A large suburban Fire Department suffered a serious strike twenty years ago and the parties were acting as though the strike was yesterday. Mistrust and suspicion continued to be high. Most adjoining Fire Departments regarded this fire department as the “bad boys” of the region. Due to revenue shortfalls the City needed the Fire Department to come up with its share of cost reductions, $300,000. The Firefighter Union saw no need to explore or collaborate on options and had no interest in cutting back their budget.

Key Issue:

Could the firefighters and management put aside old hatreds for each other and use new skills to solve problems together in a mutually beneficial manner?


Taylor Nelson first worked to build trust with the parties individually and then took them off site for a three-day confrontation meeting. As a result they agreed to set up a collateral organization (Fire Action Consensus Team) to begin shaping a new, positive relationship. Because this large and influential department impacted all relationships within the City, the City Manager personally participated in the process. Taylor-Nelson taught the parties conflict resolution, dialogue, group decision-making and group problem-solving skills.

Together they designed a futures search conference bringing in visionary fire service leaders from across the country to stimulate their creative thinking and planning. They memorialized their commitment to form a new collaborative relationship in a written charter and code of trust.

Taylor-Nelson continued to assist the parties for the first eighteen months of their new relationship and periodically comes back to do team building tune ups. They personally coached the City Manager, the Fire Chief and the leaders of the Firefighter union.

As a result the Fire Department began merger work with a nearby fire department, sharing the same Chief. Grievances dropped to zero and the city was able to realize the needed savings. They are now considered the best fire department to work for in the region.