A question that we keep hearing clients is “how to collaborate with the unwilling?”.

It is often framed as if being ‘unwilling” is somehow not acceptable, and that there is no alternative. It reminded me of the Kahane Framework that I blogged about last February:


A couple of years ago we came across a really nice decision-making framework that has been particularly useful in helping clients with the choices around collaborating or not.

It was developed by Adam Kahane, and outlined in his book “Collaborating with the Enemy” (Berret-Koehler, 2018)

In the framework, Adam suggests that when faced with a difficult situation, one can respond in 4 ways- collaborating, forcing, adapting or exiting-

He suggests that one should choose to collaborate only when it is the best way to achieve the objectives. So this means collaboration is appropriate when adapting or exiting are hard to swallow, and forcing is impossible because one can only succeed by solving with others (multilaterally).

Adam also notes that the choices can be situation and time dependent, and one may move between the choices (for example between collaborate and force) over time or as circumstances change.


So such a framework can remind us that we may have a lot more choice than we think when faced with intransigence and opposition, and that we can still be in the drivers seat by choosing a different pathway.

So if you feel stuck when facing opposition to your collaborative intent, cut yourself some slack, stop blaming and open up to some different options.