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Conflict Resolution

Types of Conflict

“The questions in the accompanying figure can be used to derive the types of conflicts that can afflict projects that are involved in a rescue intervention. The project rescue initiative simplifies some of the discussions around these conflicts. The choice for the extended project team is to resolve their differences and succeed together or fail together.”

“A willingness to overcome conflicts is certainly a major ingredient for being able to do so. This section also examines situations where willingness is not enough. Conflict can exist because of uncertainty, confusion, and frustration, as a disillusioned project team may be trying to overcome a nearly impossible situation.”

Professional Motivations

“Professionals are motivated by the need to add value to their organization and to complete assignments successfully. Potential disruptions to these goals spawn conflicts that are driven by uncertainty, confusion, and the frustration to do a better job. Team members from all parts of the organization need to buy into the answers to these questions:

  • Where are we going? This is potentially a big source of conflict. Without clarity about the end goal, team members will argue their perspectives, which can easily lead to a free-for-all. The executive sponsor needs to be fully engaged in ensuring that relevant and realistic end goals are established and communicated, with input from the stakeholders. For the project rescue, the constraints on what is still possible need to drive the end goals. This is an opportunity to reinforce the rescue statement of work.
  • How are we getting there? If left unresolved, this would be the biggest source of conflict on any project. Team members bring their own perspectives to the process. It is difficult to prove whether a certain direction is the right or wrong one to take. Too often, this does not become evident until the project gets into trouble. The rescue manager and the executive sponsor are the drivers for determining the answer to this question, with the collective input of the team. This is an opportunity to use the rescue work breakdown structure as the answer to ‘How are we getting there?’
  • How do we add value to the organization? This can also become a source of debate, especially in terms of trying to identify the precise level of the impact. A gross margin of 20 percent is better than 5 percent, but what if we could get 50 percent? How dejected does a member of the team become if they are told that 25 percent is not good enough? In the context of the project rescue, value is delivered in several ways. Completing the revised objectives from the project rescue planning phase is the first way. A successful conclusion will also raise the morale of the organization, which is the second value add of the rescue intervention. Furthermore, the experiences gained in the rescue initiative can be used to enhance the capabilities of the organization going forward.
  • What is the right thing to do? The final question is also comforting in its intent. Team members want to do what’s right for the organization. However, this question also opens up a lot of debate because of the many different answers that are possible. Team members may ask if changing direction is the right thing. Are the objectives too narrow? Could we be doing more? The executive sponsor and the rescue manager need to work with the team to address these questions in a project review workshop after a successful rescue. Without the success, there is no right answer.”
If you'd like to learn more about how the PMI views conflicts and resolution strategies, the PMBOK® Guide provides that information in the Managing Human Resources chapter. If you'd like to become a PMI certified Project Management Professional (PMP®), we can help with AceIt©. To learn more about how AceIt© can prepare you to pass the exam, click here.