Collaborative Problem Solving

Produce Documents

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Develop a plan, set of recommendations, or policy document that describes the strategy the group has developed, the rationale for the strategy, and the process by which it was developed.

The final group task is to design and write a plan, set of recommendations, or policy document that is tangible evidence of the quality of the deliberations. The document should include an overview of the issue, details of the strategy, and a description of the rationale behind its development. Enumerating the step-by-step logic and the assumptions on which it is based will help to guide those who are charged with implementation.

The product itself can be written by group members, by staff, or by a consultant to the group. Key constituents who are not part of the group—including technical experts and those responsible for implementation—are often consulted and given opportunities to comment. Because participants in the group are responsible for the final document, there should be multiple opportunities for them to review and approve the content.

In addition to high quality plans, policies, or recommendations, a well-designed, well-executed collaborative strategy strengthens the habits of collaboration among participants.

Prepare and approve plan/policy document outline.

  • Sub-committee, staff, or consultant prepares an annotated outline.
  • Group members review, revise, and approve.


Prepare a draft plan/policy document.

  • Group, technical specialists, and significant constituents review draft[s].
  • Group/drafting team revises as many times as required to meet stakeholder standards
    and expectations.
  • Final draft is circulated to select constituents.

Keeping the group focused on this final stage is a challenge.
Once the choice of strategy has been made, some participants may feel their work is done. Helping the group stay focused—and ensuring they are making necessary connections to constituents in gathering comments and suggestions—is part of the process challenge of this stage.

There are last minute disagreements about language.

As the document is prepared and circulated to participants and to constituencies outside the group, there are often requests to modify findings or language. Sometimes, those who object would prefer vague or less direct language. These are issues that can consume a substantial amount of the group’s time at a moment in the process when most participants think that their work is complete.

Production problems crop up.

Lack of assistance for graphics and layout, overloaded editors, and similar practicalities can slow production and result in the circulation of multiple “unofficial” final versions. When electronic versions are circulating, the use of “track changes” features can result in multiple “final” drafts.

There are signals of weak support from executives or other sponsors.

The group may receive or hear of weak support from the executive or other significant outsiders. Sometimes, the executive appears to be backing away from the proposed strategy or indicating a preference for some strategy other than the one developed by the group. To the extent that the group has worked well together to produce a product in which they take some pride, this can be particularly difficult. At the center of this dilemma are questions about who the group is responsible to and what the nature of that responsibility is.

No master editor protocols exist.

As the group begins to produce a report, editing of electronic versions by individual group members can result in multiple versions of the document. Groups are wise to develop protocols governing the sequencing, labeling, dating, and transmission of edited versions.

Draft reports are prematurely circulated.

Groups should develop protocols governing the circulation of draft copies to constituents outside the group because premature release of incomplete documents can create a negative climate for the final version.

The Hawaii Coral Reef Working Group’s (CRWG) document incorporated policy priorities for addressing land-based sources of pollution, reef protection, and related initiatives, along with details of the priority-setting process. A first draft was submitted to the CRWG, to the Local Action Strategy groups, and to the staff of the Papahanaumokuakea Monument. After a first round of revisions incorporated some of the recommended edits, the document was re-submitted to members of the Coral Reef Working Group, as well as to selected experts and the national NOAA staff. The final draft incorporated further edits and was disseminated to all who had participated.

Related Examples

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