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An agendais the sum of participants' values, purposes, and goals. You need to have an agenda to know what you are doing. The purpose and goals of your program need to be clearly developed and communicated with all participants.

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Each participant has personal and organizational concerns, issues, and needs*. These concerns need to be heard and underlying needs and interests understood to prevent misunderstandings and roadblocks. This takes work, but will go a long way to get a workable solution.

Be straightforward about your intentions as early as possible. Try to establish a common understanding of what you are doing and how it affects all partners. Negotiate with people along the way.

Meeting with all of the participants at once may provide an open, productive way to show the overall picture of agendas. A facilitator can make sure that everyone has a chance to speak and to address conflicts. Writing out each participant's benefits --even in distributed notes from discussions--can document, provide something for future reality checks, and prevent misunderstandings. If the participants comprise too large a group to make this approach feasible, meeting with various representatives or asking everyone for a written statement and then distributing these statements may accomplish the same thing.

Meeting with key representatives in a confidential setting (formally or informally) may also help. Agendas may become hurdles if participants are not willing to work together, or if given parameters conflict and are treated as inflexible boundaries. You need to bring conflicting agendas and impacts of the agenda out into the open. Be aware that you cannot meet everyone's demands all the time.


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Agendas won't all be synchronized.

smug dragon tip.The cook may be there to make his food look good, the king to eat, and the courtiers to be seen.

You can help prevent agendas from blocking a workable solution by:

  • Treating an agenda as another need or concern
  • Scoping the project's goals, negotiating, and compromising to reasonably solve the problem '
  • Keeping the reality of these agendas and their costs in front of you:
  • Taking all the participants' concerns into consideration

Responding in some manner to all concerns.

Talk about agendas to sweep away as many hidden agendas and mythconceptions as possible


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Note: These files were developed and were originally hosted at the Bureau of Reclamation, United States Department of the Interior.
I am hosting this as an archive. Contact Deena Larsen (deenalarsen AT for further information.