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Topics: Change Management, Leadership, Resource Management
How do you deal with conflict in your project?
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When working on a project, conflict can arise from many different sources. The challenge of implementing a change, understanding and translating stakeholder requirements into a result they want, or dealing with organisational politics, all creates ripe conditions for conflict. Indeed, people working together can create tension.

How do you respond to conflict, if it arises in your project environments? What do you do to keep the project on track?
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This is a small question that requires a very big answer Simon.

Conflict is dealt with on a case to case basis as different conflicts requires different measures. For example, contractual conflict requires a resolution different than team conflict so thrte is no general answer for this question. You need to deal with conflicts immediately as they arise and this is the best way to keep your project on track.
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1 reply by Simon Lange
Feb 11, 2017 1:53 AM
Simon Lange
...
Agreed Rami, this is a big topic and different circumstances would require different responses. However, the general response - which you say is to deal with conflict immediately - is accurate in my experience, if the conflict is impacting on the results of the project.

Sometimes the conflict is bigger than the project and runs deep, and although it impacts project deliverables, dealing with it often needs a dedicated response which will continue after the project has completed.

For me, I think simplicity is the key. I like to view conflict as ambiguous, rather than get into details, create common ground between the conflicting parties, and then get them to see the objectives of the project from the same perspective. If both parties sit on common ground, and see project results as important and satisfying their needs, then this agreement will overshadow the conflict.
Network:566



Simon, I deal with conflict using a 5 step process:

1. Understand (and codify) what is truly causing the conflict from all parties perspectives, including possible hidden/unspoken dimensions.
2. Compare those perspectives to the facts.
3. Fashion a solution (or multiple alternatives) based on the perceptions, facts and criticality/urgency of the conflict.
4. Test the solution individually with each of the parties.
5. Based on the test, facilitate the solution in a joint session(s) with the parties or, in the case the testing shows rejection of any solution, escalate the issue with the findings to a higher authority.

I have used this process literally thousands of times and while the final outcomes vary (to Rami's point about different conflicts requiring different measures), from the perspective of delivering the project, nothing but positive movement has been observed.
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1 reply by Simon Lange
Feb 11, 2017 1:59 AM
Simon Lange
...
Hi Cris,

I like your approach, and I can see that a process helps you to respond consistently with every conflict that you encounter in your projects.

One question I'm keen to get your perspective on is: Do you need to get into the detail of the conflict? I figure that the complexity of some conflicts make it challenging to understand every element of detail, and I can see that the approach you outline above would take a lot of effort.

I know there is no such thing as an average conflict, but how long would an "average" conflict take to resolve using your approach?
Network:784



Best way to manage a conflict is to know before it happens! Sounds absurd, but I mean nothing of that sort, it needs a vigilant eye on the progress of situations around, a sense of potential issue creeps in, and when thus sense is telling you, dont wait and check the hypothesis of the conflict, if action needed, dont wait for it to come to a boil. In short be proactive..
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1 reply by Simon Lange
Feb 11, 2017 2:10 AM
Simon Lange
...
Hi Satish,

We have a saying in Australia - Nip it in the bud - and that is essentially what you are saying here. Resolve the conflict before it has a chance to blossom and grow.

I think that conflict is a sign that people care, and when passionate people work together, it should be expected. Of course there is a difference between healthy and unhealthy conflict. The way that you (as the project manager) responds makes the difference between loss of momentum and progress towards project objectives.

How to respond... as Rami mentioned, there are different situations which require a different tactic, but the underlying result is the same. Deliver the project.

A conflict is an opportunity, and I always say that a conflict arises and takes focus because the reason for an agreement is weaker than the reason for the conflict. My approach is to bring attention to an agreement, which starves the conflict of energy, and allows the objectives of the project to be delivered.

Do you think that this would work for you?
Network:75



Feb 10, 2017 8:55 AM
Replying to Rami Kaibni
...
This is a small question that requires a very big answer Simon.

Conflict is dealt with on a case to case basis as different conflicts requires different measures. For example, contractual conflict requires a resolution different than team conflict so thrte is no general answer for this question. You need to deal with conflicts immediately as they arise and this is the best way to keep your project on track.
Agreed Rami, this is a big topic and different circumstances would require different responses. However, the general response - which you say is to deal with conflict immediately - is accurate in my experience, if the conflict is impacting on the results of the project.

Sometimes the conflict is bigger than the project and runs deep, and although it impacts project deliverables, dealing with it often needs a dedicated response which will continue after the project has completed.

For me, I think simplicity is the key. I like to view conflict as ambiguous, rather than get into details, create common ground between the conflicting parties, and then get them to see the objectives of the project from the same perspective. If both parties sit on common ground, and see project results as important and satisfying their needs, then this agreement will overshadow the conflict.
...
1 reply by Rami Kaibni
Feb 24, 2017 9:39 AM
Rami Kaibni
...
You definitely have a point Simon and I do like this approach but sometimes depending on the situation you need to go into all details and follow the endless protocol.
Network:75



Feb 10, 2017 11:26 AM
Replying to Cris Casey
...
Simon, I deal with conflict using a 5 step process:

1. Understand (and codify) what is truly causing the conflict from all parties perspectives, including possible hidden/unspoken dimensions.
2. Compare those perspectives to the facts.
3. Fashion a solution (or multiple alternatives) based on the perceptions, facts and criticality/urgency of the conflict.
4. Test the solution individually with each of the parties.
5. Based on the test, facilitate the solution in a joint session(s) with the parties or, in the case the testing shows rejection of any solution, escalate the issue with the findings to a higher authority.

