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Conflict management

Kresimir Popovic
Siemens IT Solutions and Services PSE Zupanijska 21, Osijek, Croatia +385 31 234 810

Zeljko Hocenski
Institute of Automation and Process Computing Kneza Trpimira 2b, Osijek, Croatia +385 31 224 779

kresimir.popovic@siemens.com ABSTRACT
Project managers must learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of disruptive conflict. Such signs would include poor communication among team members, a lack of openness and respect, not showing appreciation, unclear requirements, change between managers and employees, broken boundaries of social norms or groups, different backgrounds (educational, economic, cultural, political, etc.). It can lower morale, decrease productivity and creativity. So much energy can be spent on dealing with conflict that there is not enough time for other important tasks. The worst cases can disintegrate into personal stress, burnout, and workplace travesties. Once conflict has reached this stage, it will require a large amount of management time in order to deal with it. This will cause an additional decrease in productivity and efficiency rates, along with the accompanying added costs, risks, and duration delays. If left unmanaged, this type of conflict can even lead to employee sabotage and sometimes workplace violence. This position paper provides insight into qualities and social role that project manager as mediator and leader must possess because sometimes team members can't resolve conflicts collectively.

zeljko.hocenski@etfos.hr
results, or conflict can be beneficially resolved and lead to quality final products. Therefore, learning to manage conflict is integral to a high-performance team. Conflict management is the principle that all conflicts cannot be resolved, but learning how to manage conflicts can decrease the odds of nonproductive escalation. Conflict management involves acquiring skills related to conflict resolution, self-awareness about conflict modes, conflict communication skills, and establishing a structure for management of conflict in your environment [1], [2], [3], [5], [6], [7], [8], [9], [10].

2. PROJECT MANAGER AS LEADER


It takes a leader to be able to handle conflict in a professional manner. A leader is someone who people respect and follow through their own choice. Honestly they are very rare. Accomplished leaders have the knowledge that allows them to attract, retain and motivate the people that are best suited to providing results that contribute to achieving the goal at hand. An established leader is able to attract quality people to the team and offer them guidance that retains them and motivation that drives them to work not only for themselves but for a group of people with the same goals. A profitable leader cares about the team's success and the individual success of each team member above the success of him/herself. A proven leader has the skills, knowledge and mindset to motivate each member of his/her team to give the maximum to the team's goals. Control and posture speak strongly to the team, who look for examples to follow, not necessarily instructions. In other words, thriving leaders lead by example; both in what they do and the results they produce. Winning leaders offer skills and processes that are simple and duplicatable. This is most easily done by providing the team with a simple system and a step-by-step action plan that will lead to results.

Categories and Subject Descriptors


K.6.1 [Project and People Management]: Life Cycle, D.2.9. [Management]: Life cycle, Productivity, Programming teams

General Terms
Management, Human Factors

Keywords
Management, leader, conflict

3. QUALITIES OF SUCCESSFUL LEADER 1. INTRODUCTION


Conflict may be defined as a struggle or contest between people with opposing needs, ideas, beliefs, values, or goals. Conflict on teams is inevitable; however, the results of conflict are not predetermined. Conflict might escalate and lead to nonproductive Listed below are qualities that every established leader must demonstrate in order to be validated as a successful leader and earn the trust of his/her team.

3.1 Communication skills


Leader must be able to communicate clearly to others in a language that they can understand on all levels in an organization, from the most unskilled worker through to the Chief Executive. To be able to tailor the same message depending on the people in the audience, he must be confident, strong and use his visual presentation skills and speak in a confident, authoritative voice. He also must know when to stay quiet and listen to the feedback. For example, senior executives dont want to know all the ins and outs - they want an executive summary. The best method of

conveying information to and within a team is face-to-face communication [4].

3.11 Organizational
The project manager is the center of all project communications. Its his or her duty to manage project status updates through emails, telephone conferences and face-to-face meetings and put them together like pieces of a puzzle. Then the project manager must input the mix of change requests coming from stakeholders and outside business environments, then manually update the plans email the updates to team members, report the progress to the upper management and remind employees about due dates and overdue tasks. This painful process is then repeated on a daily basis, slowing down project manager and his/her team. To overcome this situation project manager must organize himself for the benefit of whole team using some specialized tools which will enable workspace sharing and global notification (one of really good tools can be found on this web page: http://www.mindjet.com).

3.2 Self improvement


Successful leaders pursue lifelong learning. This education includes skills, knowledge and mindset. Leaders understand that results are achieved by knowledgeable team individuals and are willing to share all they know with their team mates. There are no secrets in success.

3.3 Take risks


A confident leader is willing to fail in order to gain success and understands that perfection is never achieved. Every task has room for improvement and growth, but results can only be seen upon implementation and then tweaked to perfection as new skills are developed and mastered.

3.4 Integrity
A proven leader has established trust and credibility in his/her organization and community. Leaders believe in themselves and success.

