Project Management

Voices on Project Management

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Voices on Project Management offers insights, tips, advice and personal stories from project managers in different regions and industries. The goal is to get you thinking, and spark a discussion. So, if you read something that you agree with--or even disagree with--leave a comment.

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Date

The Silver Lining of Project Conflicts

Categories: People management

By Ramiro Rodrigues

Conflict is inherent to human nature—and that’s a good thing! Conflicts are the fuel that boosts our capacity to think, question and communicate. That said, it is worthwhile to analyze the way conflicts may influence the corporate environment and, more specifically, our projects.

Every project exists to change something, whether it’s creating, improving or replacing. No organization invests its resources into keeping everything as it currently is. But human nature tends to resist change, whether out of fear or out of a desire to preserve comfort.

If every project introduces change, and every change generates resistance, then we can conclude that every project is an instigator of resistance.

How to Manage Conflict

Conflicts typically don’t emerge in the beginning and planning phases of a project. During these phases, the environment in which the project is immersed remains constant. Normally, it is during the execution phase that the team starts to bring to the table the requirements and characteristics expected by the sponsor. During this time, the project leader must stay on the lookout for all potential conflicts that may arise.

Of course, one can’t expect the serenity of a Buddhist monk from this profession. Some of the key emotional intelligence principles, such as resilience and assertiveness in decision-making, are hard to find in a world that is growing increasingly competitive and fast-paced. But this shouldn’t be used as an excuse for negligence when faced with conflicts. The project leader must be skilled in understanding the implications and intensity of conflicts, in order to find the most applicable strategy for bringing about resolution.

Conflict resolution strategies incorporate negotiation techniques that have been thoroughly studied by sales professionals who seek to overcome resistance in favor of their goals.

Stephen P. Robbins, in his book Organizational Behavior, defined the five stages of the conflict process. During the third stage, “Intentions,” Robbins provides five strategies that deserve attention from everyone who needs to handle the clashes that may come up in their projects:

  1. Competing: to convince another party of a specific position, regardless of the potential impact it may have on those involved.
  2. Collaborating: to seek a result that is beneficial to every party involved.
  3. Compromising: to have the parties involved partially let go of their original positions in favor of a common result.
  4. Avoiding (non-confrontation): to avoid involvement with the conflict, eventually coming to the point of even denying its existence.
  5. Accommodating: to bring peace to the conflict by letting go of a position.

Each unique situation deserves a specific strategy aimed at making the most of the opportunity and enabling your project to progress successfully with low stress levels for everyone involved.

It is indeed possible to extract great results from conflicts. If two heads are better than one, it is understandable that different thoughts may complement one another. Conflicts are opportunities to align messages and to clarify every aspect for the smooth progression of the project, avoiding the development of clashes or confrontations.

I wish you happy conflicts and great projects!

How have conflicts led to better outcomes for your projects?

 

 

Posted by Ramiro Rodrigues on: May 01, 2020 08:31 AM | Permalink | Comments (4)
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