Two main phases break down into six more specific stages:
The Forum Phase
|1||Reconnaissance and Entrée||Build the table and get organized.|
|2||Convening||Bring people together to formally start the effort.|
|3||Dialogue and Information Exchange||Lay the procedural, relational, and substantive foundations.|
The Problem Solving Phase
|4||Clarify the Trade Zone||Array the choices and evaluate the options.|
|5||Decision Making||Reach conclusions.|
Because collaborative processes do not proceed in a linear way, there is a lot of osmosis between phases and considerable tacking back and forth within stages.
Deliverables and Outputs
Every case and project is different. Still, there are six possible deliverables that can result from the process:
- Transactional Agreements. These documents are usually signed by stakeholders who have the authority to enter into and implement agreements, either for themselves or for others they represent.
- Guidance Agreements. These documents unite usually opposing parties to offer consensual advice to decision makers on a regulatory, law-making, rule-making, standard-setting, or policy-making issue.
- Joint Fact-Finding Statements. These documents seek to narrow disagreements on a specific set of factual public policy matters.
- Plans. These documents articulate the alignment of one or more groups on a vision, strategy, goal set, objective set, or future activity set.
- Records of Discussions. These products capture the results of listening sessions which embody the opinions, suggestions, ideas, or agreements of diverse constituencies.
- Alliances or Partnerships. These products memorialize part or all of an attempt to create new alliances, confederations, or mergers, sometimes between highly improbable partners.
Managing the problem, the people, and the process
To design a process that is appropriate to the people and the problem, the facilitator needs to take into account multiple dimensions:
- The “time” dimension has to do with deadlines and how the interval between start-up and completion will be planned and managed.
- The “space” dimension is about establishing what might be the right “unit of work,” “unit of analysis,” or “unit of potential action.”
- The “energy” dimension is about assessing the group’s level of tolerance for complexity and ambiguity, the emotional ranges, different styles, types of knowledge, and levels of commitment.
- The “form” dimension deals with the various kinds of forums, venues, and sequences that may be appropriate to the circumstance.
Part of the facilitator’s assessment is to gauge the nature of the conflict and its possibilities for a cooperative process. Some of this is mechanical: who needs to be involved, whether they will come to the table, whether resources can be secured, and so on. There are also softer judgments that need to be calibrated. One of those has to do with the interplay of PESTLE issues (political, economic, social, technical, legal, and environmental). A softer (but nonetheless analytic) judgment deals with the degree to which a given issue is dominated by “technical” versus “value” themes and the current levels of agreement or disagreement about them.
Understanding that a lot of improvisation will be required, the choreography is designed to help set a positive mood and an entrée into the process that ultimately creates a “trustable” forum for dialogue and negotiation.