Conflict Resoltuion in Projects Environments

The current project will involve several suppliers, various cross-functional and departmental activities, interaction with different stakeholders and client groups. Ohlendorf (2001) states that this high level of interaction and possible diversities between and among these various components, attitudes and activities of the project, has a high possibility of causing conflict, at some point in time, during the course of the project.According to Werner (2012:296), conflict is best defined as a situation whereby there exist disagreements or antagonism between two or more parties emanating from differences in power, values and attitude. Once conflict arises, the project team should be well prepared to effectively manage and deal with such conflict; otherwise failure to do so will contribute significantly to the project’s failure and overall, threaten the project team’s unity, partnerships, business relationships and interpersonal synergies (Capozzoli, 1999 &Werner, 2012:296).This office memorandum seeks to highlight and discuss possible conflict that can arise during the life-span of the project in order to assist team members in conflict resolution and management. In The memorandum focuses on what a conflict is, what the potential causes or sources of conflicts in project could be, what type of conflicts there is and how best to manage and resolve them for improved project team productivity. The memorandum also gives an analysis of the positive and negative nature and effects of conflict on the overall management and success of the project. 2. Types and Views of Conflict In the WorkplaceConflict can be described as either functional or dysfunctional. 2. 1 Functional and Dysfunctional Nature of Conflict Conflict can be functional which is productive in nature and has positive effects on the organisation and its interests and in the case of projects it will be the project’s tasks itself and the interconnections and relationships amongst those components of the project. On the other hand conflict can be dysfunctional whereby the focus is at a personal or emotional level and not the task at thereby contributing to high levels of organisational entropy or non-productivity (Kinicki &Williams, 2010:431). 2. Conflict Types To be able to effectively manage any form of conflict, project team members should identify the type of conflict that they are dealing with first. The different types of conflict depend on which human relations and networks or components of the project are involved; namely intrapersonal, interpersonal, team and intergroup conflict (Werner, 2012:296). When a project team member is having personal issues that are detrimental to their productivity then this conflict is referred to as intrapersonal conflict. The team member will be distracted and mentally pre-occupied with need to make a decision on opposing choices.Conflict can also involve two individual team members at a personal level . Such type of conflict is known as interpersonal conflict. It however has the potential to polarise the team members into two groups as they take opposing sides depending on who they support of the two members involved. At another level, there is a possibility of team conflict which occurs when there are disagreements on the overall project team objects between team members. Personality clashes and poor listening tendencies within the team are the main catalysts for this type of conflict.It is the duty of the team leaders to resolve this type of conflict; however this is only possible if they are also not directly involved in the conflict. If the team leaders are involved then it is advisable that the issue is escalated and an independent and neutral facilitator is engaged to ensure impartiality and transparency. When two teams or groups are in in conflict with each other, it is referred to as intergroup conflict . This could be a disagreement between two departments within the project team or it could be a disagreement on contractual obligations between the suppliers and one of the project team’s groups . 3.Possible Sources and Antecedents of Conflict Apart from being able to identify the type of conflict they are dealing with team members should also be aware of the possible sources of such conflict as well the different categories for potential conflict situations or antecedents of conflict (Koberg et al 1999:73). This gives team members a proactive rather than a reactive role in dealing with conflict, having the ability to prevent conflict even before it occurs (Werner, 2012:299 & Verma, 1998). Champoux (2006:263) further describes potential conflict in two forms; that which can be hidden in the form of latent conflict waiting or a trigger to occur or it could also be in the form of manifest conflict, which is observable and waiting to happen. Early research in project management conflict sources by Thamhain & Wilemon (1975 : 31-50) and later Posner (1986: 207-211) , revealed that the following are the main sources of conflict in project environments: conflict over project priorities ,conflict over administrative procedures ,conflict over technical opinions and performance trade-offs, conflict over human resources ,conflict over financial matters such as budgets ,conflict over project schedules (Verma,1998:356-357).Potential conflict situations in project management will generally fall into one of the following categories as observed by Townsley (1997); •Structural factors which are specialisation, goal difference, authority, status, interdependence oriented situations. •Communication factors that are to do with barriers to communication such as ineffective listening skills, misconceptions ,misinterpretation ,perceptions ,knowledge or information hoarding cultures and different communication habits among members. Personal Factors that are to do with potential differences in individuals’ goals, culture and values, Werner (2012:299-300). 4. Dealing With Conflict Conflict resolution can take one of the following styles; avoiding style, forcing style, accommodating style, compromising style or collaborating style depending on the type of conflict involved and on the intensity of the conflict and the relative importance people involved (Blake &Mooton,1964 ;Hellriegel &Slocum, 2004:232).To specifically deal with potential project related conflict the following should suffice; following procedures from a well laid out master plan to deal with conflict over project priorities , fully understanding and get clarity roles , responsibilities and reporting relationships at the beginning of the project .The following should be adhered to by all team members when dealing with divergent views in any matter as suggested for personal conflict resolution (Hill, 1977) and project task conflict resolution (Verma, 1996:22): •All team members must be prepared to listen to and respect the other project team members’ viewpoints to resolve personal conflict •Team members should be prepared to paraphrase their ideas, participate in face-to face for positive feedback sessions so that superior ideas can emerge. Both sides have tested the ccuracy and completeness of their arguments when never necessary In the event of destructive conflict occurring, it will be resolved as follows: •Acknowledgement of the fact that conflict exists and that conflict is necessary •Understanding and having a relook at the goals of the project and the team so as to find common ground including use of work breakdown structures , RACI matrices •Acknowledging that all team members are entitled to their own opinions and do not have to necessarily agree with the opposite team •Restricting debate to non-personal issues and focusing on the real issues at hand. Following an action plan that the leader or facilitator will put in place describing how the problem will be solved to resolve schedule related conflict (Werner, 2012:306). 5. Conclusion In conclusion, team members should be able to identify conflict, acknowledge that conflict exist and distinguish on whether it is functional or dysfunctional in nature including its potential sources or antecedents in order for them to effectively deal with the conflict. If conflict is not effectively dealt with or managed it will derail the project as mentioned .Knowing the sources of conflict will assist the team members in applying the correct technique or take specific steps and approaches when resolving the conflict. Functional conflict is in fact favourable and it should be encouraged for the betterment of the project as long the debate sessions conform to a set of rules within the confines of the project goals and project management principles. The focus should be on project task –oriented conflict rather than personal or dysfunctional conflict.

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