The following is Section 3 from Module 6 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.
Critical questions to ask when bringing specificity to plan
It has been said that “the devil is in the details”. This is particularly true when collaboratively reaching agreements about challenging issues. Groups can, at times, experience a somewhat false sense of security at this point in the process. They have been engaged in what, at times, has been a difficult conversation and yet they have experienced new learning and achieved a deeper shared understanding of complex issues. They have reached a tentative decision for moving forward and may be tempted to bask in their success, agreeing to work the details out later. While there may value in taking a break, do not assume that the work is done.
A colleague tells of fishing as a child with her father. She would get so excited when she felt a tug on her line that she would yell to her father to “get the camera!” He would share in her excitement but encourage her to “fish it all the way to the boat”. In other words, you haven’t caught a fish until it is in the boat. This is also true of agreements. You do not really have an agreement until you have worked out the details and created sufficient specificity that you can move to implementation with a sense of potential success. It is important to ask and answer the critical questions of:
- Who? Who is going to do it?
- What? What exactly are they going to do?
- When? When exactly will this be done?
- Where? Where exactly is this going to take place?
- How? How are we going to do this? What exactly is going to be necessary for successful implementation?
- What if? What happens if the unexpected happens? What do we do if we experience a barrier to implementation?
The answers to these questions will be discussed and debated and eventually agreed upon. Agreements may be document with specific language agreed upon. At this point there remain a few critical questions to be answered by the group. These include:
- Does the overall plan make sense?
- Is what we are planning realistic? While it may be challenging, is there a likelihood of success?
- Have we covered all that we set out to cover?
- Are there any loopholes?
- What steps will be taken to move to implementation?
- Who needs to be informed of and/or enrolled in our plan?
- How will we continue to communicate during the implementation of the plan?
- How will future problems and challenges be addressed?
As a group,use the following questions to increase your shared understanding of specificity and implementation:
Describe experience you have attempting to implement a plan of action for which there was a lack of specificity.
- Describe what happened.
- What was needed to achieve greater clarity and specificity regarding implementation expectations?
Where do you find yourself most challenged with this phase of the process?
How might you individually and/or collectively achieve improvement in this area?