I have used this process literally thousands of times and while the final outcomes vary (to Rami's point about different conflicts requiring different measures), from the perspective of delivering the project, nothing but positive movement has been observed.
Hi Cris,

I like your approach, and I can see that a process helps you to respond consistently with every conflict that you encounter in your projects.

One question I'm keen to get your perspective on is: Do you need to get into the detail of the conflict? I figure that the complexity of some conflicts make it challenging to understand every element of detail, and I can see that the approach you outline above would take a lot of effort.

I know there is no such thing as an average conflict, but how long would an "average" conflict take to resolve using your approach?
Network:75



Feb 10, 2017 3:59 PM
Replying to Satish Sharma
...
Best way to manage a conflict is to know before it happens! Sounds absurd, but I mean nothing of that sort, it needs a vigilant eye on the progress of situations around, a sense of potential issue creeps in, and when thus sense is telling you, dont wait and check the hypothesis of the conflict, if action needed, dont wait for it to come to a boil. In short be proactive..
Hi Satish,

We have a saying in Australia - Nip it in the bud - and that is essentially what you are saying here. Resolve the conflict before it has a chance to blossom and grow.

I think that conflict is a sign that people care, and when passionate people work together, it should be expected. Of course there is a difference between healthy and unhealthy conflict. The way that you (as the project manager) responds makes the difference between loss of momentum and progress towards project objectives.

How to respond... as Rami mentioned, there are different situations which require a different tactic, but the underlying result is the same. Deliver the project.

A conflict is an opportunity, and I always say that a conflict arises and takes focus because the reason for an agreement is weaker than the reason for the conflict. My approach is to bring attention to an agreement, which starves the conflict of energy, and allows the objectives of the project to be delivered.

Do you think that this would work for you?
Network:784



Hello Simon,
The discussion is growing into an even interesting conversation, I am ok with your explanation. And agree to the fact coming out of this discussion that a conflict has many facets.
Thanks for bringing up this topic.
Network:610



Conflicts arises when one party tries to blame and pass on their Project risks to the other party.This happens ,generally, on construction contracts where the Employer has the misconception that all the project risks are to be shouldered by the Contractor.If this misconception gets removed ,most of the other conflicts can be resolved across the table .
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1 reply by Simon Lange
Feb 16, 2017 4:35 AM
Simon Lange
...
Hi Chandrashekhar,

Sounds like you have had some direct experience with conflict in your projects, and I too have faced interesting disagreements when different parties refuse to own risks, manage dependencies or accept organisational constraints. Do you find this occurs with specific clients, or is a more general situation with all construction projects?

I find that ownership and accountability are two elements, which if not developed and maintained across the project life cycle, creates critical challenges that cause pressure on the project teams and management.

How do you get a stakeholder to own their risks, produce an amicable outcome, and still deliver the project objectives?
Network:127



I would like to address Conflict resolution as DESC Model.

1. Describe - Describe the conflict situation. What has happened.
2. Express - Explain how do you feel by the situation.
3. Specify - What you would like to occur in future with such situation.
4. Consequences - What you will do in the result of the new way to address the conflicted situation.

What I understand that empathically listening is the key ingredient of the conflict resolution. And do not use the model when the both parties are emotionally very high (Angry).
...
2 replies by Chandrashekhar Thatte and Simon Lange
Feb 15, 2017 1:53 AM
Chandrashekhar Thatte
...
Conflict if not resolved amicably gives birth to dispute .In such a situation the right application of Emotional Intelligence in managing the projects becomes a handy tool/mechanism to address conflicts for a rationalistic resolution.
Feb 16, 2017 4:47 AM
Simon Lange
...
Hi Prolay,

Great way to approach the conflict - I like the way that you frame up the step by step approach to addressing conflict. Especially when words get heated, and conflict is protracted, a process would provide signposts to guide the discussion and resolution.

I often find that conflict arises quickly, and if you don't address it immediately, it will fester and expand, and this has negative impacts to the project. When you do not have a choice except to jump in and resolve an angry conflict, which model would you use?

I also find it really important to be conscious of my self talk - that is what I say to myself when the conflict is in full swing. If I am in "reaction", then my emotional state is not suitable to address a conflict, and I need to change my emotional state. However, if I am in a calm emotional state, then I am best placed to respond (not react) to the situation and defuse the conflict.

I can see you are referring to this when you mention empathically listening - which I take to mean that you hear what they say and feel their perspective, without becoming ensnared in their emotionally charged state. Of course, I am putting words in your mouth... Is this close to what you mean?
Network:610



Feb 14, 2017 11:12 PM
Replying to Prolay Chaudhury
...
I would like to address Conflict resolution as DESC Model.

1. Describe - Describe the conflict situation. What has happened.
2. Express - Explain how do you feel by the situation.
3. Specify - What you would like to occur in future with such situation.
4. Consequences - What you will do in the result of the new way to address the conflicted situation.

What I understand that empathically listening is the key ingredient of the conflict resolution. And do not use the model when the both parties are emotionally very high (Angry).
Conflict if not resolved amicably gives birth to dispute .In such a situation the right application of Emotional Intelligence in managing the projects becomes a handy tool/mechanism to address conflicts for a rationalistic resolution.
...
1 reply by Naomi Caietti
Feb 24, 2017 3:02 AM
Naomi Caietti
...
Great discussion here and your response was clear and succinct.
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