Teaching with Multi-Round Simulations: Balancing Internal and External Negotiations

By — on / Teaching Negotiation


Whether in business, law, or international diplomacy, many negotiations are actually comprised of a multi-round process with negotiations internal to the organization preceding external ones. Using multi-round negotiation simulations can help students understand the connection between internal and external negotiations, handle more complex scenarios, and better get into their roles. Engaging in a multi-round negotiation where students participate in negotiations within their own organization before, in their same role, carrying forward with negotiations with another organization can demonstrate for them the direct impact internal negotiations have on the success or failure of the external ones because they can influence both in the simulation. Staying in the same role throughout both the internal and external negotiations also gets students to really understand the interests and BATNA of the role they are assuming and can therefore better play it throughout the negotiations. Familiarizing students with balancing internal and external negotiations in multi-round simulations also better prepares them for negotiations they may encounter in the real world. The Teaching Negotiation Resource Center (TNRC) has a variety of multi-round simulations designed to teach students about these dynamics.

Euro-Idol – Featured Multi-Round Simulation

This four-party, four-hour, two-round international business negotiation is over the selection of the host country and city for the upcoming Euro-Idol music competition. Euro-Idol is the longest-running international singing competition featuring contestants from European and other invited countries. Every year, each participating country independently conducts a national song competition to choose its country’s “Idol” to represent it at Euro-Idol. Hosting the Euro-Idol competition is one of the most prestigious and sought-after events a country and city can bid for, often compared to hosting the Olympics or the World Cup. Euro-Idol has the potential to bring economic benefit and prestige to cities that are granted this privilege. Typically, the winning country of the previous year’s competition has priority in conversations about hosting, if they choose to be considered. But this pattern was disrupted after the 2020 competition was cancelled, due to coronavirus. Now, countries are free to directly apply to host Euro-Idol’s competition. After a country is chosen by the Euro-Idol Corporation, it is up to the country to choose the city. The Kingdom of Denion is entering the negotiations with the Euro-Idol Corporation in an attempt to secure hosting the upcoming competition.

This negotiation takes place in two rounds. The first round is between the Euro-Idol Corporation and the prospective host country of Denion. If the Euro-Idol Corporation and Denion can come to an agreement, the second round of negotiations takes place between the cities of Bardane and Eindborg, as well as the Denion Office of Special Events, to determine which city will host the competition. Major lessons of this simulation include:

  • Acquire competencies in negotiation preparation, defining BATNA, process, management and agenda setting, uncovering interests, sequencing and packaging issues, and uncovering sources of power in negotiation.
  • Acquire skills in negotiating based on changing information and/or information decided by others.
  • Understand sequencing issues between rounds and how to build momentum for a deal.
  • Negotiate effectively in a process set up to incentivize winner take all (a bidding process).
  • Manage waxing and waning relevance.

To learn more about this simulation, download a free preview copy of the Euro-Idol Teacher’s Package.

Negotiating with Another Federal Agency – Featured Multi-Round Simulation

This exercise consists of two separate, two-person, non-scorable negotiations. The first is a negotiation entitled “Negotiating with Another Federal Agency” between a Center for Disease Control (CDC) Technical Co-Chair and a USAID Technical Co-Chair. The second is entitled “Negotiating with the Ministry of Health” and is between a CDC Technical Co-Chair and the Minister of Health in Sabada, the (imaginary) host country. The CDC and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and are working with Sabada’s Ministry of Health to address the country’s significant HIV/AIDS challenge. Parties must come to agreement about 1) how the prevention and treatment funds will be shared between the two agencies, and 2) how to allocate $55 million among four HIV/AIDS relief programs in a limited timeframe.

The simulation highlights the challenges faced by public health personnel when working with their political counterparts in host countries.  The simulation is designed to help government personnel practice negotiation techniques in order to effectively collaborate with personnel from other US federal agencies and with government officials in a host country. The negotiation scenarios involve elements that CDC personnel often face in the field: ill-defined negotiating protocols, funding constraints, preference for evidence-based programming, inter-agency competition, tensions around headquarter authority, political considerations, time constraints, difficult personalities, and in particular, competing public health priorities. The simulation emphasizes the importance of preparation; in particular, thinking about one’s own interests before entering negotiations. Major lessons of this negotiation include:

  • Negotiation preparation is an organizational not just an individual task.
  • Internal disagreements impact external negotiations.
  • Arguments based on quantitative assessments of results won’t be convincing unless they also take account of the other side’s interests.

