From Single Deals to Negotiation Campaigns

David A. Lax
Lax Sebenius LLC

James K. Sebenius
HBS Negotiations, Organizations and Markets Unit

December 17, 2011

Harvard Business School NOM Unit Working Paper No. 12-046


Negotiation scholars typically take the individual deal, or a few linked deals, as the unit of analysis. While analyzing one deal requires a familiar conceptual framework, doing the same for a broader “negotiation campaign” calls for a different focus and set of concepts: how to orchestrate a large number of subsidiary deals, often grouped into modular “fronts”, in order to realize an ultimate “target agreement” with sufficient support to be sustainable. For example, generating the backing necessary from several organizational units for a proposed project to be approved may call for a small-scale “internal” negotiation campaign. A final cross-border merger agreement may represent the culmination of a massive negotiation campaign with multiple, related fronts: financial, shareholder, internal corporate, labor, supplier, political, and regulatory. Complex sales with long cycles and many influential parties as well as major diplomatic initiatives may call more for crafting negotiation campaigns for than doing solo deals. Analysis of negotiation campaigns builds on familiar concepts such as linkage and coalition building. In many cases, however, the parties relevant to a campaign as well as the fronts may not be obvious a priori and may represent choice variables rather than givens for the analysis. Beyond identifying and specifying parties and fronts, negotiation campaign analysis and design calls for assessing interdependencies among fronts, deciding on separation v. combination of fronts, parallel v. sequential tactical emphasis, as well as information revelation v. concealment at different stages of the campaign.

From Single Deals to Negotiation Campaigns

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