In projects, conflicts have a high probability of occurring. These conflicts arise due to various reasons; organizational and external to the organization. Organizational sources include the people involved in the project through diverse cultures, lack of teamwork, language barriers, and unworkable expectations; secondly, the organizational structure and the processes may also lead to conflicts. But what is a conflict? Pena-Mora (2007) defines conflict as a situation or condition that is an effect of contrasting or mismatched requirements. Conflict is also defined as a challenge between people or groups that contrasting ideas, thoughts, values, and objectives. Social scientists view conflict as the process where one party views that a second party has affected negatively or has the intentions of negatively affecting something that the former cares about (Pena-Mora, 2007). In general, we may define conflict mismatch of subject thoughts and principles.
Since projects in a normal setting occur in situations that have people from diverse cultural backgrounds conflicts become unavoidable. It is justifiable to say this as from the definition of conflict the main issue is having different needs which results to having different views. Conflicts are costly to resolve both in terms of money and time. For instance, managers are said to use a fifth of their time trying to come up with solutions for conflicts in the industry (French et al., 2011), this is thus the loss in management time. Conflicts in a project lead to loss of employee time, reduced trust among the parties involved, lower productivity, and unhealthy workforce.
As stated above conflicts in an organization are very costly to handle, thus it is important to anticipate their occurrence and being able to avoid or resolve them early enough to prevent adverse effects. This is where conflict management strategies come in. A proper conflict management strategy is vital to achieving positive and constructive results in the organization rather than destructive effects. A conflict management strategy can be viewed as a well laid out plan that would eliminate the motivation for destructive conflict and ensure that only constructive effects are achieved from the conflict (Kodikal et al., 2014). There is no one suitable approach to managing conflicts but the effectiveness of an approach depends upon the conditions in which the conflict occurs.
In this text, we try to identify a suitable conflict management strategy that would suit them, to solve interpersonal conflicts that are likely to be experienced by a project manager. The strategy is based upon the scenario of the Scottish Parliament project where there were communication difficulties between the constituents of the project team. The project managers in that situation failed to pass the required information to the design team and the client, therefore disagreements rise on deciding the aspects of the design. Two main forms of conflicts were identified as functional and interpersonal conflicts. Therefore, the main purpose of this text is to develop a strategy that would address the issues identified in the Scottish Parliament project with reference to conflict.
The Conflict Management Strategy
In this section, we discuss the identified strategy that was found appropriate for the situation of the Scottish Parliament project, the benefits, and limitations of the strategy and finally the implications of implementing the strategy on the communication status in the organization.
It is a common practice to categorize conflicts in an organization into two; people based or issue-based conflicts. People based conflicts are destructive in nature since they threaten the status of the relationship between the two parties. In the case of the Scottish Parliament project, it was a people-based conflict that divided the project manager and the project sponsor. The project manager Mr. Armstrong was not willing to involve the project sponsor Mrs. Diog in the design process and therefore this led to his replacement. Thus, the conflict management strategy that we have developed in this paper addresses the issue of people-based conflicts within an organization. A strategy is a combinational approach that is purposed to solve the issues identified from the Scottish parliament project.
There are five general approaches to conflict management in an organization. The approaches include; forcing, accommodating, avoiding, compromising, and collaborating (Volkema & Bergmann, 2001). In this scenario, we will use a combination of compromising and the collaborating conflict management approaches to come up with a strategy that would address the issues of conflict in the Scottish Parliament project.
The compromising strategy is an intermediary between firmness and cooperativeness (Rogel, 2016). The approach involves trying to create a fractional satisfaction for both the parties in a conflict so that each of the parties has half of their needs accommodated (Rahim M. A., 2007). To accomplish this each of the party has to make compromises so as to attain a mutual gain. In the case of Scottish Parliament project the project manager, Mr. Armstrong could have compromised to accommodate the consultants who were advising the company instead of interfering with their role in the project. Mr. Armstrong using this approach would have come to a mutual agreement with consultants who would have foregone some part of their needs to accommodate the project manager and the project manager would have done the same to ensure that the project progressed without any more glitches.
