The Pyramid of Agendas
An Original Work
David G. Yurth
Holladay, Utah 2004
All Rights Reserved
ADDITIONAL EDUCATION METHODS
Additional educational methods that may facilitate overall efforts at planning for successful conflict management include:
* Training for team leaders and participants to help them understand and recognize their own patterns of behavior, the dynamics of conflict and each party’s personal impact in a team setting.
* Training each party to understand better his typical approach to dealing with conflict and providing skills, insights and techniques for improving and/or modifying these behaviors.
* Development and use of interpersonal skills and methods needed to make conflict work to achieve higher performance.
Team leaders should consider integrating any of a number of commercially available surveys and assessment tools into conflict management plans. A survey of some of the currently available assessment tools follows.
Unmanaged conflict shortens the life and productivity of a business. Remembering that conflict is helpful and desirable in multicultural environments when it improves the quality of decisions, stimulates creativity and innovation, encourages interest and participation of workplace team members, provides an avenue where cross-cultural (and other) problems can be aired and frustrations released, and creates an environment of change leading to higher productivity in the work place. Recognition of this dynamic should spur careful planning for the management of conflict for the leaders of virtual teams.
CONFLICTS IN MEETINGS.
Conflicts in meetings can be very disruptive. But they can also be very helpful. Remember, conflicts are disagreements. If the person who is disagreeing with you or someone else on the team is raising valid questions, it may benefit the group to address the issues they are presenting. In fact, by listening to them, you may gain valuable insight into what is and what is not working within your organization. However, if the person continues past the point of disagreement to the point of disruptiveness, specific steps should be taken. Below is a list of conflict resolution tactics that you can use to take control of meetings that get “out of control.”
* Find some “grain of truth” in the other person’s position that you can build upon. * Identify areas of agreement in the two positions. * Defer the subject to later in the meeting to handle. * Document the subject and set it aside to discuss in the next meeting. * Ask to speak with the individual after the meeting or during a break. * See if someone else in the meeting has a response or recommendation.
* Present your view, but do not force agreement. Let things be and go on to the next topic. * Agree that the person has a valid point and there may be some way to make the situation work for both parties. * Create a compromise.
GUIDELINES FOR DISAGREEING DIPLOMATICALLY.
Regardless of the type of conflict you are dealing with, there are several general rules of thumb which can be followed whenever you are trying to bring harmony to a volatile situation.
* Reflect your understanding of the other’s position or opinion. “I feel, think, want, etc.” This says, “I am listening to your opinion and I take your opinion into account before I state mine.” * Let the other person know that you value him/her as a person even though his/her opinion is different from yours. “I understand (appreciate, respect, see how you feel that way, etc.)”. This says, “I hear you and respect your opinion.” * State your position or opinion. “I feel, think, want, etc.” This says, “I don’t agree, but I value you – so let’s exchange ideas comfortably, not as a contest for superiority.”
To become a good conflict manager requires a lot of practice. Just remember that the goal is to reach a compromise that supports the team’s mission, that both parties can live with. In other words, find a way to resolve the conflict so that everyone can continue to participate feeling like a valued participant whose opinions are heard and appreciated.
DESIGNING CONFLICT MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES – PLANNING
Designing an effective conflict management strategy is a complex task. Experience has taught that such tasks are best approached in an organized manner. To help you do this efficiently and effectively, we present a planning model that begins with an assessment of an organization’s needs and moves through the steps of planning, implementation, and evaluation.
It is important to understand that this model does not prescribe a particular solution. Indeed, the model illustrates the steps of a process which can be applied to conflict management as well as to many other problem areas. Because the design is based on each organization’s unique needs and circumstances, using this planning model will ensure that the conflict management approach will better serve each team’s distinct requirements.
In conflict management strategy design, the critical steps of monitoring and evaluation are often neglected. These tasks have at least two functions: (a) program improvement throughout the life of a project, and (b) summation of the project’s outcomes. Monitoring and evaluation ought to be planned as part of the action planning stage and used continuously, even though the chart below focuses on their use after program implementation, to determine how the system may be improved.
FIGURE 2 – CONFLICT MANAGEMENT PROCESS (Yurth, 2003)
Ideally, the design process is led by a team of persons who are both internal and external to the organization and who together bring specialized knowledge and abilities to the process. The participation of team leaders in the design process is essential to ensuring that the design reflects the organization’s needs and ensuring “buy-in” from members of the teams. As Stephanie Carter observes,
“.participative dispute systems design maximizes the opportunity to go beyond simply designing a dispute resolution program to successfully creating an accessible, fair, durable, and effective organizational conflict management system developed with the parties rather than simply for them. [I]t permits organizational members to have a genuine voice not only in the design of the organization’s dispute-handling system but also, in essence, in the design of the organization’s future.(Carter, 1999)[i]
The references which follow provide examples of the current inventory of state of the art competence, behavioral and personality assessment tools. The value of these tools is that they provide team members with an independent assessment of their strengths, weaknesses, preferences, behaviors and blind spots. When this information can be made available to both the team members and the team leader, it is much less difficult to understand the makeup of the team and facilitate alignment of its members to accomplish a clearly defined task set.
