Never Compromise When You Can Collaborate.

If you’ve ever tried to create something or solve a problem as part of a high-functioning team, you know that conflict is practically unavoidable. Add a looming deadline, a commitment to an important client, or a boss who just won’t take no for an answer, and there’s a lot of pressure to come up with a solution. 

There are a lot of different ways to solve conflict – the Thomas-Killman Conflict Mode breaks it down into five key methods.  Their model includes a matrix where one axis is assertiveness, and the other is cooperativeness. The four quadrants break down as follows:

  1. Competing – that’s where each of the parties wants to “win”. Usually that’s a no-win for everyone.
  2. Avoiding – is where the risk to one or more parties of being hurt by the process is high, so they “turtle”. Does that sound like a satisfactory outcome?
  3. Accommodating – people want to “keep the peace”, right? Sounds like a good idea. Except when the result is that a few bullies learn that they can continue to run the show, while the simmering resentment begins to build, and build, in the others.
  4. The fourth is Collaborating – and we’ll get back to that in a moment. 

What about compromising? Isn’t that the best approach? Maybe not. And here’s why.

Compromising sounds okay, for sure. It’s fair, right? Well, it’s fair – in both the good, and the bad sense of the word. It’s a little like the difference between equity and equality. Compromise may seem like an acceptable solution, but often it is the solution that gives everyone exactly the same amount of sway, but ultimately provides a weak solution that leaves everyone disappointed. 

So how do you Collaborate? Very carefully. It takes time. (Remember that point at the top about maybe there’s a looming deadline?) Earlier models for conflict resolution also talked about the axes being people-driven, or time-driven. And while there’s no right answer, suspending the time deadline does increase the likelihood of collaboration. Collaboration is arriving at a co-created solution, where everyone feels heard, their ideas are validated, and then, if they must back off their position, they feel that it was at least given careful consideration by the other members of the team.

If time really is of the essence, then the solution may not be to leave it up to consensus decision-making. You may have to rely on a decider, and then return to the collaboration table to discuss less time-sensitive issues. (This is why design sprints usually appoint a decider – someone who has the final say, if push comes to shove). 

So the next time you have a group decision to make, if you know there will be lots of strong wills in the room, leave enough time for collaboration. If there isn’t enough time, appoint someone to decide, and move on. In situations of critical importance, sometimes every kid doesn’t get a valentine.

I’m Megann Willson and I’m one of the Partners at PANOPTIKA. We work with our clients to help them see everything they need to make better decisions – including facilitating collaborative decision-making by teams, leading sprints, and helping them decide which framework best suits the kind of decisions they need to make. If you and your team need help doing that, send us an email, and let’s set up a free call. Follow us on TwitterFacebook, or LinkedInand for more news you can use to help you or your team to ask more questions in ways that will let them make better decisions, click the handy button, below.