Let’s get the fact out of the way first – Conflicts are inevitable in a project environment. Period.
Here are the top 3 sources of conflicts that account for 50% of all conflicts,
- Project Priorities
Other sources of conflicts are Personalities, Cost and Technical Opinions.
Here are some of the things that can help reduce the amount of conflicts,
- Ground rules
- Role definition with the help of tools like RACI charts
- Communication planning
As a Project Manager, if you are successful in conflict management, it results in greater productivity and positive working relationships. Infact you can take it up a notch and drive this difference of opinion of the team towards increased creativity and better decision making.
The five techniques to resolve conflicts are,
1. Withdraw / Avoid
Postpone the issue to prepare for a resolution or wait for it to be resolved by others. Example – Deliberately not responding to emails
2. Smooth / Accommodate
Emphasize the areas that all parties agree on rather than the areas of difference. Example – Reiterating the points everyone agree to
3. Compromise / Reconcile
Exploring options that would bring some degree of satisfaction to all parties involved even if it resolves the conflict temporarily or partially. Example – Agree to one suggestion of all the parties, results in a lose-lose situation
4. Force / Direct
Basically be autocratic. This need not necessarily mean push one’s own viewpoint, it may also mean pushing someone else’s viewpoint through. Example – In one of The Economist’s recent article, it was noted that – After at least 80% of meetings, any decisions taken will be in line with the HIPPO, or “highest-paid person’s opinion”. This results in a win-lose situation
5. Collaborate / Problem Solving
If you think this sounds the best way to resolve a conflict, you are correct! It requires a cooperative attitude and open dialogue in order to incorporate multiple viewpoints and insights from different perspectives. Example – Reaching a consensus on how to resolve the conflict, results in win-win situation
Some of the factors that influence conflict resolution methods include,
- The intensity of the conflict
- Authority of the people involved in the conflict
- Time available to resolve the conflict
- Criticality of maintaining a good relationship
- Motivation to resolve the conflict whether its for long-term or short-term basis
Some texts including PMBOK go as far to state that the success of project managers in managing their project teams often depends on their ability to resolve conflicts.
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