More importantly, when the underlying architecture of each team member’s personality is available, it is possible for a team leader to facilitate conflict management processes with a highly illuminated degree of insight into the makeup of those who may be in conflict. Short of determining their personal Level 4 agendas, this set of tools enables effective team management with efficiency and clarity. In addition, when provided with this kind of independent assessment, team members can more easily be coached to align their preferences with those demanded by participation in the virtual team setting.
The tools identified below are the ones most commonly used. The links provided take you to a web-site which supports training in the use of these tools. The reference section of this paper provides a number of additional links to other, equally valuable sites.
* <www.bw.edu/academics/cpd/assess/map> Managerial Competencies Assessement
* <www.bw.edu/academics/cpd/assess/360> 360 degree Assessment (Perspectives) * <www.bw.edu/academics/cpd/assess/MBTI> Myers-Briggs Type Indicator * <www.bw.edu/academics/cpd/assess/FIRO-B> FIRO-B * <www.bw.edu/academics/cpd/assess/explore> Exploring You * <www.bw.edu/academics/cpd/assess/disc> DISC * <www.bw.edu/academics/cpd/assess/social> Social Styles * <www.bw.edu/academics/cpd/assess/situational> Situational Leadership
CONFLICT MANAGEMENT TRAINING TOOLS
In this section, we provide access to a dozen web sites which provide a variety of products, courses, training tools, assessment tools and so on, all of which will help you become more adept at managing conflict effectively.
* <www.learn2.com/> Learn2.com
* <link.mindleaders.com/e-learn/courseprice.jsp?associd=WORLDW005%20> Mindleaders
* <nous4.gofcs.com/wwl/> Serebra Learning Corp
* <wwl.247U.com> 24/7 University
* <hypertracker.com/go/elearn/wwl/> E-Learn.uk.com <www.cardean.edu/cgi-bin/cardean1/control/referral.jsp?ac=wwl1> Cardean University
* <www.jedlet.com?aff=wwl> JEDlet.com
* <www.qksrv.net/click-295755-7134232> LearnKey Online Training
* <www.thehumanequation.com/default.asp?fromID=2150> The Human Equation
* <www.negotiate.tv/wwl.htm> The Stitt Feld Handy Group
* <www.theshadownegotiation.com/redir.asp?RefID=2716> The Shadow Negotiation Series
* <training.worldwidelearn.com/> WorldWideLearn.com Training
CHECKLIST FOR ORGANIZATIONAL LEADERS
Organizations of all kinds can benefit from the prevention and early resolution of conflict. The following factors are important for the successful development of a conflict management system (Association for Conflict Resolution, Report on Competencies in Conflict Management Systems):
* Is the organization ready to seriously consider change? Leaders with a creative vision can move an organization, but often pain is the impetus that moves an organization towards creating or improving conflict management.
* Are leaders ready to listen? If not, the change effort is much less likely to succeed.
* Does your organization have the right people to assist in designing and implementing a conflict management process? Rarely will this be a single individual, because of the wide-ranging nature of the knowledge and skills required. Those persons leading the effort can be selected from internal staff, external team leaders or a mixture of both. The aim is for the team collectively to have the knowledge and abilities set out in this document.
In order for an organization to be able to make informed decisions about conflict management systems, someone in the organization is required to:
* recognize the potential value of designing and implementing a conflict management system; * be aware of the knowledge and skills required to design and implement a conflict management system; and * know how to find people who have the knowledge, skills, and experience needed to design and implement a conflict management system.
CHECKLIST FOR EVALUATING TEAM LEADERS
In looking for an internal or external team leader, you should look for a demonstration of the following knowledge and abilities. It is further recommended that you consider training and experience in addition to the project proposal and interviews. Whereas team leaders need not be expert in each area, they ought to be familiar with each, and have access to other in-house or private sector resources to engage in conflict management when necessary.
* Does the team leader have the relevant knowledge? Specifically, does the team leader:
* Possess knowledge of laws and regulations that have an impact on conflict management and on organizational functioning in areas related to conflict management? * Possess knowledge of the dynamics of organizational change? * Possess knowledge of conflict resolution theory, principles, and methods, particularly as they apply to the various conflict resolution mechanisms typically part of conflict management processes? * Keep abreast of best practices in conflict management?
* Does the team leader have the relevant skills? Specifically, can the team leader:
* Advise on and/or manage organizational change * Conduct a needs assessment? * Design and conduct adult training? * Design and conduct assessment and evaluation of program implementation? * Facilitate groups and build consensus? * Lead the conflict management process? * Work collaboratively? * Assess the decision-making centers in an organization and gain the support and cooperation of the key decision-makers? * Understand the culture of an organization and work appropriately in the context of that culture? * Identify and incorporate reinforcement mechanisms into the conflict management process. * Relate to diverse groups of persons? * Identify interest-based, rights-based, and power-based processes that are in place, and integrate these into conflict management appropriately? * Demonstrate strong interpersonal and communication skills?
