The Negotiator Magazine

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Reader’s Review

John Baker

3D Negotiation: Powerful Tools To Change The Game In Your Most Important Deals  
By David A Lax and James K. Sebenius
256 pp. Boston: Harvard Business School, Press, 2006
Hardback (US) $29.95

Davis A. Lax and James K. Sebenius are both graduates of Harvard Business School, co-founders of Harvard’s Negotiation Roundtable in the 1980s, and developers of the Business School program for top executives entitled “Strategic Negotiation: Deal Making for the Long Term.”   They are also the co-authors of a book that many readers will know, The Manager as Negotiator.

James Sebenus is the first Gordon Donaldson Professor at Harvard Business School and also serves as Vice Chair of the Program on Negotiation at Harvard Law School.        
David Lax, formerly on the Harvard Business School faculty, is Managing Principal of Lax Sebenius LLC, a strategy firm founded by the two men that advises both and governments and major corporations on their most important negotiations.

This work is the product of their “over two decades of deal-making experience … study” and collaboration in the field of negotiation (p. x).  It is first-rate.

“This is a book,” the authors tell us, “about seeing the world in three dimensions … [rather than] … the alternative, which we’ll refer to as one-dimensional negotiation (p.7).”   The writers then go on to explain their work is unlike the two types of negotiation that dominate the seminar and the written products of the field today (the win-lose and the win-win views of negotiation) with their concentration on face-to-face approaches and tactics.

Lax and Sebenius view negotiation quite differently from the focus on table tactics used  in many popular seminars today.  Their approach examines negotiation far more than as a tactical table encounter, but rather as focusing on three distinctive but inter-related negotiation activities (p. 37):

If you’ve been to a seminar lately or read much of the face-to-face tactical material streaming out of the publishing houses, you will find this book a refreshing look at the breadth and depth  of the negotiator’s over-all task and a far cry from the negotiator who asserts that given a topic they can “just wing it” effectively.   Every negotiator needs to read this book and learn the three dimensional nature of the craft.   You will be hard pressed to find a better resource for the job.

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October 2006