Hello everyone and welcome back to the Cognixia podcast. Every week we gather here to explore something new from the world of emerging digital technologies, from cloud computing to DevOps, IT service management to project management, and much more.
This week we talk about one of the important aspects of project management, that is, conflict management. A project runs on the back of the efforts of its people. These people come from different backgrounds, different teams, different disciplines, and different ideologies, and are required to work together for the success of the project. Often, these people may have never worked together before. To top it off, the project works within the defined constraints of resources, time, and scope. This makes the environment quite conducive for conflicts to arise. Since the project manager leads all the teams and is responsible for ensuring everything runs smoothly, it becomes an important part of their job to address any conflicts that might arise and to resolve them at the earliest in the best possible manner.
To equip the project manager with the right tools, the Project Management Body of Knowledge Guide, or the PMBOK Guide for short, recommends some effective strategies and techniques. Conflict management is one of the disciplines covered by the PMBOK Guide and is an important part of the certification exam outline for the Project Management Professional certification by the Project Management Institute. As you must already know, the latest edition of the PMBOK Guide is the 7th edition of this guide. The PMBOK Guide is a flagship publication of the Project Management Institute. The PMBOK Guide – 7th edition, according to the Project Management Institute, “adapts to the changes in the industry and helps you achieve your goals effectively, no matter what they are.”
Integrating different disciplines and a diverse range of skills is imperative for the success of a project. Conflicts will always arise; we have slowly understood that. However, the existence of conflict doesn’t have to always be detrimental to the project or the organization. If managed and resolved effectively, conflicts can be beneficial for the project and the organization too. The project manager would undoubtedly play a key role in diffusing such situations while ensuring everyone and everything is on track and there is no adverse impact on the performance of the team or the outcomes of the project.
What is a conflict? Anytime there is a difference of perception, opinion, or belief among two or more people, it is a conflict. Simply put, when people disagree, it usually is or leads to a conflict. In a project management situation, the project manager is responsible for creating a culture of harmony and collaboration. Conflict is natural and inevitable when there are multiple people with such diverse backgrounds, opinions, ideas, and realities, come together to collaborate. However, research has increasingly shown that when conflict is effectively managed, it can lead to better performance and more positive outcomes. Gone are the days when conflicts were a bane and a nightmare for any organization. In today’s world, little or no conflict means, little or no innovation, little or no change, and little to no room for improvement for the organization. Now, no organization would want that, would they?
What are some of the most common reasons conflicts happen? Conflicts could happen due to several reasons, the most common ones being:
- a scarcity of available resources
- differences in scheduling preferences
- different ideas around administrative procedures
- disagreements around technical options and solutions
- disagreements about budget allocations
- differences around changes in the project
- probably the most complex – personal differences
So, what does the PMBOK guide advise about conflict resolution? The 7th edition of the PMBOK Guide suggests six strategies for effective conflict resolution. We would also like to mention that the earlier edition of the PMBOK Guide recommended five strategies for conflict resolution, while the latest version – the 7th edition, recommends six distinct strategies for conflict resolution.
What are the six conflict management strategies recommended by the 7th edition of the PMBOK Guide?
One, confronting or problem-solving. This technique involves an open discussion about conflict. The involved parties would treat the conflict as a problem that needs to be solved and would have an open dialogue to identify the root cause of the conflict and then work to eliminate it to resolve the conflict at hand. It can take quite some time for this technique to bear results, but the advantage is that the outcomes are agreeable to everyone.
Two, collaborating. This technique calls for looking at the conflict at hand from different perspectives and considering multiple points of view. This technique, like the previous one, also requires open dialogue and as the name suggests, collaboration. It makes for a great opportunity for team members to learn from each other.
Three, compromising. This strategy involves the very famous “finding the middle ground”. It calls for bargaining, having tradeoffs, meeting halfway, looking at the other side’s perspective and viewpoint, and then agreeing on something that would be acceptable to everyone involved. It may not always lead to a win-win outcome and sometimes important aspects of the project can get compromised in this approach.
Four, smoothing or accommodating. This Conflict management strategy recommended by the PMBOK Guide focuses on identifying areas of agreement instead of areas of disagreement. The technique helps maintain harmony even during conflict and keeps everyone comfortable as well as focused on the project goals & outcomes. The challenge with this strategy is that the resolution reached through this technique is often a temporary fix and it works to maintain peace only in the short term. Eventually, the areas of disagreement could lead to bigger problems, which could get significantly more intense then. But sometimes, this strategy could be effective when there is a need to give involved people some time to understand and absorb everything.
Five, forcing. This strategy is exactly what the name suggests. It involves no discussion or dialogue. In this, the person in power would impose what they think is the best way ahead and everyone must follow to settle the conflict at hand. While it may seem like a very bitter and unacceptable strategy, sometimes situations can arise that require the project manager to exercise their authority this way in the interest of the project, especially when quick decisions are required, or the subject of the conflict is a rather unpopular or tough call. It may not always be pleasant but needs to be done.
Six, withdrawal or avoiding. As the name suggests, this strategy is a way to withdraw oneself from the conflict and avoid the conflict altogether. When one of the conflicting parties yields to the other one or just plain withdraws, then there is no more conflict. It also gives the involved parties some time to meditate on the conflict at hand and cool off. This works well when one of the parties is considerably non-responsive, not open to understanding, and non-cooperative. Again, this strategy doesn’t necessarily solve the problem, it only delays it.
So, now you know the six Conflict management strategies recommended by the 7th edition of the PMBOK Guide. Remember, if you are planning to appear for the PMP certification exam anytime soon, you need to prepare using the PMBOK Guide -7th edition and not the 6th edition, and yes, there are differences between the two!
We would recommend signing up for a thorough PMP training like Cognixia’s live online instructor-led PMP training course, which will help you prepare for the PMP certification exam and guide you every step of the way. To learn more about our course offering, you can visit our website – www.cognixia.com, and browse through our range of live online instructor-led courses. If you have any questions, you can connect with us directly through the chat function on the website, our team will help you with everything right away!
With that, we come to the end of this week’s episode of the Cognixia podcast. We hope you found it interesting and insightful, and it helped you learn something new. We will be back next week with another exciting episode of the Cognixia podcast. Until then, happy learning!