To learn more about this negotiation, download free preview copies of the Negotiating with Another Federal Agency and Negotiating with the Ministry of Health Teacher’s Packages.

Chestnut Village – Featured Multi-Round Simulation

This three-hour, multi-party, multi-issue negotiation between three or four construction company representatives and five or six neighborhood representatives over safety and nuisance complaints regarding a local construction project. Four weeks ago, the Bunyon Brothers Construction Company began work on a 77-unit condominium complex at the end of a quiet, wooded, dead-end street named Chestnut Drive. Residents of Chestnut Drive were surprised and angered by this development, but the construction company properly, although quietly, obtained all necessary permits. Recent developments have the neighbors fuming. Among them are noise, speeding trucks, lack of a fence around the site, foul language and habits among the construction workers, and damage to windows and at least one foundation allegedly caused by blasting. The neighbors (a retired executive, a lawyer, a cab-driver, a dentist, a shopkeeper and a carpenter) have arranged a meeting with the construction company (General counsel, a Senior VP, VP for Marketing & Development and VP of Construction Management) in an attempt to correct the situation. This negotiation takes place in two rounds, where each group has a preparation meeting before an external negotiation is held. Major lessons include:

  • Preparation – what is your BATNA? What is theirs? What are their major interests likely to be?
  • Meeting design and group process – how do groups work together to prepare for a negotiation? Set an agenda? Set strict time limits?
  • Representing and dealing with a representative of a constituency without firm authority – can the negotiators really commit their neighbors?

To learn more about this simulation, download a free preview copy of the Chestnut Village Teacher’s Package.

Franklin Family Foundation and Westbrook Regional School District – Featured Multi-Round Simulation

This twelve-person, three-hour, two-round negotiation is between six foundation board members and six school board and community leaders over efforts to address racial disparities in academic performance. A recent report has stated that minority groups in the Westbrook Regional School District show a significant disparity in academic performance with regards to their white peers. In response, the Executive Director of the Franklin Family Foundation (a local charitable foundation) and the Superintendent of the District have developed a tutorial program for high school minorities, to be funded be the Foundation. Reaction from the community and the School Board has been mixed. The Foundation Board of Directors and members of the community, headed by members of the school board, are meeting to discuss what should be done to proceed in improving the program. The two groups will first meet separately to determine their collective goals and objectives, and then will meet together to negotiate on the program. The simulation takes place in two parts. The first part involves the community group and the board members meeting separately, and the second part involves the two groups having a joint meeting. Major lessons of this simulation include:

  • This negotiation presents the opportunity to discuss creatively and to address a realistic problem facing many public education systems.
  • The issues, and the participant’s stances on those issues, do not divide neatly. Part of the challenge of this negotiation is figuring out what is important to the individual players. Only once that is clear, can the participants begin to craft a creative solution to which the parties can agree.
  • The internal negotiations within each side can quickly dissolve into interpersonal bickering and posturing.
  • Learning how to work together in the face of past disagreements is key to this negotiation. Separating internal or external negotiations properly is the key to consensus building in multi-party negotiations.

To learn more about this simulation, download a free preview copy of the Franklin Family Foundation Teacher’s Package.


Take your training to the next level with the TNRC

The Teaching Negotiation Resource Center offers a wide range of effective teaching materials, including

TNRC negotiation exercises and teaching materials are designed for educational purposes. They are used in college classroom settings or corporate training settings; used by mediators and facilitators seeking to introduce their clients to a process or issue; and used by individuals who want to enhance their negotiation skills and knowledge.

Negotiation exercises and role-play simulations introduce participants to new negotiation and dispute resolution tools, techniques and strategies. Our videos, books, case studies, and periodicals are also a helpful way of introducing students to key concepts while addressing the theory and practice of negotiation.

Check out all that the TNRC has in store >> 

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