Conflict Resolution to Project Success

This article examines five strategies for solving common disagreements: confronting, dominating, compromising, accommodating, and avoiding. Pay attention to the literature review.

Literature review

Conflict is the result of a difference of perception, opinion or beliefs among people. Usually, conflict occurs when there are incompatible goals, thoughts or emotions among individuals, resulting in opposition and disagreements. Wall and Callister define conflicts as ".... A process in which one party perceives that its interests are being opposed or negatively affected by another party". Ahmed states that conflict is "perceived difference between two or more parties resulting in mutual opposition". Conflict involving the project team, as well as groups that are outside of the project, can be detrimental to project performance. Project managers often experience interface conflicts that stem from incompatible requirements from different project stakeholders. Each group will generally present differences in attitude towards a project, and these differences will generate interface conflicts.

The project manager accomplishes project success through Project team by motivating all those involved within time, budget, and quality and to the client ́s satisfaction. According to Hoffer et al. the project manager uses the required skills in leadership, management, stakeholder ́s relationship and conflict management style to achieve project objectives by motivating the team to ameliorate conflict during project life cycle. The project manager should concentrate on applicable constructive conflict management style. Lee, posited that conflict is part of human reciprocal activity, which require different use of conflict management styles adopted by the Project manager to maintain harmony within the organization.

Rahim and Bonoma outlined the most common five styles of dealing with conflict: confronting, dominating, compromising, accommodating and avoiding.

Khanaki and Hassanzadeh and Kuhn and Poole looked at confronting conflict management style in project management as a situation that allow conflict to be resolved between two parties that result in a win-win situation. This style involves clear and straight communication and it makes available utmost declaration. Thammavijitdej posited that confrontation has proven to be the most efficacious of all the conflict management styles since it encourages openness and a cut clear information synthesis from one party to another.

Compromising is considered to be give and take. Lee K. L. and Verma V. K. see compromising as bargaining to solve the pending conflict that satisfy both parties and always catering for unequivocal resolve. It is good to use when both parties need to win; there is a deadlock, there is not enough time, the need to maintain the relationship is crucial and there is no suitable time, in other words, both parties gain something to lose something.

Accommodating allow for the point of view of everyone and synthesizes to have an agreement and allegiance of the parties involved in conflict, which always produce a long lasting solution. Its final result is a win-win situation according to Thammavijitdej P. and the result benefits all the parties involved.

Forcing conflict management style is a condition of high concern for one's self and a low concern for others as it is an indication of establishing one ́s idea over others leading to a win-lose situation. This in turn encourages forcing to win at the expense of other TMs. The project manager that uses this technique will become an authoritarian or a dictator and the project will suffer the consequences.

Avoiding is the situation of conflict avoidance as they ignore it and look somewhere else whenever conflict arises. Zikmann, R. attributed conflict avoidance as a passive response to conflict in which the concern for both parties is ignored.

These same styles are being presently considered to analyze the consequences of a project manager's conflict management styles on the project team's motivation, confirming the most successful project conflict management styles through ranking. The ranking orders indicate that the confronting conflict management style is the most important of the five, followed by accommodating and compromising respectively, while forcing came in fourth and avoiding, fifth. This study recommends that the conflict management style adopted should be based on the nature of the contending issues; the project stakeholder's demand and the urgency to deliver the project as soon as possible.

Most research on conflict implies that its management is a process: 1) identification, 2) resolution, 3) enactment, and 4) evaluation, analyzing the impact of the conflict type on project performance. The conflict process is based on previous conditions, emotions, perceptions and behaviors. By examining conflict as a process, Iorio and Taylor developed a model to understand conflict, not only examining failures which occur within the conflict management process, but also identifying phases when conflict is successfully mediated. Different interactional patterns between distributed project TMs and boundary objects have demonstrated a reduction in conflict duration. Regardless of network diversity, networks that interacted with the boundary objects in certain ways were able to identify and resolve conflicts more quickly.

A general consensus from researchers indicates that what triggers conflict may be an internal or external change, a cause or result of communication, emotions, values, organization structure, workgroup diversity or personal experience.

Kaushal R. et al. explored the relationships among culture, power, personality, and styles of conflict resolution. They include in their research an overview of the hypothesized connections between cultural variables and styles of conflict resolution and between personality variables and styles of conflict resolution. Cingöz-Ulu B. and Lalonde R. N. go further exploring cultural differences in conflict management strategies within the context of same-sex friendships, opposite-sex friendship and romantic relationships. Results showed that in general, personal relationships involved a more extensive use of conflict management strategies than did opposite-sex friendships, with same-sex friendships falling in between the two.

Vaaland, Billows and Hodgson demonstrated how collaboration between clients and major contractors can be improved in situations where tension challenges relationship continuation: relationship conflict is reduced through the identification of conflict events and the analysis of differences in both parties' perceptions. In this way, there are important considerations related to the identification and prioritizing of critical success factors for conflict management: 1) Relationship management (mutual understanding of organizational objectives, commitment to collaboration and trust), 2) Conflict handling system (conflict management culture, conflict handling skills, conflict handling process and conflict monitoring and improvement) 3) Project management (mutual understanding of the requirements, task allocation, product specification management and progress monitoring), and 4) Communication (communication management and information systems used).

Some authors have analyzed the contingency perspective of conflict in projects and organizations, identifying that it is imperative to assess the positive and negative effects of conflict on project team success, distinguishing three basic types of conflicts: interpersonal (relationship tensions among TMs), task (when stakeholders disagree on the priority, scope, and/or requirements of a project) and process conflicts (how to execute tasks in order to accomplish project objectives).

Other authors have discussed conflict value and importance for the project showing that conflict is multi-face, analyzing the impact of conflicts (positive or negative) on the project team (and on the project performance) depending on conflict sources, and proposing specific conflict resolution strategies for each scenario.

They affirm that conflict can stimulate change, improve communication, encourage creativity and innovation and increase performance and group cohesiveness. On the other hand, conflict can increase stress, lower job satisfaction and morale and ultimately lead to project failure.

As has been exposed in the literature review, conflict management has been considered as an important competency for project managers, but any of the analyzed papers, gather up the relation between conflict source and conflict management strategy mainly adopted by practitioners, that in this case are represented by a sample of engineering students, which answers are contrasted against a control panel of senior project managers.