BBA 3626 Unit VI Research Paper
Columbia Southern University
One major part of managing a project team is dealing with and managing project conflict. Conflict is inevitable to occur within nearly any project that is undertaken where multiple people are involved. This is due to multiple factors such as the fact that each project creates its own unique output, includes diverse stakeholders, and includes team members from different functions and sometimes even different organizations. These factors mixed with added pressure and time constraints create a potential for conflict. Not all conflict within a project is viewed as a negative thing, some types of project conflict can be useful and it is important to know which types can be helpful or harmful and to understand the various styles and approaches to dealing with conflict. Step number five within the Six –Step Conflict Resolution Process is deciding how to resolve conflict. The five general styles for resolving project conflict are: forcing/competing, withdrawing/avoiding, smoothing/accommodating, compromising, and collaborating/problem solving. Each brings with it a unique set of characteristics in regards to concern for self or others, and when they are appropriate to be applied in various situations (Kloppenborg, 2015).
Article #1: How NOT to Manage a Project: Conflict Management Lessons Learned from a DOD Case Study
This article studies a failed Department of Defense (DOD) project and the potential causes of the failure resulting from organizational conflict, and identifies lessons learned from the failed project from a conflict management perspective. “Project management within the United States Department of Defense (DOD) has been aptly described as one of the world’s most complicated processes” (Sutterfield, Friday-Stroud, & Shivers-Blackwell, 2007, p. 218). This is due to various reasons including the facts that it can take several years, even decades to complete a particular project, they are typically highly complex, and that they can be difficult to manage under even the best circumstances. The failed project identified within this article occurred during the late 1980s and early 1990s and pertained to the acquisition of a Lighter Amphibian Heavy-Lift (LAMP-H) vehicles designed to carry personnel and tanks across various terrain with amphibious capability. The article addresses several symptoms related to interpersonal-based conflict as underlying reasons for the ultimate failure of the project. One major symptom identified included interpersonal/interdepartmental conflict between the project manager and key stakeholders such as Test and Evaluation Command (TECOM) and the project sponsor. This conflict was created by time constraints within R&D and the unwillingness of TECOM to adhere to the Army’s streamlined acquisition process and the aloof indifference of the project sponsor to mediate the problem or lend any help to the project manager is relation to resolution of the problem (Sutterfield, Friday-Stroud, & Shivers-Blackwell, 2007). The following chart list the styles of handling project conflict identified by Sutterfield, Friday-Stroud, and Shivers-Blackwell (2007) that may have been helpful in addressing the interpersonal based conflict within the LAMP-H project.
|Style||Concern for Self||Concern for Others||When Appropriate|
|Compromising||Medium||Medium||When managing relationship with TECOM. PM may want to employ this strategy to encourage cooperation from contractors to move the project forward.|
|Collaboration||High||High||In managing relationship with project sponsor. It is vital that the PM and PS are in full agreement regarding all details related to the project.|
Article #2: Managing Conflict Constructively
In this article, the author, Karen Dillion (2017) addresses that most often times when people think of conflict, they think of large scale conflicts such as war, and that mot people forget that not all conflict is created over power, property, or for gain. Dillion (2017, p. 53) states that “just because a workplace is civil and quite doesn’t mean it is devoid of conflict.” Dillion (2017) also discusses how conflict within the workplace is very costly and that a 2008 study by CPP Global revealed that employees at all levels spend an average of 2.8 hours per week dealing with unproductive conflict adding up to more then $350 billion per year in wasted wages. Unproductive conflict can range from something as simple as experiencing a perceived slight or misunderstanding the reasoning behind a process, either of which is a waste a an organizations time and money.
The author addresses three different sources of conflict and the best method for dealing with these various types of conflict. This paper will address two of these sources of conflict and how best to address them. Source number one involves differing agendas. This is typically the most common source of workplace conflict and usually involves two well-intentioned people who cannot agree on certain aspects of a project. It simply boils down to having differing roles and goals. Dillion (2017) states that the best way to handle this type of conflict is to explain what you are trying to achieve, empathize with your colleagues, and to look beyond accusations and ultimatums in order to discover what is motivating the other party to feel the way that they feel. “The key to a productive outcome here is coming to an understanding of what is driving each others agenda’s” (Dillion, 2017, p. 55). This type of conflict resolution most closely relates to compromising which yields a medium concern for both self and others. This would be appropriate when an agreement upon one particular agenda is unlikely and an understanding is required of each party’s ideas and the solution involves incorporating aspects of each person’s agenda into the final solution (Kloppenborg, 2015).
A second major source of workplace conflict involves individuals having different perceptions. These types of conflicts are unique in that involved parties are not disputing the basic facts related to a process, but in fact are disputing how they perceive these facts. A very simple example of this would be two individuals being part of the same meeting, however, when they leave the meeting each person has a completely different idea as to what the next steps are. This boils down to how every person sees the world differently and resolving conflicts regarding differing perceptions requires an explanation from each party and an understanding of the other party’s point of view and how they got there. The author describes that the best way to handle these types of conflicts is to assume that your colleague has a good reason for believing what they believe and to ask them to explain how they view the issue at hand and why they view it that way. Once the other party has explained their respective reasoning, you should then offer the same information in return and share your perspective. Ultimately, the end result may be that both parties are still unable to agree with the others perspective, but at least each will know why they disagree. In turn, conversations from that point on could possibly lead to an alternative viewpoint and solution to the problem, as together both parties can craft a productive solution together (Dillion, 2017). This style of handling conflict within a project relates very closely to collaborating, which has a high level of concern for self as well as a high level of concern for others. This is appropriate in projects where compromise is unrealistic and the issues at hand are important to each party. Each side can hold onto what they believe is correct and then work together to provide a solution to the issue (Kloppenborg, 2015).
Dillon, K. (2017). Managing Conflict Constructively. Rotman Management, 52–57. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.libraryresources.columbiasouthern.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bsu&AN=120094398&site=eds-live&scope=site
Kloppenborg, T. J. (2015). Contemporary project management (3rd ed.). Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.
Sutterfield, J. S., Friday-Stroud, S. S., & Shivers-Blackwell, S. L. (2007). How NOT to Manage a Project: Conflict Management Lessons Learned from a DOD Case Study. Journal of Behavioral & Applied Management, 8(3), 218–238. Retrieved from http://search.ebscohost.com.libraryresources.columbiasouthern.edu/login.aspx?direct=true&db=bsu&AN=26768057&site=eds-live&scope=site