Although each project within the company may be inherently different, the company may wish to have the resulting conflicts resolved in the same manner. The four most common methods are:
1. The development of company-wide conflict resolution policies and procedures
2. The establishment of project conflict resolution procedures during the early planning activities
3. The use of hierarchical referral
20 H. J. Thamhain and D. L. Wilemon, "Conflict Management in Project-Oriented Work Environments," Proceedings of the Sixth International Meeting of the Project Management Institute, Washington, D.C., September 1974, pp. 18-21.
With each of the above methods, the project manager may still select any of the conflict resolution modes discussed in the previous section.
Many companies have attempted to develop company-wide policies and procedures for conflict resolution. Results have shown that this method is doomed to failure because each project is different and not all conflicts can be handled the same way. Furthermore, project managers, by virtue of their individuality, and sometimes differing amounts of authority and responsibility, prefer to resolve conflicts in their own fashion.
A second method for resolving conflicts, and one that is often very effective, is to "plan" for conflicts during the planning activities. This can be accomplished through the use of linear responsibility charts. Planning for conflict resolution is similar to the first method except that each project manager can develop his own policies, rules, and procedures.
Hierarchial referral for conflict resolution, in theory, appears as the best method because neither the project manager nor the functional manager will dominate. Under this arrangement, the project and functional managers agree that for a proper balance to exist their common superior must resolve the conflict to protect the company's best interest. Unfortunately, this is not a realistic course of action because the common superior cannot be expected to continually resolve lower-level conflicts. Going to the "well" too often gives the impression that the functional and project managers cannot resolve their own problems.
The last method is direct contact, which is an outgrowth of the policies and procedures methods where established guidelines dictate that conflicting parties meet face-to-face and resolve their disagreement. Unfortunately, this method does not always work and, if continually stressed, can result in conditions where individuals will either suppress the identification of problems or develop new ones during confrontation.
Many conflicts can be either reduced or eliminated by constant communication of the project objectives to the team members. Many times this continual repetition will prevent individuals from going too far into the "wrong" and thus avoid the creation of a conflict situation.
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What you need to know about… Project Management Made Easy! Project management consists of more than just a large building project and can encompass small projects as well. No matter what the size of your project, you need to have some sort of project management. How you manage your project has everything to do with its outcome.