Facilitating agreement between diverse stakeholders
Put 10 people in a room and ask them to discuss an issue and you will have 10 different mental models of the system that they are grappling with.
They will have different roles, different backgrounds, come from different departments or companies, they may come from different cultures. It is not surprising that they will have built up their own individual picture of how the world around them works.
Now let them discuss an issue. They will have a conversation. However what each person says will be driven by their own set of assumptions and axioms which normally will remain hidden. Often one of two outcomes will come to pass.
1. The group will not be able to reach agreement
2. The group reaches a nominal agreement but it then unravels over time as people start to say "No that is not what I thought I agreed to"
Well can you get the disparate mental models aligned? If you could then it is likely you will avoid the outcomes above. It will not happen through simple conversation, but it can be done.
What you need to do is to extract each person's mental model and combine all of them together in a composite owned by the group.
How do you do this?
You interview each individual using a set of 10 trigger questions to get their issues on the table. You then take the outputs of all your interviews and create a picture of all the issues in play - how they interact with each other - and how they in the end create or destroy value. You then play back the picture to the group accompanied by their anonymous verbatim comments on each of the issues. Each member of the audience sees their quotes and thus sees the picture as theirs. You then offer the group the chance to challenge your picture, to refine it. You then ask for a show of hands of all that agree that the picture is a reasonable representation of how the world works. Once everyone's hand is in the air you have done it - they all share the same mental model - the picture.
Now you can get the conversation going, but this time referring to the shared model and the outcome will much more likely be enduring agreement on the best way forward.
I know it works since I have been working with stakeholder groups in this way since the late 1980s. The approach I use is called Value Mapping?
What do you use?