Conflict Resolution Techniques
The following approaches to conflict management were introduced by Mary Parker Follett in her Constructive Conflict publication in 1926. Despite the 80+ years that have elapsed since then, these approaches are relevant today. These 5 approaches to conflict each have a time and place, but in most cases the ultimate goal is to achieve a consensus.
Stay out of conflict; remain neutral on issues. Employed by individuals that do not have enough invested in the issue to see value in the conflict. Often used when the conflict is not critical or is perceived to be beyond their capacity to manage.
Remain singularly focused on one resolution to a conflict. These individuals will not readily yield and often fail to recognize the value of alternatives.
Entirely yielding to the conflicting point of view. Seeking to preserve personal relationships even when it does benefit project tasks and objectives.
Assumes that no solution can be achieved that will yield complete satisfaction for all participants involves. Attempts to balance personal relationships and project success when one or both may be compromised in the conflict.
Mutual agreement and understanding between all conflicting parties. Leads to project success while simultaneously reinforcing personal relationships. Is often the lengthiest resolution to a conflict, but produces the most favorable results.
Any group"s goal should be to reach decisions that best reflect the thoughts of all group members. This approach is called "reaching consensus”. However, many people use this phrase without an understanding of its true meaning. It is easy to be confused about what consensus is and is not, so here are some guidelines:
Tools for Conflict Management
Ultimately, consensus is the best tool for conflict management, and for even moderately important conflicts Project Managers should consider reaching a consensus as opposed to any other approach. So how does one seek to achieve consensus? Below is a set of tools and techniques that will aid project managers in achieving a successful consensus.
Assume the Role of Facilitator
In nearly every situation a facilitator is required to bridge the gaps between participants in a conflict and provide open lines of communications. Even when the conflict is between the Project Manager and other team members or client personnel, the Project Manager can potentially serve as a facilitator, but in some cases it may be more beneficial to call on an outside source to facilitate more serious conflicts.
Identify Common Ground
In most cases, participants in a conflict share common objectives, but do not recognize that others share many of the same ideas and convictions. Conflict may often be over a very isolated detail or subsection of the bigger picture. Start by highlighting where viewpoints are shared and build a foundation of assumptions and objectives that are shared between involved parties. This effort will isolate the points of contention and put them into perspective.
Fully Analyze Each Position
Outline the position of each side to the conflict and systematically discuss resolutions on each point. Consensus can only be achieved when all involved parties are satisfied their thoughts have been understood, and can agree on the resolution to individual points.