Managing project conflicts is a regular and ever-present part of a project manager’s life. For a project
manager to have a consistently successful track record on his or her projects, they need to be able to resolve project conflicts.
Some conflicts are project threatening. Those are the conflicts that involve disputes between executives and your project stakeholders over the very scope of the project and the acceptance criteria for deliverables. That level of conflict can yield significant damage to the project scope and budget. The project manager also has to resolve conflicts between team members where the impact of the conflict is less severe. However, conflict between team members can have an adverse effect on the productivity of the team. And it certainly impacts the level of collaboration between team members. On larger projects, the project manager is often dealing with a couple of project conflicts on each of those levels.
Project managers can resolve many conflicts using one of the five intervention techniques we’ll discuss below. The conflicts that are most easily resolved are situations where the project manager can work directly with the team members or stakeholders having the conflict. He or she can then use one of the techniques we will discuss to fix it (or at least reduce the impact on the project). Project Management Skills Main Page
Managing Project Conflicts Video
Watch this video showing two versions of conflict resolution: the wrong way and the right way for a project manager to handle a conflict. The first version has the project manager walking into a meeting with his team in the middle of a roaring conflict. The project manager does a reasonably good job of taking control but then makes a major mistake regarding what he focuses on. The project manager’s conflict resolution should be aimed at minimizing damage to the project, not making friends among everyone on the project team. As a result of his error in the first version, the project manager makes the situation worse. In the second version, the conflict is the same but the project manager uses a much more focused approach to handling the conflict. It is more effective and decreases the damage to the project.
Other conflicts can’t be resolved that directly because they have deeper roots in the organization’s politics. This second group of conflicts can have a much more damaging impact on the project. That’s because they involve the organization’s executives rather than being confined to project team members and stakeholders. In this type of conflict the people involved often represent other, usually higher ranking, stakeholders. Too often PMs see these entrenched conflicts as impossible to resolve and simply accept the damage they will have on the project. But rather than give up, project managers should use techniques to manage those difficult conflicts to minimize the damage to the project’s results. The project manager must engage on a political level in the organization.