The 3D Negotiation™ Approach

As scholars and as consultants, we have spent 20 years studying what makes some negotiators more effective than others. The 3D Negotiation™ approach we’ve developed is, in a number of ways, significantly more sophisticated than that currently being taught at business schools or by commercial negotiation trainers. Our book 3D Negotiation (Harvard Business School Press, September 2006) explains these results.

One of the bases of our approach is to recognize that there are three dimensions to effective negotiation. Effective negotiators spend significant effort on the 3rd dimension, which is typically ignored by less sophisticated counterparts. Our experience in pharmaceuticals, mergers & acquisitions, supply chain negotiations, diplomatic negotiations, labor negotiations, and a wide variety of other settings has proven the value of the 3D Negotiation™ approach. The three dimensions are:

1st Dimension

Negotiating at the Table - Process.

When most people think of negotiation, they think of behavior, communication and tactics “at the table.” Interpersonal behavior “at the table” is a significant aspect of negotiation and we focus on it during our programs. However, it is only one of three dimensions and sometimes it is less important in terms of influence over the outcome. Many senior business people are already reasonably proficient at 1-D process but are weaker at the dimensions discussed below.

2nd Dimension

Negotiating on the Drawing Board - Substance.

Most books and seminars on “win-win” negotiating exhort participants to be creative and find solutions that are good for both parties. We go well beyond such general advice by laying-out powerful general principles that can be used to create joint gains based on the negotiation’s underlying economics and structure. Negotiators can then construct mutually beneficial solutions and craft proposals that are low cost to one party but often have great value to the other side.

3rd Dimension

Negotiating Away from the Table - Scope, Sequence and Process Choices.

Maximizing the chances of success in negotiation often involves setting up or altering the situation before the actual negotiation takes place so that the agreement you want looks desirable to the other side relative to their no-agreement alternatives. Beyond interpersonal process (1-D) and substance (2-D), this 3-D approach involves an entrepreneurial process of getting the right people to the table, in the right sequence, dealing with the right issues, by the right process, at the right time, and facing the right no-deal alternatives. While executing in the 3rd dimension involves tactical skill, employing it effectively is more strategic than typical. The most effective negotiators often invest significant energy in 3rd dimension moves.

This cuts across advising, training and capability-building. In advisory work, we help our clients look expansively and think creatively to structure the setup that is most likely to deliver the results our clients want and develop deal designs that meet the parties’ interests. In our training and capability-building engagements, our approach not only enhances participants’ interpersonal effectiveness at the table – the usual process focus of negotiation seminars – but also in substance as designers of deals that create value on a sustainable basis, and as negotiating entrepreneurs, acting away from the table to set up the most promising possible situation once the face-to-face process begins.