The Getting to We process comprises five distinct steps: the first four take the parties to We, and the fifth step ensures that the parties live the We mindset. None of the steps should be skipped because cutting corners will only derail the ultimate purpose: Getting to We.

The five steps are outlined briefly as follows:

  1. Getting ready for WIIFWe. This initial step looks at three foundational elements for a successful collaborative relationship: trust, transparency, and compatibility. When the parties complete this step they will have a good idea of whether they have a solid foundation to move on. If they don’t, they can work on solidifying the relationship, and then continue. Completing this step enables partners to determine whether a WIIFWe mindset has merit for them and whether they are willing to explore establishing or renegotiating a highly collaborative relationship.
  2. Jointly agree on a shared vision for the partnership. The parties discuss and create a shared vision for the partnership. They will enter the discussion each with their own vision, of course. But then the parties transform their separate visions into one shared vision, giving the partnership its purpose beyond a series of transactions. Furthermore, it will guide the partners, not only throughout the negotiation process but throughout the term of the relationship.
  3. Collaboratively negotiate the guiding principles for the partnership. The Getting to We process demands that partners not only improve the relationship but also abide by a set of principles to drive highly collaborative behavior. This is the critical step that distinguishes highly collaborative relationships from average functioning relationships. The principles provide the mindset to support the partners on their journey to live We. Without guiding principles to prevent opportunism and competitive tit-for-tat moves partners will not behave in a collaborative manner with each other.
  4. Negotiate as We. It is now time to begin to negotiate the deal. Partners following the Getting to We process must not start by negotiating the details of the deal such as the scope of work, pricing, and terms and conditions. Rather, they must first establish the mechanisms they will use as they negotiate the details. This includes agreeing on the “negotiation rules,” the strategies and tactics, and the methods for ensuring the deal is fair and balanced, especially when it comes to how the parties deal with risk allocation and creating value. Once the partners have agreed to these mechanisms, they will use them to achieve a consensus on the deal’s specifics.
  5. Living as We. At this point the partners have reached the final stage of the journey: living as We, which occurs when they maintain a focus on the shared vision and guiding principles throughout the life of the relationship. Because relationships are dynamic, the partners choose to focus on relationship management by taking actions and measures required to keep it highly collaborative. The principles continue to play a critical role by driving the partners’ daily behaviors.

So it’s not just a one-off negotiation, a handshake and then on to the next negotiation. It’s time to create and nurture a partnership entity. The Getting to We process, coupled with the Vested WIIFWe mindset, enables the parties to negotiate the relationship itself and set that relationship on a course for continuous and fruitful collaboration.

This is the beauty and transformative power of the Getting to We concept: the business deal gets done, yes, but as a long-term partnership based on the parties’ commitment to fundamental, beneficial social norms.

Originally published here and co-authored by Kate Vitasek and David Frydlinger