Test your multi team negotiation skills - with Harvard Harborco

Harborco Role play to learn your negotiation behavior

Denise Madigan, Thomas Weeks, and Lawrence Susskind

Six-party, multi-issue, scoreable negotiation among representatives of a port developer, labor union, environmental coalition, other regional ports, governor's office, and department of coastal resources over a proposal to build a new deep-water port


Harborco is a consortium of development, industrial, and shipping concerns interested in building and operating a deepdraft port. It has already selected a site for the port, but cannot proceed without a license from the Federal Licensing Agency (FLA). The FLA is willing to grant Harborco a license, but only if it secures the support of at least 4 of 5 other parties: the environmental coalition, the federation of labor unions, a consortium of other ports in the region, the Federal Department of Coastal Resources (DCR), and the Governor of the host state. The parties have several issues to negotiate before deciding whether or not to approve the port, including the types of industries that will be be permitted to locate near the port, the extent to which environmental damage be mitigated, the extent to which organized labor will be given preference in hiring during construction and operation of the port, the amount of any federal financial assistance to Harborco, and the amount of any compensation to other ports in the region for potential economic losses?


Outline/Structure of the Workshop


This game is best played with 12 people (2 per role) although 6 people also works. A game manager is needed to conduct periodic votes and to answer questions. Game instructions require at least 30 minutes to read; more preparation is helpful. Negotiations require a minimum of 2 hours. However, the more time allowed for negotiation, the better.




For all parties:

  • General Instructions


Role specific:
Confidential Instructions to the Negotiator for:

  • Harborco
  • Other Ports
  • Environmental League
  • Union
  • Federal DCR
  • Governor


Teacher’s package (67 pages total):

  • All of the above
  • Teaching Note
  • Game Review Chart

Learning Outcome


  • When the game is played by several groups at the same time, the comparison of outcomes is instructive. Typically, some groups will reach agreement and some will not. Very few groups will reach unanimous (6-way) agreement.
  • Players are exposed to elementary utility analysis in the point scoring scheme. The importance of pre-negotiation analysis in evaluating options is illustrated. The players can then explore how and why different negotiating strategies led to different outcomes.
  • Multi-issue, multi-party negotiations tend to involve the formation of coalitions–especially blocking coalitions. This game provides an instructive context for exploring coalition strategies.
  • Parties that reveal their true interests do not necessarily do better than those who remain silent or bluff. The advantages and disadvantages of revealing all one’s concerns are illustrated in this game.
  • Pareto-superior and Pareto-inferior agreements are illustrated by the scores.
  • When 12 players play the game (2 per role) they have an opportunity to explore the special difficulties of negotiations involving non-monolithic parties.
  • The need for a neutral “process manager” of some sort is also illustrated, as the parties struggle to structure their discussions.
  • The advantages of caucusing can be explored. In some cases, players will initiate caucuses; in others, they will avoid private caucusing.


Target Audience

Product owners, Scrum masters, leaders

schedule Submitted 4 years ago

Public Feedback

comment Suggest improvements to the Speaker