Strawman documents are quite effective in helping committees whose members have varying perspectives to come to common agreement. These documents are designed to stimulate vigorous discussion about a wide range of issues on an issue of importance to a planning body.
Before writing the strawman document, I’ll interview each of the stakeholders on the planning body or task force to understand the points of disagreement. The document will capture each of these points in a form that facilitates meaningful discussion and rapid resolution of the issues in a meeting. I usually facilitate the discussion of the strawman document in order to ensure that these discussions move along as quickly and productively as possible.
Once the committee has stepped through the critique of the strawman document, the conflicts have surfaced, and the agreements are ratified verbally, I’ll rewrite the document for a second review. We repeat this process until there is full agreement or there is an understanding that there will be no agreement.
It is far easier to criticize a strawman document than to criticize one’s colleagues. The document serves as a focus to drive a vigorous, candid discussion among the members of the planning group and rapidly bring the group to resolution.
The role of the strawman document is to serve as a focus for discussion. Committee members will feel far more comfort criticizing the strawman document than they would criticizing their colleagues at the table.