It was a great start to the day. All the parties agreed on what they wanted from their time together – a range of detailed options with pros and cons for the way ahead.
It wasn’t quite that simple.
Knowing where you want to go is great but the road to an agreement does have many steps along the way. And those steps need a foundation.
Current state: It was obvious from the beginning that perceptions of the current state differed widely in the room and needed to be brought closer together. This took time – data was presented and questions were asked. As independent mediators, Iceni made the space for this building of trust, knowing that commitment would be impossible without a common starting point. By asking the simple question “Anything else?” multiple times, we flushed out any lingering questions and doubts. By lunchtime we had achieved a solid level of shared understanding.
Future state: After lunch we shifted the focus to the future and this time there was strong agreement. Working in small groups, the people in the room articulated clearly that their goal was improved services for the community. Not bad – we now knew where we were starting from and what we wanted to achieve.
Commitment: Then it was time to put some cards on the table. How could we bridge the gap between current and future state and what commitment was everyone willing to make? Some stakeholders had made it clear from their responses that they would continue to work together to reach the required solutions while others were still on the fence or completely on the other side. This created tension as some groups had to wait for others to ‘get on the bus’. Iceni deliberately shifted the discussion from a small groups structure to involving the entire room of 30 stakeholders so that everyone could hear all views. While this made facilitation more challenging, it was a calculated move. Many small steps and shows of goodwill were made openly and people were patient as they moved towards alignment. Commitment was being ground out play by play and person by person.
By the end of the day, we had not achieved what had originally been requested, ‘a list of options with pros and cons’. That conversation required a commitment from all parties and the ability to negotiate and commit resources. We didn’t have that. Not in the room. Not yet. We knew that forcing solutions in this environment would have been detrimental to the long-term process.
Yet we did achieve something more important. Stakeholders, some whom had never before met face to face and had no common understanding of the current state of play, had been brought together and had an open discussion. Relationships were forged and trust was built in a safe environment.
Building on the foundation of trust generated on that day, we were then able to call participants after the session, freely get information and feedback, and within 5 working days pull together a roadmap for the way forward that got a big tick from the key stakeholders. Iceni’s abilities as independent facilitators to read the room, step back and focus on foundational elements which could then successfully be harnessed at a later date were critical when navigating commitment.
If you need support to negotiate with stakeholders or create agreement and commitment in a process, contact Iceni to provide thoughtful, independent facilitation and oversight to navigate the journey. We would love to help.