Conflict Resolution Strategy as a tool in Project Management
Findings and Analysis 31 Research question 1 31 Research question 2 34 Research question 3 36 Research question 4 38 Discussion 41 Chapter V 43 Conclusion 43 Recommendations 44 Bibliography 46 Chapter I Introduction The fact that the project manager, his team, sponsors and stakeholders to a project have a similar goal notwithstanding, conflict in project management is inevitable. All participants to project management come from different backgrounds and this posits a scenario likely to harbor differences in expectations, values, personalities, needs, perceptions, interests to name a few. The project manager is tasked to deliver success against the backdrop of the project’s triple constraints, that is, the budget, scope and time. Therefore, it remains imperative for him to cultivate an environment that achieves harmony regardless of projects complexity and competing interests. The success of any project is foregrounded on how well the project manager employs sound and tested strategies to manage any eminent conflicts before they escalate to unmanageable levels.
Management of conflicts is of the essence since it influences the capacity to attain interconnectedness between functional units to a project. It allows project managers to stimulate points of differences within teams and leverage on them by productive conflict resolution strategies, leading to acceptable outcomes. The project manager should acknowledge the importance of his position in separating destructive from the constructive conflicts in a way that facilitates the realization of positive benefits, and make the project a success (Montes et al. Managers need to employ their creativity, competitiveness and accommodate change as an acceptable and desirable element for the project. The management of conflicts can only be effective where managers identify the sources and mechanisms to handle the same. Among the available conflict management style, which is the most feasible mechanism towards the successful delivery of project goals? 2.
How can project managers measure the effectiveness of different conflict resolution strategies? Chapter II Literature review The existence of incompatible perceptions, thoughts, and personalities results in disagreements and oppositions. Any form of conflict within the project team and other parties within the project setting, internally or externally, is detrimental to project success (Chen et al. Stakeholder to a project have varied interests, and this does not make either of them less critical. Conflicts between individuals within a project tend to be subjective, and as much as some objective reasons may exist, conflict will occur where perceptions persist. Of much concern between the three categories is relationship conflicts since unlike process and task conflicts, it tends to produce negative impacts on the overall project delivery process (Ohlendorf, 2012).
This is because, relationship tension hinders optimal delivery of set milestones, kills project team morale to innovate, undermines the working relationship, and interferes with a collaborative approach in team activities. The existence of disagreements, negative emotions and interferences serve as a red light for interpersonal conflicts. Project management can face uncertainty due to lack of sufficient information, and this is true of requirements uncertainty. The difference between the information in the hands of developers and the data that is necessary to define end-user’s requirements culminates into requirements uncertainty (Atkinson, et al. Some of such actions include but not limited to the use of guiding policies, maintenance of power balance between parties, staging clearly defined role expectations, and participative management. Most of the current literature revolve around management of conflicts as opposed to conflict resolution.
This is due to the growing body of evidence that conflicts are not necessarily harmful to projects objectives. If anything, a vast body of research portrays the conflict as an element that can improve the effectiveness of project delivery. The literature espouses the positive impact of conflict as, ability to foster an environment capable of advancing creativity, innovation, higher performance, less milestone stagnation, high levels of motivation, and growth of project team which is reflected in subsequent projects. The conflict phenomenon is a seen as a cycle as opposed to a constant feature, and just like any other social process, it is predisposed by causes, process and resultant effects. Further, conflicts are characterized by elements such as emotions, perceptions, interdependence, and behaviors.
A case in point is where parties to a project and whose tasks are interdependent tend to disagree with one another and perceive the other party is the one in the wrong, leading to delays and cost implications. Parties to a project do not necessarily need to harbor contrary reservations about conflicts since the conflicts to a project can be healthy and constructive. This argument holds water in the sense that conflicts cultivate an environment from where members can build one another, and in the event, achieve a strong process where stakeholder interests are met within the set time and budgets. Cognitive conflicts are resultant of how stakeholders evaluate empirical data or project facts. Different stakeholders may harbor varied opinions about the same phenomenon due to their interpretations of the basic elements.
This scenario basically arises from lack of adequate facts available to stakeholders. The technical team comes in handy to offer additional information and clarify facts (Moura & Teixeria, 2012). This would be an essential move to transforming the conflict scenario into a structured problem. Such conflicting priorities would cause friction among the participants. A case in point is where the human resource and a project training manager may have a different view on how staff training should be scheduled. If this is not tackled effectively the staff who add up as the end-user of the final product may receive inadequate training and ultimate resistance due to lack of usability knowledge (Prieto, et al. This would be projected failure since if the end-user skills cannot seamlessly align to the technical aspects of a final product, the project would have missed on this crucial milestone.