3.12 Expects of team members only what they can give


To expect more than team members can give is foolish and project is put at risk trying to get it. The problem comes when the required performance goes beyond what a team member is likely to give, regardless of how you ask for it. Albert Einstein once said:

3.5 Decision maker


An accomplished leader is able to make clear and decisive decision. These decisions are educated, rational and made with clear and spoken confidence. Confident leaders never end their statements of decisions with questions (i.e.; right, okay, don't you agree?).

3.6 Motivator
Victorious leaders encourage their team to continue to work and put forth efforts in achieving the goals. Keeping the big picture (goal) in front of the team and breaking the tasks down to smaller goals will motivate individuals to remain committed and focused.

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

3.7 Focus and vision


A leader must possess a very specific focus and vision, which are able to cut through the extraneous information to distil the essence of a problem or a goal with a clear plan or road map of how to achieve it. A vision is the big picture and should be a constant reminder of why any effort is being put forth.

To expect a different result simply by asking for the same thing over and over again shifts the problem from the underperformer project manager. Questions which project manager must ask himself: a. b. c. d. e. f. g. h. Offload a small amount of work to bring the players performance back up? Shift some team members to some other role in the project to better align with their skill set? Do some team members need more supervision and adjusting their focus more frequently? Do some team members need to be removed from the project and returned to their business unit? What about potential consequences? What about potential consequences if I do not engage in the conflict? Am I in conflict? How might I Intervene to resolve/manage the conflict?

3.8 Resourceful
Unforeseen circumstances are typical part of project and team members are the vital ingredient in projects, particularly when trying to solve problems. Non-productive team members need to be encouraged to solve the problem by their selves while project manager is helping them.

3.9 Third party opinion seeker


If leader is not able to bring the team members to the needed level of performance, the brief use of a third party (advisor) must be considered. Human resources groups and external consultancies can be quite effective in helping people quickly see a path to performance. The best way would be to consider advices from person(s) who are authorities in their field of profession.

3.10 Calm under pressure


To focus in on the problem leader must be calm in all circumstances. Pressures, problems, and conflicts are a fact of life and leader who can face problems head-on and deal with them calmly is way ahead of the game.

4. DEALING WITH CONFLICT


The key issue in dealing with team conflict is for the team to realize that the focus is not on conflict itself, but how it is managed. The idea behind managing conflict is to handle it in a constructive manner. Teams must learn to be confrontational

without destroying the team process. Research indicates that high performing teams are capable of mediating their own conflicts while improving productivity and strengthening relationships [12]. Teams which are not so high performing need extra push by leader / mediator so that business practices, operational policies, or other areas that lead to the conflict can be evaluated.

4.1.2 Mediation process #2


Conflicted team members must envision one anothers views of a win-win solution for the team. Recognizing the perspective of the team as whole is a critical element when arriving at a fully accepted solution. This becomes a meeting point between the two arguing parties.

4.1.3 Mediation process #3


If the situation escalates, a mediator is brought into the dispute to assist both sides in reaching an agreement. This mediation step is needed when an issue between individual members becomes disruptive to the team and collaboration attempts are ineffective. Each conflicted party is required to sign a documented copy of the meetings discussion (MoM Minutes Of Meeting). The success of this step relies on the quality of mediator and the degree to which the team trusts this individual.

4.1.4 Mediation process #4


Figure 1: Conflict path On Figure 1 it is shown conflict path between two (or more) team members: a. b. c. d. e. f. g. Enter the conflict zone team members A and B start to argue One of team members becomes stubborn The blame game team member A blames team member B Actions speak louder than words - threats spoken by team member A towards team member B Attack & Counter Attack - threats spoken by team member B towards team member A The Explosion explosion of anger; team members do not speak to each other Picking up the Pieces project manager didnt intervene / mediate on time! The fourth requirement ensures that once these first three requirements are met, team members are expected to recognize and resolve conflicts collectively without leader supervision.

4.2 Destructive attitudes to avoid during mediation process


Here we define list of attitudes which needs to avoid between team members during mediation process.

4.2.1 Avoiding face-to-face communication


Sometimes team member A doesnt want to say anything to team member B until he explodes, and then blurt it out in an angry, hurtful way.

4.2.2 Being defensive


Defensive team members deny any wrongdoing and work hard to avoid looking at the possibility that they could be contributing to a problem. Denying responsibility may seem to alleviate stress in the short run, but creates long-term problems when partners dont feel listened to and unresolved conflicts and continue to grow.

To prevent this unacceptable behavior project manager / leader must intervene before The Blame Game and impose mediation process as mediator.

4.2.3 Being always right


Sometimes a person can demand that his partner see things the same way as he does. This attitude can be taken as personal attack.

4.1 Mediation process


This mediation process provides the work team with skills and structure for mediating their own disputes.

4.2.4 Interruptive communication


Some people interrupt, roll their eyes, and rehearse what theyre going to say next instead of truly listening and attempting to understand their partner.

