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Through the years, the art of negotiation has been stuck in a tired debate between win-lose and win-win tactics. Now, negotiation experts David Lax and James Sebenius take negotiation to a whole new level: the third dimension.

In their new book,  3-D Negotiation: Powerful Tools to Change the Game in Your Most Important Deals (HBS Press; September 26, 2006), Lax and Sebenius explore why the current one dimensional techniques–face-to-face bargaining-at-the-table—are not enough.  According to the authors, this tactical focus leaves money on the table and is often inadequate for tough negotiations when the other side holds all the cards. It isn’t well-suited to common deal-making challenges such as multiple parties, tricky internal and external negotiations, and shifting agendas.

Filled with real examples, 3-D Negotiation maps out the missing dimensions – deal design and setup – that underpin effective tactics. Great negotiators carefully set up the most promising negotiation and envision value-creating deals even before sitting down at the table. 3-D Negotiation details how a superior setup plus the right tactics can yield remarkable results that would be unattainable by purely tactical means, however skillful. 

The First Dimension: Tactics         

Most familiar, are tactics, the persuasive moves you make and the back and forth process you choose for dealing directly with the other side at the table.  Good tactics can make a deal; bad ones can break it.

The Second Dimension: Deal Design

The art and science of Deal Design includes more than the obvious, face-to-face aspects of negotiation. Deal designers know how to probe below the surface to uncover sources of economic and non-economic value. To unlock the value for the parties, they have a systematic approach to envision and structure creative agreements.

The Third Dimension: Setup

Setup extends to actions away from the table that shape and reshape the situation to the 3-D Negotiator’s advantage.  The setup ensures that the right parties have been approached, in the right sequence, to address the right interests, under the right expectations, at the right table or tables, and facing the right consequences of walking away if there is no deal. This new arsenal of moves away from the table often exerts the greatest impact on the negotiated outcome.

Lax and Sebenius show readers how to do a 3-D barriers audit – setup flaws? deal problems? people issues? -  and tailor a 3-D strategy to overcome those barriers to the agreement they want.  With precise tools for mapping the parties, interests, no-deal options, sequence, and basic process choices, 3-D Negotiation offers a roadmap to successful negotiations: creating maximum value, claiming a full share of that value, and doing so for the long term. With extensive real-world examples that underscore the book’s lessons and take-aways, Lax and Sebenius have created an invaluable resource for anyone who wants to master the art of negotiation.

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3D Negotiation Details
Publisher: Harvard Business School Press
Publication Date: September 26, 2006
Length: 256 pages
ISBN: 1-59139-799-5


Excerpts from 3-D Negotiation

Introduction (download now)

Chapter One (see our email list signup for instructions to download Chapter One.)


“. . . a first-rate piece of work. Readers facing tough deals, along with generations of Harvard MBAs and executives, will benefit greatly from this lucid book and its highly relevant case studies. I recommend it highly.”

—Peter G. Peterson, Senior Chairman and cofounder, The Blackstone Group, one of the world’s largest private equity firms



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