fbpx Leadership in Negotiations: Away from the Table, Everything it Takes to Get the Job Done | Harvard Kennedy School
Wendy Sherman Photo

Wendy Sherman

Director, Center for Public Leadership
Professor of the Practice of Public Leadership


Being in the room during negotiations does not cover half of the strategy, tactics, preparation, or follow-up necessary to negotiate successful deals. This case-based course will analyze four historic deals: the 2015 Iran deal, the Affordable Care Act, the North Korea Agreed Framework [or USMCA], and the Paris Climate Accords. We will explore the aspects of negotiation that happen “away from the table,” grouped into categories: understanding the importance of the history, culture, power, and norms of negotiating parties; setting the policy process, content, and structure, and building teams and coalitions; using tools effectively to shape a negotiation; and analyzing and acting on the politics of implementing and selling the deal. Students in the course will examine the array of tools available to shape a negotiation such as sanctions, intelligence, and military posture, to using the media, public diplomacy, congressional relations, and consultations. Students will be divided into four teams, each responsible for one of the negotiation cases covered in the module and will be expected to analyze each aspect of negotiations beyond the table. Working in teams, including how to lead a team – an essential part of successful negotiations – will be an important learning component of the course. Weekly assignments will deepen individual understanding of each case, and group work will enable comparison across different cases. The final assignment will involve writing a case study that highlights the importance of dynamics away from the table. Weekly discussions with visiting guests intimately involved in the four negotiations will highlight lessons learned from each case.