“Fast, clear, and accurate communication is a hallmark of high levels of team performance and collaboration. Such teams have mastered the art of straight talk; there is a little wasted motion from misunderstanding and confusion. Ideas move like quicksilver. The team understands that effective communication is key to thinking collectively and finding synergy in team solutions in resolving conflicts. As a result, team members approach communication with determined intentionality. They talk about it a lot and put a lot of effort into keeping it good and getting better.”

– Sattar Bawany (2023)

Best-Practice Toolkit: The Five-Step “AGREE” Framework to Achieve Collaboration

The Centre for Executive Education (CEE) has developed the five-step “AGREE” process (see Figure 1) for achieving commitment to team collaboration at the workplace as well as resolving conflict and negotiation situations as driven using communication skills.

Figure 1: The “A.G.R.E.E.” Framework for Achieving Team Collaboration

A: Acknowledge
The critical first step in achieving team collaboration or resolving conflict is for all parties to acknowledge that a conflict exists. This is particularly important when any of the involved parties or team members prefer an avoiding conflict management style. Acknowledging that a difference in the way of working or conflict exists and inviting parties to collaborate helps set the tone for productive interaction.

Example: “I sense that we see this issue very differently, and I believe it is an important matter. Would it be helpful, from your perspective, to spend some time focusing on this? Who else should we involve to help us find a workable solution or work toward resolving this?”

G: Ground Rules
Ground rules help establish the tone, climate, and time frame for a discussion toward a collaboration process. By establishing rules up-front, the parties begin the discussion with clearer expectations and a greater degree of comfort. Teams may also leverage their “team charter” if this has been established.

Examples: Listen to understand; question to clarify; maximize participation; silence means assent; speak for yourself; be respectful.

R: Reality
Establishing the context and understanding the current reality related to the issues or conflict in question is the most critical step in achieving team collaboration. It is used to move from the destructive side of collaboration (blame or winning at the other person’s expense) to the constructive side (resolving problems). In this phase, each team member demonstrates empathy and article listening by clearly articulating their understanding of the other person’s position and must consciously put any emotion aside and reconsider the situation from all perspectives.

Example: “If I am understanding you correctly, you are saying . . .”

E: Explore
Team members rarely see a need for numerous options when they see that other members already know the right option, which is his or her position. Brainstorming and exploring multiple options gives parties room to explore alternatives from the other member’s perspectives and support a problem-solving focus. The goal is to create as many options as possible that are responsive to the interests of all parties.

Example: “What do you think are the possible alternatives to resolve this challenge or issue?”

E: Execute
Sometimes, the best option is readily apparent and satisfactory to all team members and the decision is made. More often, the team members select those options with the most potential and continue to explore them. The use of relevant objective criteria provides an independent basis for decision-making by avoiding the will or power of either team member. Once the best solution has been identified and agreed upon, the final step will be to implement or execute it effectively. Have a follow-up discussion regularly to enhance collaboration.

Example: Possible objective criteria include cost, timeline, and customer demand.


Collaboration in a workplace involves a group of people sharing their ideas and skills to achieve a common goal. Working collaboratively, instead of individually, helps improve productivity and gives employees a sense of purpose in the organization. It also becomes easier to brainstorm ideas to solve an existing problem or deliver the required work on time.

Employees with different ideas, perspectives, and expertise can result in conflicts however they must work together to find innovative solutions, which in turn allows organizations to solve problems in a faster and more efficient manner.