Which is the Best Conflict Resolution Technique?
This was my one of the most favorite topic for my PMP Certification Exam preparation and I did a lot of Googling to find the correct answer — which I couldn’t find. Since, I have now passed my PMP Certification Exam, I’m writing this blog post to share my thoughts with you regarding the Best Conflict Resolution Technique.
Read this post and let me know if you agree with me.
It is natural for conflicts to arise between human beings, and PMI understands this; therefore, it is a recognized part of project management and incorporated in the PMBOK Guide. Sources of conflicts include work schedule priorities, scarcity of resources, personal, technical problems, etc.
There are six conflict resolution techniques, which I am going to discuss here one by one, and finally defend the best technique for conflict resolution.
Withdrawing or Avoiding: Here, the project manager simply chooses to avoid the conflict, and allows the persons involved in the conflict to find their own solution. No action is taken by the project manager.
Smoothing or Accommodating: Here, the project manager is involved in the conflict, tries to avoid areas of disagreements, and focuses on commonalities. Smoothing is a way to avoid tough discussions.
Compromising: This is a mid-way approach. Here, everybody loses and gains something. All parties get some sort of satisfaction. It is a lose-lose approach.
Forcing: Here, a decision is taken in favor of one party’s viewpoint at the expense of others. It can demoralize the team members and may cause to increase the conflicts. It is a win-lose approach.
Collaborating: This is an example of a win-win approach. Here, the project manager will work with all parties to find a resolution that involves multiple viewpoints and negotiate for the best solution. This technique reinforces mutual trust and commitment.
Problem Solving or Confronting: Here, a conflict will be treated as a problem for which the project manager has to find a solution. The project manager will conduct an in-depth root cause analysis of the reason for the occurrence of the conflict, encourage open discussions to allow parties to express their areas of disagreement, and then arrives at a solution.
I have gone through many books and Internet resources to look for the best problem solving or conflict resolution technique, of course from the perspective of project management. Amazingly everywhere I got the same answer … CONFRONTING OR PROBLEM SOLVING is the best technique for conflict resolution.
HOWEVER, I DO NOT AGREE WITH THIS …
The job of the project manager is not an easy one, and he has to deal with many conflicts all the time; moreover, the kind of conflicts that he will face will not be all of the same kind, so applying the same technique to all conflicts would not be justified. He has to use his judgment and experience to decide the best conflict resolution technique, which is suited best to the situation. Sometimes he will choose to simply ignore the problem, and some other times he will force his resolution on the conflict. The type of technique chosen depends on the situation, timing, and the persons involved in the conflict.
Role of the project Manager: The project manager’s role in a nutshell is the overall responsibility for the successful planning, execution, monitoring, control and closure of a project; i.e. successfully complete the project within the constraints of the project, and to achieve this he will apply the best project management tools & techniques available to him.
A project manager is not a JUDGE whose job is to look for root cause of every problem, finding and digging every available detail, each scrap of evidence and then making the decision as written in the law books. For a judge, even though it may take several years, he will always use the problem solving technique for every conflict. A project manager cannot do this for every conflict.
In the problem solving technique, one wins and another other loses. It is not correct to say that it is a win-win situation because the person who loses will usually be unhappy and unsatisfied even he is wrong, and it would be difficult for him to digest his failure. A prudent project manager will try to avoid this situation, and always look for a solution where he could keep all parties satisfied.
Therefore, he would more likely to choose the COLLABORATING technique which is a win-win situation for all.
Now, let us see what the PMBOK Guide says about this:
Page-239, second paragraph:
“If conflict escalates, the project manager should help facilitate a satisfactory resolution. Conflict should be addressed early and usually in private, using a direct, collaborative approach.”
Page-229, last paragraph:
“… managing conflicts in constructive manner, and encouraging collaborative problem solving and decision-making.”
I never read in the PMBOK Guide, anywhere that it suggests to use Problem Solving/Confrontation technique for all conflict resolution; however, I notice that the PMBOK Guide is recommending the Collaborative Technique.
It seems that PMI is agreeing with me too!
Though this topic has become little bigger than expected, I suppose it served the purpose.
Now, it is time for you to think about it and let me know if you are agree with me, or not. I am waiting for your comments.