Project Management

How Can We Keep Project Conflict in Check?

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Categories: Agile

By Soma Bhattacharya

Conflict is an inevitable companion in the realm of project management. It can arise from differing stakeholder interests, resource constraints or communication breakdowns—and how it's managed can make or break a project's success. Understanding the intricacies of conflict management within project management is crucial for effective leadership and achieving desired outcomes.

According to a study by Thomas and Kilmann (1974), conflict in project management can be categorized into five modes: competing, collaborating, compromising, avoiding and accommodating. Understanding how individuals approach conflict resolution is essential for project managers to navigate through challenging situations effectively. This can be initiated simply and can be scaled up as required depending on the complexity and root cause of the conflicts.

One of the findings from the research reveals that projects characterized by constructive conflict resolution mechanisms tend to exhibit higher levels of team cohesion, creativity and, ultimately, project success.

How do we keep conflict in check in today’s environment?

  1. Governance model of the project: The setting up of the model allows stakeholders and their roles to be defined in detail, along with details of how its run. The governance model is vast; however, the basics can outline a regular communication cadence, operations reviews, and parameters to set up escalation calls or meetings. Details mapped to the project’s operation and expectations might be one of the stepping stones to create clarity and foster healthy discussions that can lead to less conflicts.
  2. Team culture: I have always believed one of the differences between a highly effective team and one that’s isn’t is the team’s culture. We all know how strong team dynamics can help a team perform better. While it’s a challenge if teams are distributed, we can definitely build strong culture for all teams to encourage trust and team bonding. While this doesn’t guarantee zero conflicts, it does ensure that differences of opinion are better handled and understood. A safe environment where everyone really opens up in a retrospective is more welcome than a team that keeps things bottled up—which is a disaster waiting to happen.
  3. Role of the project manager: Effective conflict management can drive better innovation and originality. While challenging, simple things like keeping a strong, detailed, output-oriented agenda for meetings; publishing and looking for resolutions when there are conflicts or uncertainty in decisions to look for common ground; being objective and aligned to the project goals; reminders on why we are together with catchups or lunches; and maintaining a platform to access project details, updates and communication all might be good ways to keep everyone in sync and informed on the everyday details of the project. A skilled PM in any project might be the key to ensuring better conflict management.

The bottom line is always to foster open communication channels, because prevention is better than cure.

As Dr. Stephen R. Covey aptly puts it, "Strength lies in differences, not in similarities." Embracing conflict as a catalyst for innovation and collaboration is the hallmark of exceptional project management.

Posted by Soma Bhattacharya on: May 16, 2024 01:31 PM | Permalink

Comments (9)

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mohamed elboghdadi mansoura, DK, Egypt
thank u

Erin Thomas Florida, USA
This is an excellent read. I think a big part of navigating conflicts within your team has to do with the rapport you've built within that team. That is the foundation for everything that follows. This was a great read!

Michael Browning Director, Cybersecurity| Vanderbilt University Nashville, USA
Great insight - thank you for sharing!

Soma Bhattacharya Founder| Stepping into PM India
Thank you very much for the feedback.

Samer Mulla Yanbu, 03, Saudi Arabia

Kwiyuh Michael Wepngong Financial Management Specialist | US Peace Corps / Cameroon Yaounde, Centre, Cameroon
Thanks for this
Quite a challenge but helpful

Fucai Fan Xiamen, Fj, China

Jianming Hou China
thank you for sharing!

Jianming Hou China
Thank you for sharing!

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