Schedules All tasks to project progress under a predetermined time, sequence and schedule. Also cost estimates for the support team may be inadequate, leading to work breakdown packages. A breakdown of packages would always elicit emotions between project managers and the teams executing the task. If the conflict gets out of hand, the stakeholder interests may be unfulfilled creating another form of conflict. Personality conflicts Project teams comprise of individuals of different personalities. Where team interactions fail to be objective, interpersonal differences play out, and this tends to replace technical issues. He cites one of these dimensions as cooperativeness, which is a description of how a person would endeavor to satisfy another individual concern. The next aspect is assertiveness and highlights how an individual would strive to meet their interests.
Rahim and Bonoma (1983) on the hand developed a model that had a similar approach to Blake and Mouton, and Thomas’s. All the three theorists settled at similar descriptions of conflict handling styles. Confronting This approach calls for all parties involved to engage in a face to face discussions towards addressing the concerns of each party. There is a likelihood of conflict intensification, as the process culminates into a win-lose outcome (Rahim, 2012). It is plausible to use this process where stakes are high, critical principles are at stake, a quick decision must take precedence and when the relationship between parties is not of the essence. Avoiding This approach entails postponing the issue of contention for a later date. However, it must be noted that the conflict remains unresolved and may impair the progress of other vital contractual obligations.
The approach is applicable where parties need to gain adequate time and prepare for a resolution. The stakeholder identification must take shape through what they do and their level of power. The underlying causes, of conflict, may not necessarily be evident, and as such, the project manager and his team have a duty to examine and interrogate different aspects of the scenario to trace any connections between issues and the stakeholder motivations that push them to act in a particular manner (Semeniuk, 2012). This approach gains impetus through building trust, interpersonal skills, overcoming resistance and resolving the conflict. It is worth noting that as much as there exist varied ways to manage stakeholder expectations, project expectations tend to conflict. When faced with such a scenario, project managers should strive to understand stakeholder motivations, to prepare grounds for resolution.
Interpersonal skills When the project manager and his team establish the causes conflicts is due to stakeholder expectations, it remains apparent to come up with a strategy to address every pertinent issue and ensure non-stands unresolved. The concept of managing stakeholder expectations aims at achieving their needs by facilitating a timely way of solving their issues, and leverage on the same to increase the probability of project success, and let the stakeholder understand project risks and benefits. According to PMI (2010), there exist three interpersonal skills of solving a conflict, that is; resolving conflict, building trust, and dealing the resistance to change. Employing these skills is dependent on the nature of expectations, the organization's culture and how well the project manager is well versed with each one of the techniques, as well as the context.
Different cultural contexts are predictive of the reasons why the project may be well suited to act in a certain way and not the other. Each stakeholder may react differently to these changes depending on how they affect them. This is postulated by the fact that some changes may lead to cost overruns, and extension of deadline among other issues, issues remain at the heart of all stakeholders. Therefore, at this stage, the project manager must ensure the change makes sense to all stakeholders (Howell, 2016). He must put his best foot forward to convince the stakeholders why the change is worth accommodating by highlighting its key aspects that must be undertaken for the project to succeed. The project manager to win the war against resistance to change, he must be a keen listener.
They should always strive to achieve a transparent exchange of information that is devoid of ambiguity. All relevant stakeholders must stay informed depending on their level of influence in the project (Watt, 2014). The project staff needs to steer clear of what is expected of them and at what time against time, quality and budget constraints. Managing project team conflicts Individuals within the project team find themselves embroiled in conflicts due to inefficient communication, opportunistic behavior, poor interpersonal skills and lack of responsiveness. Where such aspects are not tackled with caution, their impact would have a spiral effect across the entire project. This approach allows the managers to identify the causes of the conflicts and come up with options to counteract the same before they affect other project milestones.
Agreeing on a co-operative process Once the project manager acknowledges the existence of a conflict, it remains apparent to engage in a process to set rules that would guide the resolution process. All parties to the conflict must be present and agree on the set rules as a means of settling the disagreement between them. The team must agree to delink their personal ambitions from the project but instead think objectively towards achieving project goals (Montes et al. This approach would cultivate an environment where the project managers get honest views from all parties, and ultimately gain an opportunity to understand the underlying causes of the conflict Clarification of positions The project manager should strive to identify the issue of contention from each party.
