NHI Training Provides Solutions For Managing Conflict
Collaboration is essential to completing transportation projects and improving the Nation's infrastructure. The complex world of transportation decisionmaking involves many agencies, jurisdictions, tribes, and stakeholders with an array of missions, mandates, and interests. Balancing transportation needs with preserving environmental resources and respecting community values requires the ability to maintain constructive dialogue with others who have different views and responsibilities. Sometimes the various missions and differing priorities can lead to conflict, resulting in project delays.
Responding to the growing need for effective collaborators and negotiators in the transportation planning and project development process, the National Highway Institute (NHI) offers the course 142060 Practical Conflict Management Skills for Environmental Issues. This training equips transportation professionals, environmental agency staff, and tribal representatives with the skills needed to collaborate effectively and complete projects in a timely manner.
The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has incorporated interagency coordination and collaboration tools, case studies, and best practices into environment, planning, and infrastructure program activities for years. Legislative requirements such as the Transportation Equity Act for the 21st Century place additional emphasis on coordination to reduce delays, while continuing an ethic of environmental stewardship.
The process of planning and developing a highway or multimodal improvement involves demonstrating compliance with various Federal and State laws and regulations, as well as with local planning goals. FHWA follows the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process to include compliance with other laws as part of the analysis.
Practical Conflict Management Skills for Environmental Issues was developed in concert with FHWA environmental specialists and staff from the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and State highway agency and tribal representatives.
Designed to be highly interactive, this 3-day, instructor-led training encourages participants to bridge their respective mandates and interests, share their perspectives on important issues and resources, and participate in meaningful, constructive discussions. The course incorporates a "personal styles instrument," which demonstrates how to adapt one's personal style with others whose styles differ, and a "game theory" group exercise that illustrates the challenges and benefits of cooperation.
Creating a Dialogue
The demands of navigating through multiple layers of decisionmaking authority, managing emotions and perceptions, preventing unnecessary conflict, and maintaining a consistent and respectful stance can be a challenge on the job. Course participants learn conflict management strategies, such as interest-based negotiation methods, reframing skills, and how to manage meetings to draw out meaningful and productive discussion. They learn how to use these skills during the planning, development, and implementation stages of transportation projects. They practice effective listening, communication, and facilitation skills and learn how to streamline processes. The training models how to make good use of limited time and personnel resources, and how to engage with others in collaborative problem solving.
Something for Everyone
The course is designed for Federal, State, metropolitan planning organization, local public agency, and tribal representatives who are involved in federally funded transportation projects. Environmental consultants and nongovernmental organization representatives too can benefit from this training. Participants should have a working knowledge of NEPA and the transportation planning and project development processes.
"It takes people from a myriad of agencies working cooperatively with a variety of interested parties to make a transportation project go smoothly," says Mila Plosky, NHI's training program manager for planning, environment, and realty services. "Almost every day there are opportunities to discuss differences and compare goals to arrive at mutually acceptable solutions that ultimately benefit the public. Through this training, participants learn skills they can apply immediately in their jobs."
For course details and to schedule a session, please visit NHI's Web site at www.nhi.fhwa.dot.gov.
Candice Jackson is a contractor for NHI.