mercredi 11 septembre 2013

Managing Conflict On Your Projects

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It would be great to think that everyone on the project team will work happily together all the time, but that rarely, if ever, happens. People fall out, little factions spring up amongst the team members, resentments and blame bubble under the surface. All of which make your project a very miserable place to be.
Conflict is inevitable, and the earlier you realize that, the easier it will be to deal with it when it comes to your project. Because it will come! It’s a natural part of human interaction and it can actually be pretty healthy. I’m sure that you can think of some scenarios where you have felt better after clearing the air with someone, even if the initial conversation was awkward and a bit uncomfortable.
So if you detect the first whiff of conflict on your team, don’t try to bury or ignore it. Here’s what to do to ensure that your project team deal with the situation and move past it.

Catching Conflict Early

The best thing to do is to try to catch conflict early.catching conflict early If you see something that might be the cause of conflict, address it now. There’s no point waiting – it won’t go away and it will only get worse. So get the team members together if you need to and get all the issues on the table.
You can address a potential conflict situation by describing the situation and suggesting what you should collectively do about it. For example, “I noticed from the timesheets that Frank has been staying late every night to catch up on work that I think other members of the team should be doing, and I’m worried about the effect that could have on everyone. Shall we consider rescheduling some of the project tasks and redefining our joint responsibilities so that we can all contribute effectively to the project work?”
You might still hit stumbling blocks, but by neutrally describing the problem you’ll at least start a grown up conversation about what is going on.

Don’t Blame

You’ll have noticed in the example aboveman being blamed that no one is blamed. There is no statement saying, “Frank’s doing all your work because you lot are lazy and don’t care about the project.” Whether you feel that or not, it’s not useful to say it out loud! You’ll simply get everyone on the defensive, and that will stop you from moving forward effectively.
So don’t blame anyone – or if you have to blame someone, blame yourself. It’s an easy technique to take the pressure off the team and to defuse the situation.

Defusing The Situation

In the middle of a heated discussion, you might not be in a position to use the techniques above – it’s probably too late. Instead, you need to look at ways to defuse the situation. Don’t underestimate the humble apology: “I’m sorry you feel that way,” or “I’m sorry that happened,” are very powerful statements. It is hard to be angry with someone who is apologizing.
It is also hard to be angry with someone who agrees with you, so another way to defuse a difficult situation with a cross stakeholder is to agree with them. “You’re completely right, we should have picked this up in testing,” is an example.
You can also offer to go away and come back with more information, but of course if you do that, make sure that you do return to them with the details that they wanted! It may help you both to give them a time limit, so that they have realistic expectations about when you’ll get back to them with more information.

Policies Are Your Friend!

One way to defuse conflict further is to rely on policies are your friendorganizational and team policies. If something is written down and accepted as the way you will work, it’s hard to argue about. Even if someone does argue, you know that you are in the right as you have the policy to fall back on.
For example, if someone is consistently late to work, you can refer to the HR policy about managing attendance, timekeeping and professionalism at work. If you have one of these it will probably say something like ‘employees must work the hours that they are contractually obliged to do’. Equally your company probably has policies about dress code, ethics and behavior. Your team may have additional policies about project management practices, methods and expense handling, so give these to your new project team members when they start on the team so that they know what is expected of them.

Manage Organizational Politics

Organizational politics can be a major source of conflict. You can use your project sponsor to help defuse situations where politics come into play, if you can’t handle them yourself. One of the main reasons in this area for project conflict is unclear roles and responsibilities. You could find that someone feels a task is not their job, or on the other hand, two people end up working on the same task. This can cause resentment, as well as it being a waste of everyone’s time.
Make sure that your project has a statement about who is responsible for what. This can be stored somewhere centrally so that everyone can refer to it at any time – and so everyone is clear about who does what on the project.
Conflict is never easy to manage, but you can make it manageable, and you should. It is easiest to deal with conflict as early as possible, and to put strategies in place (like policies and roles and responsibilities documents) to avoid conflict as much as possible. If that isn’t possible and you find conflict affecting your project in an unhealthy way, try to defuse the situation as much as possible and get the parties together to work out their differences. After that discussion, everyone will feel better!

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