

A great tip is to prepare answers if we are asked to disclose this information, i.e. what would you do if they asked you your budget, what would you say if the supplier wanted to know how your stakeholders felt. Being prepared in this way will make you more confident in supplier interactions.

Now think about what you don’t know

Enter these pieces of information in the Blind Spot. Be honest! These pieces of information should represent our “shopping list” of what we want to find out in the procurement process to help us understand the supplier better and make a well-informed decision. From there, if you don’t know something, we know need to consider the "other party” Does someone else know, or is it completely unknown, maybe we must break this down into segments to create the knowledge piece

The Unknown is what we can both say we don’t know. It is NOT just the future, which none of us know. But what may be possible between us is part of the unknown. Also, there is potential synergy or correlation between existing plans in both businesses that we simply don’t know about. It’s the depth of relationship that will expose these synergies or conflicts.

If you are using as part of your discovery/market analysis this may have a separate answer for each of the items, if it's part of a single supplier or other party, then it would be linked to whether they know it.

What happens when it’s used?

So how does the pieces of information move around the window. These are essentially processes that will change the position from the current state to how we want the information pattern to look like. These processes are:

Us revealing information from our Façade so that they enter the Arena. The Arena gets bigger, and our mutual understanding grows. (Note - being careful about what reveal and more importantly when so as not to damage our commercial position.

Our questioning and information acquisition so that we gather information which is now in our Blind Spot so that it enters the Arena. We need to ask questions and listening what is said and what is not said.

As a general comment, you will usually want to minimise the size of your Blind Spot and manage the disclosure of information from your Façade. Tactical relationships may need far less mutual disclosure. Co-operative relationships will require very careful thought about what needs to be disclosed when. Reciprocal disclosure is a key process in creating trust. Getting the Arena bigger is key to a longer-term relationship, mutual beneficial relationship and generating increased trust. We must be clear at the outset how we build that trust and Johari Window is a great way to identify how to do this by increasing the "known knowns"


Used well, Johari Window helps by turning the thoughts and the unknowns into tangible pieces bits of information. It is a very simple tool which can allow everyone to plan how communication should be managed, so that everyone is on the same page in the team. By focusing on what we don’t know, we can plan for how to find out, what questions to ask, and who may know. By focusing on what others don’t know, we can ensure we reveal what we want to reveal when we want to reveal it or help to ensure that partners are also on the same page.

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