Conflicts in Project Management

One of the critical challenges project manger need to deal with during execution is the teams conflict, No matter how good the project schedule, how perfect is the budget, projects can still be undone through poor interaction between individuals.

The major source of conflict among the project teams are: differences in values, attitudes, needs, expectations, perceptions, resources, unclear project goals, disagreement on priorities or just personalities.

Project Managers can avoid conflicts in projects, through the following techniques:

  • Always inform the team of the project’s direction
  • Explain project objectives and the rationale
  • Clearly define project constraints in the project plan
  • Communicate decisions and changes plainly in a timely fashion
  • Clearly state expectations of individuals and the team
  • Assign work without ambiguity and overlapping responsibilities
  • Make work ssignment interesting and challenging

Training the project managers and cross functional teams on perfect listening and communication skills is required as majority of project manger time is spent on communicating with customer , contractors , suppliers..etc, and that need a skilled communicator, to eliminate any conflict.

Most of the time people who are trying to earn more points or get a control of a situation on others are the source of conflict, discussing and explaining the impact of that on the organization will reduce that in most cases.

However below methods of resolving conflict which can be applied in different given situations.

  • Withdrawal from the      conflict when: an issue is trivial or another outcome is more important;      when ‘winning the point’ is more trouble than it’s worth; or when someone      else can better handle the issue.
  • Suppression it is the peace at any cost. It involves emphasizing the points of agreement and deemphasizing the points of difference. It is best used when cooperation is desired on an important issue or the aim is to be seen as flexible or reasonable.
  • Forcing is directing the resolution in one way or another.  It is best used when the issue relates to rules and discipline. PMs should only force an issue when they know they are right and can back up their decision.
  • ·         Compromise will be a reasonable approach when moving forward is the most important outcome and you have tight time. Compromise involves each party giving in a little and gaining some ground in the process. It may mean that neither party is really satisfied with the outcome – each feeling they’ve lost something but the team will be able to move closer achieving the project goals.
  • Collaboration is the long term approach to conflict resolution. It is used when each person has valuable knowledge that needs to be contributed. It should also be used when damaged relationships need to be repaired and total commitment is required.

Definitely a little bit of conflict is not all bad. In fact the balance of conflict and collaboration can challenge people for innovation and devise more efficient and effective in ways of working together.


4 thoughts on “Conflicts in Project Management

  1. I totally agree one of the key elements towards any project success is the ability of the group to work as a team. In addition to the entire examples you gave, I think the most important skill to keep the team together is the skill of being emotionally intelligent and in my experience not being in control of your emotions can create chaos and raise conflict.

  2. Thanks for the post. Thats a very well written blog and appreciate your concentration.
    Yes I totally agree to your point in regards to the team management and choosing right team for the right task. But its always easier saying then done and the scenarios of having very well communicated tasks, perfectly qualified resource for the tasks happens mostly in the ideal world. Moreover, thats one of the biggest task in the project management field for the project managers.

  3. This is a great post and should be a beneficial reference while we’re working on our project at DePaul and in our careers. Many of the first bullets reflect the need for effective communication to and from the Project Manager. I believe that without focusing on efficiently communicating between team members and customers the project is destined to fail, even with a bulletproof plan. Another source of potential conflict that I’ve experienced is a team that has no clear leader which we have referred to as having too many Kings and not enough subjects. In this type of situation team members can be pulled into many conflicting directions and there is no set route to the goal. In the project we are currently working on our first action was to select a Project Manager to keep track of deliverables and keep us all organized and working towards our ultimate goal.

    Your last line is spot on. Conflict can generate creative ideas and out of the box solutions for difficult problems. The challenge has always been distinguishing between constructive conflict that improves the final result and destructive conflict that impairs the progress of your project. Constructive conflict should be encouraged while destructive conflict needs to be eliminated immediately. Thanks for the post.

  4. This is a great post with solid conflict guidance suggestions! I was so interested that I clicked through to the sources the post sited. The PM Hut referenced had an interesting bit about personality conflict. I think this tends to be the hardest conflict to deal with at times. The original article mentions that, “There are many types of personality conflict. Most often they are about small elements of personality that irritate others and don’t have much to do with people’s abilities – such as a particular brand of humor, a work philosophy or a need to ask a lot of questions.” I see this often in so many life interactions. It really reinforces why the PM needs to be an excellent c communicator. They drive, guide, and lead by example all of the members of any team. You see this in sports constantly. Good coaches and team captains play the role of PM’s in these situations and you can see how good they are based on their team cohesion. At work, with a skilled PM, I have seen very different team personalities work together seamlessly.

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