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Viewing conflict as a constructive part of problem solving

Introduction Conflict in project management is inevitable. The potential for conflict in information systems development projects is usually high because it involves individuals from different backgrounds and orientations working together to complete a complex task.

  • What have the effects been so far?
  • Evaluation of ideas is forbidden;
  • The question should be what could we do to address this problem, not what should we do to address it;
  • Clarify ideas as needed.

The cause of conflict in team projects can be related to differences in values, attitudes, needs, expectations, perceptions, resources, and personalities. Proper skills in dealing with conflict can assist project managers and other organization members to handle and effectively resolve conflicts which can lead to a more productive organization as a whole. Project Management Overview Project management is a methodological approach to achieving agreed upon results within a specified time frame with defined resources.

The major objectives of project management include performance, cost, and time goals. Project management is helpful in achieving these objectives by organizing, planning, monitoring, controlling, and correcting the project activities.

These activities consist of creating a workable project environment, keeping the work environment healthy, planning the essential activities to build the information system or product, and controlling execution of the plan. Applying these principles give managers the ability to establish success measures, quantify value proportionate with cost, use optimal organizational resources, allow customer focus and alignment, incorporate quality principles, implement the practice of strategic plans, resolve problems more quickly, work within the scope of the project, address future risk before becoming a problem, and create a higher quality product the first time.

The time and resources put into project management will make up for the cost over the life of the project. These processes and techniques are utilized to coordinate resources to accomplish predictable results. The four phases of the project management process are explained below. Examples of activities at this phase are forming a project initiation team, building the customer relationship, developing effective management procedures, and constructing a project workbook.

Project Planning The second phase of the process involves defining clear, distinct activities and work required to complete the activities for each individual project.

Examples of activities at viewing conflict as a constructive part of problem solving phase are defining the project scope, defining the work breakdown structure, estimating resource requirements, outlining communication procedures among managers, team members, and the customer, identifying and evaluating risk, and developing a Baseline Project Plan.

Project Execution The third phase of the process involves implementing the plans created in the earlier phases, Project Initiation and Project Planning. Examples of activities at this phase are executing the baseline plan, managing changes to the baseline plan, monitoring project progress, and communicating project status to managers, team members, and the customer. Project Closedown The final phase of the process involves bringing the project to an end.

Examples of activities at this phase are evaluating team members, conducting final project reviews, and closing the customer contract.

  • From the beginning, it should be clearly communicated that the group needs to spend considerable time in face-to-face meetings, and group members should know that they may have to make an occasional sacrifice to attend;
  • The originator of the term brainstorming said the following four rules must be followed for the technique to be effective Osborn, 1959;
  • What, if any, elements of the difficulty require clarification?
  • The success of a project relies strongly on the project manager;
  • In some instances, the project manager's lack of skills to effectively manage and resolve conflict can be the problem;
  • Rescuer refers to a person who uses either nonassertive or agressive behavior.

The project manager is responsible for carrying out the initiation, planning, execution, and closedown phases of a project. The success of a project relies strongly on the project manager. The role of this person is to evaluate project feasibility and to create the plan of activities required to meet the objectives. This individual must be able to build an environment in which the project can be executed while protecting the environment from factors that could impede progress, planning the work that has to be completed to reach the goal, and keeping the course of the project in control.

Training for project managers in this area is necessary for their success, as they are typically responsible for handling conflict during a project. Understanding Conflict Conflict is "a situation of competition in which the parties are aware of the incompatibility of potential future positions and in which each party wishes to occupy a position which is incompatible with the wishes of the other.

These effects feed back to effect the causes. Conflict can be constructive and healthy for an organization. It can aid in developing individuals and improving the organization by building on the individual assets of its members.

Group Problem Solving

It can force people to confront possible defects in a solution and choose a better one. In addition, it can prevent premature and inappropriate resolution of conflict. Most individuals know how to assume the following three roles: Persecutor refers to a person who uses aggressive behavior against another person, attacking the intended victim.

An attack can be direct or indirect and be physical, verbal, or both. The persecutor's actions deliver a message that "you are not okay" while making the persecutor feel righteous and superior. Victim refers to a person who uses nonassertive behavior so others view them as "I'm not okay.

Victims will feel helpless, inadequate, sad, scared, or guilty. The victim role is often used because the individual is feeling stressed, has low self-esteem, or is being persecuted by another. Rescuer refers to a person who uses either nonassertive or agressive behavior. Individuals become rescuers because they will not say "no" and unwillingly assume the responsibility of solving the victim's problem.

In contrast, others will assume the rescuer role to demonstrate superiority over the victim. These roles are learned in early childhood and are used throughout adulthood. They involve the perception of oneself or someone else as inadequate or not acceptable. The aggressive and nonassertive behaviors that are present in these roles lead to win-lose outcomes and do not provide an opportunity for a win-win resolution. It is important for a project manager to understand the dynamics of conflict before being able to resolve it.

The internal characteristics of conflict include perception of the goal, perception of the other, view of the other's actions, definition of problem, communication, and internal group dynamics. Perception of the other can create conflict when the attitude becomes "us versus them.

View of other's actions can be a problem when the situation is competitive instead of cooperative. Behavior can be suspicious in a competitive environment. Definition of problem can result in conflict when the size of the problem is escalated, issues are misconstrued, and original issues are lost.

  • While these three general elements are present in each problem, the group should also address specific characteristics of the problem;
  • These characteristics can strongly influence the behavior style of group members and affect the potential outcome of the conflict.

Communication in a competitive environment can cause mistrust and information may be withheld or may be lacking. Communication is not open and honest. Internal group dynamics can be negative when the group structure is centralized and rigid rather then safe and open.

Conformity is emphasized and tasks dominate over the needs of the team members. These characteristics can strongly influence the behavior style of group members and affect the potential outcome of the conflict. In some instances, the project manager's lack of skills to effectively manage and resolve conflict can be the problem.

14.3 Problem Solving and Decision Making in Groups

A Systems Approach to Planning, Scheduling, and Controlling, five modes for conflict resolution are explained and the situations when they are best utilized are identified. Confronting is also described as problem solving, integrating, collaborating or win-win style. It involves the conflicting parties meeting face-to-face and collaborating to reach an agreement that satifies the concerns of both parties. This style involves open and direct communication which should lead the way to solving the problem.

Confronting should be used when: Both parties need to win. You want to decrease cost. You want create a common power base. Learning is the ultimate goal. Compromising is also described as a "give and take" style. Conflicting parties bargain to reach a mutually acceptable solution. Both parties give up something in order to reach a decision and leave with some degree of satisfaction. Compromising should be used when: You are in a deadlock.

Time is not sufficient. You want to maintain the relationship among the involved parties. You will get nothing if you do not compromise. Smoothing is also referred to as accommodating or obliging style.

Viewing conflict as a constructive part of problem solving

In this approach, the areas of agreement are emphasized and the areas of disagreement are downplayed. Conflicts are not always resolved in the smoothing mode.

A party may sacrifice it's own concerns or goals in order to satisfy the concerns or goals of the other party. Smoothing should be used when: Goal to be reached is overarching.

You want to create obligation for a trade-off at a later time.