The second approach, the collaborating strategy involves attempting to resolve the issues raised by both parties in full (O'Donnell, 2016). The approach is also referred to as a problem-solving approach. The main aim of this approach is to find solutions to the cause of conflict that are comfortable for both parties rather than finding the fault (Rahim, 2007). The strategy involves getting a win-win for both parties that are involved in the conflict. This is the best approach that the project manager, Mr. Armstrong would have taken to address the conflict between him and the project sponsor. Mr. Armstrong would have involved Mrs. Diog in the decision process by taking her input as the project sponsor and his views as the expert into coming up with a common way forward that would satisfy both of them. This would have involved bringing Mrs. Diog close so that they would solve the problem together and come up with a solution.
The conflict management approach adopted in this text is the compromising-collaborating strategy. The strategy involves making sacrifices with personnel who are at a lower or the same rank as the project manager and using collaboration with the personnel who are at a higher rank than the project manager. These approaches seem to be suitable in the scenario of the Scottish Parliament project when it was being managed by Mr. Armstrong.
Since the strategy is a combination of two conflict management strategies the benefits and limitations of the strategy is a combination of the benefits of both the collaborating and compromising conflict management approaches. The benefits and limitations of the combined strategy are discussed below.
Benefits of the Strategy
First, using the collaborating conflict management strategy makes the parties feel valued and understood. The collaborating strategy involves getting a solution that fully implements the views of both the parties (Rogel, 2016). This means that the two parties that are in the conflict feel that they are important in the organization and their requirements have been understood. The parties, therefore, are more motivated to achieve the objectives of the project or organization. For example, if Mr. Armstrong and the project sponsor would have come together, discussed their views on the design and the cost estimates to come up with a common solution. Then both Mr. Armstrong and the project sponsor would feel that they are part of the project since their opinions count in the making of decisions. The conflicting parties would, therefore, invest more effort in making the project a success because their own ideas and opinions have been integrated to form part of the project. Therefore, collaborating strategy ensures that the parties get the notion that they are an important part of the team and the project in general.
Second, the strategy promotes understanding and trust among the parties that are conflicting. Both compromising and collaborating conflict management strategies involve the conflicting parties coming together and expressing their opinions and views on a given subject (O'Donnell, 2016). This opens up an opportunity for the parties to understand the other parties view and understand them as persons more. The parties are thus bound even more, therefore, introducing some degree of understanding since they are able to come up with a common solution together. The moment also introduces a sense of trust between the parties. For instance, when the project manager and project sponsor who had a conflict come together and come up with a solution to the conflict. They develop some understanding and trust between them since they work together to come up with a unifying solution.
Thirdly, the approach works best in the situation where openness, directness, equality is highly supported. The combination of collaborating and compromising strategy works best in the situation that the organization or the team supports openness and equality (Rogel, 2016). In such a situation conflict management is simpler when using this strategy because the parties will get equal input to finding the solution to the conflict and therefore supporting the overall goal of supporting openness and equality. This is unlike other approaches likes the forcing approach where the person in power dictates all that is to be done and that has to be strictly followed by the rest of the persons in the organization.
Limitations of the Strategy
First, using a combination of collaborating and compromising strategy takes a lot of time, effort, and energy. A lot of effort and time is taken in to ensure that the two parties come into a common agreement (O'Donnell, 2016). For instance, in order to come up with a common solution in the compromising strategy, the project manager has to make a lot of negotiations with the other party so that they may forego some of their terms. This may be a hard task especially when the other party or the project manager has tough stands on their views. In construction, this implies that the project is at a standstill for a long period before the parties come to a consensus. The process also involves a lot of meetings and negotiations so that a unifying solution may be found and this requires much thinking, reasoning, and attendance that may be cumbersome. In the case of Mr. Armstrong, he would have had to seat in the negotiation table with the consultants so as to make compromises on their stands in order to come up with a solution to their standoff. In addition, he would have to have discussions with the project sponsor, Mrs. Diog so as to involve her in the design process so that he may listen to her views and then she would have to listen to his and then come up with a solution. Therefore, the collaboration -compromising conflict management strategy consumes a lot of resources in terms of time and energy input.
Secondly, on the collaborative approach, there may not be a solution that provides a win-win for both sides (Rogel, 2016). In certain situations, a solution that would suit the needs of both parties may not be available. This means that there may not be a common solution that would integrate the full requirements of both parties and the strategy will therefore not work. In such a situation the...
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