4.1.1 Mediation process #1


Each team member must be able to learn the appropriate communication skills and overall mediation process. If few team members do not make the effort to learn the skills necessary for accepted communication, then the process is incapable of working effectively and further steps must be take, e.g. worst team member needs to be removed from project and returned to his business unit. These communication skills include learning to confront others, listening to others concerns acknowledging opposing perspectives, responding appropriately, and committing to a plan of agreed action.

4.2.5 The Blame Game


Some people handle conflict by criticizing and blaming the other person for the situation. There should be mutual understanding and coming to an agreement or resolution that respects everyones needs.

4.2.6 Personal attacks


When one team member wants to discuss troubling issues, sometimes people defensively stonewall, or refuse to talk or listen to their partner.

4.3 Doing things wrong


Here is a real life story. Once, there were two teams. One was tasked with working with the customer to come up with a great set of requirements for the upcoming project. Lets call this team: R. The other team was the team responsible for the development of features to satisfy those requirements. Lets call this team: D. Team R did a poor job at the beginning; because they were letting the customer call all the shots, make all the technical decisions and the customer did not really have the proper skills. This led to the constant changes of requirements during the project. Team D tried working with such requirements, but were constantly interrupted with the team Rs change requests. Team D blamed team R for the lousy job they did and so eventually after attempts to have team R realize that they were not doing a great job with the customer and team R not getting the signals, team D decided (unconsciously) to start playing with the project. How? Well they stopped correcting the requirements and never considered the larger picture. They implemented the requirements to the letter, but of course this led to the finished product to be of very poor quality. The blame game started who was wrong. Team R claimed that team D did a poor job, while team D claimed the requirements were wrong, but they followed them and did the job as required. The customer was unhappy, both teams were unhappy and the manager was unhappy. Eventually the customer demanded fixes. The project broke through the deadlines, penalties were looming, so the higher-ups decided to help the project leader.

In the very end the original project leader learned a lot about the conflict management, the ways of resolving conflict and managing the teams in an efficient way, and I am happy to say, he is now a happier person, not a constantly worried guy that he used to be.

5. CONCLUSION
The role of conflict in teams is determined by the manner in which it is managed. Conflict pervades the core of team processes, and, if unaddressed it will cause project failure. The leader must use advantages of the conflict mediation process to improve business and operational practices of the team whenever possible. Conflict is a fact of life and is a part of any business. It can erode your business or help improve it. Your job as a manager is to turn it into a learning experience for the individuals in conflict, the management team, and the company as a whole. Handle conflict expediently and fairly without allowing it to derail your company's objectives and mission.

6. REFERENCES
[1] Algert, N.E. (1996) Conflict in the workplace in Proceedings: Women in Engineering Advocates Network, Denver, CO., 123127. [2] Algert, N.E., and Watson, K. (2002). Conflict management: introductions for individuals and organizations [3] Blake, R.R., and Mouton, J.S. (1964). The managerial grid. Houston: Gulf Publishing Co. [4] Gelperin D. (2008). Exploring Agile, APSO 08 [5] Johnson, D.W., and Johnson, F.P. (2000) Joining together: group theory and group skills (7th ed.), Boston, Allyn and Bacon. [6] Johnson, D.W., Johnson, R.T., Holubec, E.J. (1986). Circles of learning: cooperation in the classroom (rev. ed.), Edina, MN: Interaction Book Co. [7] Katzenbach, J.R., and Smith, D.K. (1992). Wisdom of teams, Harvard Business School Press.

4.4 Doing things right


An experienced manager was brought in with the task of finishing the project one way or the other. First thing he did was to organize a meeting between the leaders of teams R and D and the customer. The truth was revealed there the customer was lightly criticized for striving to make decisions in an area where he did not have the expertise, the team R was to take the blame for poorly agreeing to the requirements and team D was criticized for not escalating the problem earlier. Luckily this was all done in such a manner that the customer decided he was willing to move the deadline, if the end result was to be better than it was now. So a person from team D and a person from team R were tasked to work with the customer for a week and really talk about all the aspects of the project and over the following weekend write a list of all the requirements the project must have at its conclusion and this would need to be arranged so that both the customer, the team R and team D were excited that they can do the task. Team R had the expertise to negotiate the deal and draft papers and documents. Team D had the expertise to provide guidance on how best to do the project to fulfill the feature set required. The customer was pleased to see how he was getting a much better deal with continuing the project than abandoning it now, and in the end the project was completed, the customer continued to work with the company and it was decided that in all future projects the teams R and D would work on, one person from each team would switch each month and work for the other team.

[8] Lambert, J., and Myers, S. (1999) 50 Activities for conflict resolution. Amherst, MA: HR Development Press. [9] McDaniel, G., Littlejohn, S., & Domenici, K. (1998). A team conflict mediation process that really works! [10] Raudsepp, E. (2002) Hone Listening Skills To Boost Your Career [11] Smith, K.A. (2000). Project management and teamwork. New York: McGraw-Hill BEST series. [12] Thomas-Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument, Consulting Psychologists Press, Palo Alto