The literature review also captures different measures used by project managers to handle conflict, and as such, this would pose challenges in arriving at the best style for handle conflicts. Sample selection The research would engage a total of 30 employees from webhelp, both project managers and team members, to interrogate how effective the project managers have been handling conflicts. Fifteen of the employees would be conducted through an online questionnaire while the rest would be exposed to a self-administered questionnaire. The WebHelp administration gave the project managers and the selected employees permission to partake in this research study. The administration made it possible for multiple measures on the five directors who added up as the project managers’ superiors and the functional staff who worked along the project managers to participate as well.
It was necessary to work with a small number of manager to avoid overloading the directors due to their busy working schedules; and as well each director was to evaluate two project managers, one from effective and the other from the ineffective project category. Selection of the Functional staff sample The project managers identified in the previous step were requested to name four functional staff members they have worked with for the past one year. Only two staff members were selected from each of the managers choose to participate in the study. The number was limited to two to avoid over-engaging the organization. The functional employees were traced from the marketing, supplies and logistics and the information technology departments of Webhelp.
84 Obliging. 82 Dominating. 77 Avoiding. 80 Compromising. 61 Figure 3: Adapted from Rahim(1983) Data collection tools This stage of the study was executed through three sets of questionnaires. It is only the items that ranked high in Rahim’s instrument that was employed. The interval scale for measuring behavior ranked from 1-7, with 1 representing behavior which as observable and seven denoting behavior that was never observed. It is worth noting that each manager was requested to evaluate only two managers, and this culminated to a limited number of items for each style. The information that part II of the director's questionnaire sought to solicit included the manager's age, experience and the nature of the project in terms of complexity. The project manager’s questionnaire was also modified from Rahim’s instrument.
Only three items were used and this was critical towards ensuring the same question was posted as well as cultivate consistency with the project manager’s questionnaire. According to the questionnaires design Parts, IV and V were designed in such a way that, the functional staff could evaluate the behavior of the project managers they have worked with. The fourth part (Part IV) was put together to measure the process effectiveness. The researcher made use of five items from Morse and Wagner (1975) instrument to come up with part of the ten items that made up the process scale. The other five items were captured from Motts questionnaires, and this was instrumental towards measuring the manager's supervisory capabilities. The scale reliability in this study was generally acceptable since Cronbach alpha >.
this does not imply all the scales had high reliabilities since as in the case of section 1 that encompasses the director's survey, the obliging style failed to produce suitable reliability, and this was also the case for the avoiding and dominating styles in section II. All other reliabilities were considered satisfactory since they met the Rahim’s original instrument criterion. A case in point is traceable from the relationship between directors and project managers that had reliability ranging from 0. 93 for all the five styles for evaluating handling of the conflict. 57 Project Manager questionnaire (n =20) Cronbach Alpha Conflict handling styles (part II) Survey items Director Other Project managers Functionals Integrating 03, 07, 14. 69 Obliging 05, 12, 15. 82 Compromising 04 10 16. 87 Dominating 03 06 11. 91 Avoiding 02, 08 13. All identified project managers were given a call and they were also requested to identify functional employees they have ever worked with, and out of the list only 15 were included in the survey.
A copy of project manager’s questionnaire was sent to them through an email. The participants to the study were requested to fill the questionnaire and return it within 10 days and return the same. The project managers were to return their copies through an e-mail. Further, all participants to the survey were provided with a pre-addressed envelope to facilitate return of the filled survey. Research question 1 What is your take on the conflict handling style that project managers at Webhelp use to resolve conflicts with their directors, other project managers, and functional staff? a) Project manager’s self-evaluation? b) Directors perception c) Functional staff perception The self-reported responses from the managers were analyzed as per the 15 survey items based on the nature of the three relationships, that is, their interactions with directors, other managers, and functional staff.
The project managers were to offer responses on how they would describe their behavior during these interactions against an interval scale of 1 to 7, where 1 denotes behavior that always occurred and 7 representing behavior that never occurred. An average of three items that were representative of a particular conflict handling style was taken in order to settle at a mean score. A low mean score was indicative of the high likelihood of project managers using a particular style to resolve conflicts. In this case, the project managers indicated integrating as their preferred style of handling conflicts with directors, other managers, and functional staff. When the project managers were asked to offer their opinion on how project managers handled conflicts between them and other project managers, the results had notable differences.
There was a consensus in how directors and project managers view the frequency of using conflict handling styles such as integrating, obliging, compromising and avoiding. However, there was a disagreement on the use of dominating style. The directors were of the view that project managers frequently use dominating style to handle conflicts between them and other managers. According to project managers cited the use of integrating, compromising, obliging, avoiding, and dominating as the preferred order when dealing with other project managers. The response to item 11 of part IV in this scenario was the only criterion the functional staff used to place project managers in either effective or less effective category. The question posed to the functional staff was whether they felt the project manager was effective in their job, and this approach was critical since the directors were asked the same question.
