Module 1: Collaboration and Conflict: Section 4

The following is section 4 of 4 from Module 1 of “Essential Skills for Engaging Conflict,” a course that Sound Options Group developed in partnership with Oklahoma State University. These modules are a great resource to lead your team through as you work to improve your conflict engagement skills.

Essential Elements of and Effective Process of Collaboration

The following are critical elements of a collaborative decision-making process along with a brief elaboration of each stage.

  • Preparation
  • Identifying the Issues
  • Exploring for Interests
  • Options for Mutual Gains
  • Solutions and Follow-Through


Negotiations theorists posit that any effective negotiation is built on 70% of your time spent in preparation.  The following questions are designed to initiate our thinking as we prepare to engage in a process of collaboration.

Substantive Preparation:

  • What are the issues?
  • What are the required or expected outcomes?
  • What information is needed to engage effectively in this conversation?
  • What are your interests/needs/objectives? Their interests/needs/objectives? Those we share in common?
  • What are possible outcomes based on hunched interests and mutual gains?

Procedural Preparation:

  • Identify commitment to mutual purpose and mutual benefit.
  • Identify commitment to mutual respect.
  • Establish guidelines for the group:
  • Timelines
  • Meeting Schedule
  • Plans for effective meetings
  • Facilitator

Emotional Preparation:

    • Commit to self-management and personal responsibility.

Commit to sharing responsibility for success of group.

Identifying the Issues:

Given all the time spent in preparation it is essential that teams take time at their initial meeting to clarify their purpose and the issue(s) to be addressed.  This includes:

  • Introducing the issue(s) from  each participant’s perspective.
  • Beginning to unpack and  acknowledge the potential complexity of the issue(s).
  • Exchange pertinent information.
  • Turn the focus to the future.
  • Develop an Agenda:  What do we need to explore and  understand more fully?

Explore for Interests:


Just because you can name the issue does not mean that you understand it.  During this phase you:

  • Address what really at the heart of the issue(s).
  • Deepen group understanding of Individual Interests.
  • Search for Shared Interests.
  • Identify Common Ground
  • Approach exploration with a balance of Advocacy and Inquiry
  • Engage in Dialogue that supports shared learning.

Options for Mutual Gain:

Brainstorm ideas with the potential of meeting as many common and shared interests.  This may include such things as:

  • Agreeing that we can generate ideas without necessarily being committed to them.
  • Developing multiple options. (think outside the existing box)
  • Evaluating options against interests and standards.
  • Selecting option(s) based on evaluation against or shared and individual interests.

Solutions and Follow-Through:

Just because we have a tentative agreement does not mean we are done.  Too many plans fail in implementation because we have not worked out the details.  It has been said that the problem is less with reaching agreement in IEP meetings and more about implementation of what we have agreed to.  It is essential that we take time to bring specificity to our plans and agreements.  This may include:

  • Clarifying the option(s) we have selected for moving forward.
  • Developing a durable plan of  action for next steps with specificity; Who, What, When, Where, How.
  • Identifying a process for  evaluation.

Group discussion questions

As a group,use the following questions to increase your shared understanding of the process for supporting collaboration:

  • What are your  initial thoughts as you reflect on the framework?
  • When have you  experienced examples of this framework in action?  What was the outcome?
  • Where do you see  application of this model in your area of responsibility or influence?
  • Where is one  context in which you would commit to introducing this process?
  • What steps will  you take for implementation?

Continue working through Essential Skills for Conflict Engagement Module 1: Conflict and Collaboration

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