Collaborative Governance

On the 14th November, I attended Twyford’s Consultation is Dead webinar ( (facilitated by Stuart Waters), hopeful that I might develop new perspectives and ideas related to collaborating with, and leading, groups of people.

Whilst the webinar environment left me a little cold (a topic for a future post!), the information was thought-provoking  and I could see how one or two of the tools in particular might make a difference to workplace restructuring projects and problems, and might be interesting to use during the forthcoming ULT workshop. I can also imagine how the collaborative process itself might result in real innovation, if the model is perceived as a playpen or sandpit, a space for stakeholders to think outside the square and collaboratively consider that anything might be possible…

The Cynefin Model

Created by Dave Snowden at CognitiveEdge (, this model  charts 4 different levels or approaches related to governance. The idea is that leaders/managers will recognise which context/s they are operating in at a given time, prior to diagnosing situations and solutions, and adjust their decision-making style and behaviour accordingly.

The 4 contexts of the Cynefin Model 

  • Simple – focuses on accepted and standard operating procedures. Decision-making is unquestioned and ‘understood’ and procedures are outlined, delegated, coordinated and implemented. There is little or no disagreement
  • Complicated – includes rules for intervention and values technical expertise.  Leaders and experts investigate several options as solutions and as there is no one correct response, decisions can take time and can be subject to question by others
  • Complex – a more experimental form of  management led by a series of flexible interventions. Collaborative responses lead to patterns of instruction and possible solutions that emerge out of the materials and processes at hand. Technical expertise is insufficient and decisions are made when stakeholders assimilate concepts and collaborate to share and arrive at solutions.
  • Chaotic – a dire situation calls for strong effective leadership and communication to establish order, assess areas of stability and unstability and implement strategies to transform chaos to complexity. The chaos context presents a good opportunity to implement innovative decision making, as a parallel strategy (when everything chnages, change everything!).
Some really helpful points were raised during a comparison of conventional and collaborative management models. Collaborative models were deemed to have positive features that can benefit all stakeholders. They can be used to:
  • collectively determine the scope of collaboration
  • identify all stakeholders and what they can contribute to the process
  • work with the ‘community of interest/stakeholders’ to frame, test and convey messages
  • co-design parameters and methods for working with the stakeholders
  • build trust through sharing responsibility for the process and outcomes
  • collaboratively co-create possible solutions
  • deliberate and consider options and potential solutions, whilst recognising agreed criteria
  • work with the ‘community of interest/stakeholders’ to frame, test and convey messages
  • co-design parameters and methods for working with the stakeholders
  • build trust through sharing responsibility for the process and outcomes

The presenter created a case study, The Murray Darling Basin Water Management Plan, to explain and demonstrate a roadmap for co-creating enduring solutions to complex dilemmas. This 5 step roadmap charts a backward logic for creating robust collaborative management solutions.

Collaborative governance roadmap stages: looking backwards

  1. Co-deliver actions: participate in the implementation process for the solution
  2. Co-create the solution: participate fully in the process of making a solution
  3. Co-design the process: participate in the design of the solution-finding process
  4. Co-define the dilemma: understand the problem and help frame it in readiness for a solution. Be assured that their interests are valued and understood
  5. Commit to collaboration: recognise the positive mindset and commitment to collaborate on behalf of the sponsor/manager

The theory underpinning Twyfords roadmap proposes that if managers and stakeholders work through deliberative processes with appreciative mindsets,  increased trust and capacity leads to the likelihood of an enduring solution.

The webinar presenter summarised and reiterated that the heart of this model recognises that a collaborative mindset builds trust and that stakeholders are essential components of the process because they:

  • know things we don’t
  • are able to consider the full range of perspectives
  • are the source of innovation and creativity
  • are very good at weighing things up and making wise decisions
  • can be trusted to do the right thing
  • will help us do this better


  • Twyfords Webinar: Consultation is Dead! It’s time to collaborate with your stakeholders: an introduction to collaborative governance and decision making for complex times. 14th November 3.30 – 5.00pm
  •  David J. Snowden and Mary E. Boone. A Leader’s Framework for Decision Making.  2007 Harvard Business School Publishing Corporation.