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

James K. Sebenius
HBS Negotiations, Organizations and Markets Unit

July 8, 2012

Harvard Business School NOM Unit Working Paper No. 13-004


A long analytic tradition explores the challenge of productively synchronizing «internal» with «external» negotiations, especially focusing on how each side can best manage internal opposition to agreements negotiated «at the table.» Implicit in much of this work is the view that each side’s leadership is best positioned to manage its own internal conflicts, often 1) by pressing for deal terms that will meet internal objections, and 2) by effectively «selling» the agreement to key constituencies. Far less familiar territory involves how each side can help the other side with the other’s «behind-the-table» barriers to successful agreement. Following Robert Putnam’s (1988) two-level games schema, I characterize such «behind the table,» or «Level II,» barriers more broadly, offer several innovative examples of how each side can help the other overcome them, and develop more general advice on doing so most effectively. As a fuller illustration of a Level II negotiator helping the other side with its formidable behind-the-table challenges, I pay special attention to the end-of-Cold-War negotiations over German reunification in which former U.S. Secretary of State, James Baker, played a key role.

Level II Negotiations- Helping the Other Side Meet its ‘Behind the Table’ Challenges

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