Project Management

When Project and Process Worlds Collide: Managing Stakeholder Conflict

Stephen currently works in commissioning projects in the oil and gas industry.

Every project has one thing in common: It generally delivers something that is then put into use (a new supermarket, a new business process, a new product design). The use period has many names, like production, support or maintenance. Whatever it’s called, it is governed by a process.

The world of projects is filled with uncertainty and risk, while the world of processes thrives on repeatability and reliable forecasts. When a project deliverable gets to the point of going into use, those worlds collide—with resulting conflict, stress and misunderstandings. One of the established roles of a project manager is dealing with conflict. I am going to examine a particular source of conflict—and show some reliable techniques for resolving it.

After I graduated in electronic engineering, I went to work for Hewlett Packard in its research and development department. I spent the next 10 years as a product designer for HP and similar companies. When I eventually progressed to project management, I began interfacing with production people—and my problems started. I had been living in the world of uncertainty and possibilities, and now I was dealing with people who were immersed in Six Sigma and tight profit margins. At the start, I just found them annoying. But as I began to see their perspective, I could make sense of the anger and conflict that was emerging.…

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