James K. Sebenius

10 Results


Better Deals Through Level II Strategies: Advance Your Interests by Helping to Solve Their Internal Problems

While most of us focus on our own interests in negotiation, our counterparts are more likely to say "yes" to a proposal if it meets their interests. Frequently, their interests entail satisfying, or at least not annoying, their "behind the table" constituencies. These may include a boss, board, investor group, spouse, client, union membership, community group, NGO, political party, or the United States Senate that must ratify the treaty that negotiators prepare on behalf of the President. The author of this paper argues that a potent barrier to success in negotiation is often the prospect that your or the other side's constituents will reject the deal. While most negotiators are highly sensitive to their own constituencies, they tend to pay far less attention to the other side's constituents: "that's their problem. Let them solve it." Yet one low-cost way for negotiators to advance their own interests can be help the other side solve its internal constituency problems-in a manner consistent with each both side's interests. Sophisticated negotiators have been amazingly inventive in coming up with practical and highly valuable approaches to this often‐unexplored challenge. This paper develops and illustrates several such approaches. Read More

Tommy Koh: Background and Major Accomplishments of the ’Great Negotiator, 2014

Tommy Koh is a diplomat, professor, and international lawyer currently serving as Ambassador-at-Large for the Government of Singapore. He will be the 2014 recipient of the Harvard Program on Negotiation's "Great Negotiator Award." In this paper, the authors discuss Koh's life, career, and major accomplishments as a negotiator. They summarize several of his most significant negotiations to date, exploring his successes at forging creative, lasting solutions to complex challenges and disputes. The authors discuss Koh's leadership in establishing the United States-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (USSFTA), developing and ratifying a charter for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), resolving territorial and humanitarian disputes in the Baltics and Asia, and successfully leading two unprecedented global megaconferences: the Third U.N. Conference on the Law of the Sea and the U.N. Conference on the Environment and Development, also known as the Earth Summit. As part of the 2014 Great Negotiator Awards program, negotiation faculty and students will analyze several of these experiences in much greater depth in order to extract their most valuable lessons for theory and practice. Read More

Level II Negotiations: Helping the Other Side Meet Its ‘Behind the Table’ Challenges

Many situations make it important to productively synchronize "internal" with "external" negotiations. In fact, much research to date has focused on how each side can best manage its internal opposition to agreements negotiated "at the table." Often implicit in this research is the view that each side's leadership is best positioned to manage its own internal conflicts. Traditionally, a negotiator does this by 1) pressing for deal terms that will meet its internal objections, and 2) effectively "selling" the agreement to its key constituencies. However, James Sebenius argues that to achieve your own goals in negotiation it is also vital to understand all the ways in which you can help the other side with the its "behind-the-table" barriers (and vice versa). Independent of any altruistic motives, helping them to solve "their internal negotiation problem" is often the best way to get them to say yes to an agreement that is in your interest. To do this, negotiators should explicitly probe the full set of the other party's interests including the other side's interest in dealing effectively with its internal, behind-the-table challenges and conflicts. This requires you to deeply probe the context in which they are enmeshed: the web of favorable and opposing constituencies as well as their relationships, perceptions, sensitivities, and substantive interests. By way of a number of challenging case examples, this paper details a number of ways to develop this fuller understanding and to act effectively on it. Read More

Negotiating with Wal-Mart

What happens when you encounter a company with a great deal of power, like Wal-Mart, that is also the ultimate non-negotiable partner? A series of Harvard Business School cases by James Sebenius and Ellen Knebel explore successful deal-making strategies. From the HBS Alumni Bulletin. Read More

Negotiating in Three Dimensions

"Negotiation is increasingly a way of life for effective managers," say HBS professor James Sebenius and colleague David Lax. Their new book, 3-D Negotiation, describes how you can shape important deals through tactics, deal design, and set-up, and why three dimensions are more powerful than one. Here's a Q&A and book excerpt. Read More

A Better Way to Negotiate: Backward

"When you map a negotiation backward, you envision your preferred outcome and think in reverse about how to get there," says Harvard Business School professor and negotiation specialist James K. Sebenius. From Negotiation. Read More

The Ingredients of a Deal Disaster

A deal can unravel quickly if it doesn’t embody the mutual understanding—the social contract—behind the words on paper. The risk factors surrounding negotiation are detailed in this Harvard Business Review excerpt, co-authored by HBS professor James K. Sebenius. Read More

How to Negotiate “Yes” Across Cultural Boundaries

Myriad factors can make or break a deal, according to Harvard Business School professor James K. Sebenius. As he explains in this excerpt from Harvard Business Review, the "web of influence" in many countries is more important than meets the eye. Read More

The Negotiator’s Secret: More Than Merely Effective

What turns merely effective negotiators into all-out expert negotiators? The ability to overcome six common mistakes, according to HBS professor James K. Sebenius. In this excerpt from the Harvard Business Review, he describes one of the most glaring. Read More

Building Bridges: New Dimensions in Negotiation

How does a master negotiator negotiate? HBS Professor James Sebenius, founder of the school's Negotiation Unit, frames options in such a way that "what you choose in your perceived interest is, in fact, what I want." How does he accomplish this? Through what he calls "three-dimensional negotiation:" persuasion at the bargaining table; delving into the deeper interests that underlie the parties' positions; and a studied determination of whether to take the deal on the table or to walk away. Read More