A project manager receiving a mean rate of at least 4. 9 was considered effective while those with less than 4. 9 were categorized as less effective. When dealing with other departmental managers the project managers, whether effective or less effective employed the same order of conflict handling styles; that is, integrating, obliging, compromising, avoiding and dominating. The less effective and effective managers had a different order of preference when dealing with their functional staff. The Integrating, obliging, compromising, avoiding and dominating was the preferred order for effective managers, while integrating, compromising, avoiding, obliging and dominating was the typical order for less effective project managers. The researcher further sought to analyze the variance for the results (based of functional staff and project managers rating of effectiveness) of project managers self-reporting.
the conflicting styles served as the dependent variable while the effectiveness of project managers added up as the independent variables. On the other hand, the less effective managers were deemed to use obliging, integrating, compromising and dominating styles when dealing with directors. The director's perception on the effective project managers when resolving conflicts between them and other departmental managers followed the integrating, dominating, obliging, compromising and avoiding as the preferred order. The use of integrating, dominating, compromising, obliging and avoiding was typical in the less effective project manager’s case. The directors agreed on the frequency of use of integrating, dominating and compromising conflict-handling styles for both effective and less effective project managers. Two null hypothesis was constructed by the researcher to analyze variance on the conflict handling styles used by the project manager and as perceived by directors.
The response was pegged on a seven-point rating scale that ranged between 1 to 7, where one denoted behavior that always occurs and 7 was representative of behavior which never occurs. The functional staff was also asked to give their rating of the effectiveness of the project managers as captured in part IV and V of the functional questionnaire. The project managers were also categorized into effective and less effectiveness groups, and such classification was dependent on the functional staff rating and perception. The correlation between the process outcome and process measures and conflict handling styles ‘was used to offer grounds for process measures, and Pearson’s correlation results are captured in the table below Persons correlation Analysis-Aggregate Effectiveness measures results Table 4 Conflict handling style Item E11 Process Outcome Integrating -.
58 Obliging -. All functional staff rating of project manager effectiveness was based on individual perceptions. According to the functional personnel responses, the effective managers order of handling conflicts between them was integrating, compromising, obliging, avoiding and dominating style. On the other side, the less effective project managers were cited to use integrating, dominating, compromising, avoiding and obliging to handle conflicts between them and the functional personnel. The research conducted an analysis of variance on how project managers employ conflict handling styles, where the styles were representative of dependent variables while the effectiveness of the project managers was treated as independent variable. The null hypothesis for the relationship was tested as below Ho: the effective and less effective project managers had no differences in their use of a particular style.
38* Dominating. 48* Avoiding. 10 According to the correlation coefficient results, it was evident that there was a significant correlation between outcome and process measures and four of the five styles of handling conflicts. For instance, there exist a high relationship between process and outcome measures and conflict handling styles of integrating, compromising, and obliging. Also, the avoiding and dominating styles were representative of a negative relationship, with avoiding being insignificant at P<. The implication is that project managers should always strive to find a solution with their superiors and then find alternatives if no solution is forthcoming. Further, with the null hypothesis only being rejected where project managers employed integrating and avoiding styles, and at a significance level of. 050, based on director’s perception, it is because, such styles were not mostly used by project managers to handle conflict between them and other departmental managers.
The project managers tend to use integrating, compromising and obliging, as the preferred order. The results of functionals view of how project managers use conflict handling styles with them depicted a scenario where the effective managers used integrating mechanism more frequently compared to less effective project managers. The managers should strive to identify the causes of the conflict, and learn when to use a particular conflict resolution style. However, flexibility is critical in any conflict scenario since managers can find it feasible to use more than one style. Managers should not shy away from conflicts since facing them head-on and with the required speed helps them to create a framework for all teams to engage in a constructive way, and this guarantees better project outcomes.
The research indicates that integrating is the most feasible method of conflict handling style, and most effective project managers use the same when dealing with directors, other departmental managers and functional staff. The other four approaches come in as a secondary approach depending on the nature of conflict, and this only happens after trying out the integrating approach. , Crawford, L. & Ward, S. Fundamental uncertainties in projects and the scope of project management. International Journal of Project Management, Volume 14, p. Binder, J. International Journal of Project Management, Volume 29, pp. Howell, S. Conflict Management: A Literature Review and Study. [Online] Available at: http://www. ahra. Koleczko, K. Risk and Uncertainty in Project Management Decision-making. [Online] Available at: https://epublications. bond. edu. Affective choice of conflict management styles.
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