Organizational Leadership

Using Creative Problem Solving to Resolve a Conflict

Head Start staff must strive to build trust among themselves, remove and reduce barriers that interfere with working together, and learn to dialogue in constructive ways. This resource can be used by all staff. This article provides six creative problem-solving steps to resolve a conflict. By using these steps, Head Start staff will have a positive effect on Head Start parents and children and the lives of those touched by these parents and children. Examples are given to illustrate situations where conflict is likely to happen.

The following is an excerpt from...
Head Start Bulletin logo

by Derry Koralek, National Head Start Education Training Project

  1. DEFINE THE PROBLEM: Describe the problem and how it effects staff, children, and families.

    EXAMPLE: Classroom team members are often late to work. They have excuses, but the rest of us have to complete our tasks. When the room isn't ready on time, we can't greet the children and talk with their parents.

  2. SET A GOAL: Re-state the problem as a goal.

    EXAMPLE: All team members will be on time so we are ready when children and parents arrive.

  3. BRAINSTORM: Think of various strategies for solving the problem. Accept all suggestions without evaluating or censoring them.


    • Report people who are late to our supervisor.
    • Have people who are late do all the clean-up at the end of the day.
    • Set up a carpool with other staff.
    • Attend a time management workshop.
  4. DISCUSS: Review the proposed strategies and identify their advantages and disadvantages.


    • Report people:
      Advantage: they might fear their supervisor so they will try harder to be on time. 
      Disadvantage: the ability for team members to work together could be damaged.
    • Extra clean-up:
      Advantage: other team members might feel the work is divided unfairly.
      Disadvantage: the daily meeting would have to be delayed until everyone is finished with the extra clean-up, which could damage team work.
    • Car pool:
      Advantage: team members could save money and everyone would get to work on time.
      Disadvantage: the daily travel time for team members might be longer.
    • Workshop:
      Advantage: team members could learn to manage their time.
      Disadvantage: workshops take time and money.
  5. SELECT AND PLAN: Choose a strategy to try. Develop a plan for implementing it. Include staff assignments and a time line.

    EXAMPLE: Strategy: Attend a workshop on time management and organizational skills.

  6. EVALUATE: Discuss the effectiveness of the strategy. If the problem is resolved, celebrate your success. If the problem remains, revise the strategy or select another from the list generated in Step 3.

    EXAMPLE: Since attending the workshop, there have only been a few days when a team member was late.

    As each member tries ideas from the workshop, they share how each one works for them.