CHECKLIST FOR STUDENTS
How does one learn the knowledge and abilities required for effective conflict management, and how does one gain experience?
At this time there is no industry standard for how one learns to become a team leader or facilitator of conflict management resolution. We suggest the following as a starting point:
* Take a careful inventory of one’s knowledge and skills. Students might use the lists above to assess where they stands and to determine what their subsequent priorities are. * Take courses and/or earn a degree in one of the fields that prepare one to work with organizational change. * Learn mediation, negotiation and/or facilitation. * Read literature that pertains specifically to conflict management system design. A brief bibliography is offered in the appendix. * Seek a mentor. We define a “mentor” as one who guides by sharing knowledge from experience. There are various methods for mentoring people. We expect that each has value, and the key for a student may be to have a deliberate agreement to be assisted in one of these ways. Methods include:
o Work as an apprentice. This means one works directly under the guidance of someone experienced in designing and implementing a conflict management system.
o Have an on-going arrangement to work under the advice of someone experienced in conflict management. This might include receiving instruction and direction as one works.
o Have an on-going arrangement with someone experienced conflict management who will give feed-back on work-in-progress and/or to be a resource who can be called upon as needed.
o Work on a team with more experienced practitioners.
CONFLICT MANAGEMENT RESOURCES – BOOKS
Very few of us have received formal training in how to work collaboratively to resolve our conflicts. Few organizations include conflict management in their new employee orientation programs in spite of the fact that all employees will eventually need to know how to deal with conflict at one point in their career. We have researched and found the following books and periodicals that we believe will assist us in learning how to constructively manage conflict in the workplace.
Resolving conflicts at Work: A Complete Guide for Everyone on the Job by Kenneth Cloke and Joan Goldsmith.
Amazon lists this book as the most commonly requested book dealing with conflict management. The authors state that very few managers/leaders are trained in conflict resolution, yet they spend approximately 80-90 percent of their time trying to resolve them. “When we make conflicts go away, we cheat ourselves and others out of learning from them, correcting what led to them in the first place, and transcending them”. This book provides alternative paths to assist in discovering the underlying deeper truths and resolving the underlying reasons that gave rise to the conflict. It also shares information regarding utilizing new tools such as a mirror and scalpel. The mirrors are to help reflect on what you may be doing to encourage the conflict, and the scalpels are to assist you in eliminating unproductive, destructive, unwanted behaviors and free you to approach conflicts in a more productive way. The authors also share paths dealing with magic of listening, collaboration and forgiveness. Their basic message is “to follow your intuition, be guided by our heart, expand your empathy, and be willing to risk deep and compassionate honesty about whatever you see”.
The Handbook of Conflict Resolution: Theory and Practice, by Morton Deutsch and Peter T. Coleman.
This book contains the most authoritative presentation of the theories and practices underlying the constructive resolution of conflict. It provides many useful ideas and practical suggestions for understanding and managing various types of conflict, such as: inter-group, international and interpersonal. The Handbook covers a broad range of topics including information on cooperation, competition, trust development and repair, justice, resolving intractable conflict and working with culture and conflict. This book provides a comprehensive review of theoretical work and research in conflict management.
The Dynamics of Conflict Resolution: A Practitioner’s Guide, by Bernard Mayer
This book focuses more on defining conflict. He describes 3 dimensions of conflict: cognitive, emotional and behavioral. He also describes conflict as “a perception or belief that a person’s own needs, interests, wants, or values is incompatible with someone else’s”. This author believes that how we view conflict will largely determine our attitude and approach to dealing with conflict. We first need to understand the nature and the root of the conflict to effectively handle conflict. He states “as we develop our ability to understand conflict in a deeper and more powerful way, we enhance our ability to handle it effectively and in accordance with our deepest values about building peace”.
Managing Conflict in Organizations, by Afzalur Rahim
Mr. Rahim believes “some conflict in an organization is good and enhances organizational effectiveness if managed properly”. He provides and explains his two measurement instruments: Rahim Organizational Conflict Inventory I & II. These instruments represent critical advances in dealing with conflict management and are useful organizational development tools. Rahim’s book “comprises an encyclopedia on conflict management, including a thorough literature review on every single issue dealt with, and painstaking and analytic breakdown of conflict and conflict management into every conceivable aspect”.
Managing Conflict-A Complete Process-Centered Handbook by Roy W. Pneuman and Margaret E. Bruehl. Englewood Cliffs, N.J., Prentice Hall, Inc. Publishers, 1982, 128pp
This book is geared toward problem solving rather than gamesmanship when dealing with conflict. Although conflict is inevitable, this author believes that conflict can and should be searched out, respected, encouraged and managed. This book provides a step-by-step process to work through some managerial, personal or other conflict situations. They provide a conflict source checklist, critical issues analysis form, viable choices evaluation form, capsule outline of the entire process and abundance on anecdotes and illustrations.
PERIODICALS DEALING WITH CONFLICT RESOLUTION IN TEAMS
Mortensen, M., Hinds, P.J. (2001). Conflict and Shared Identity in Geographically Distributed Teams. The International Journal of conflict Management, Vol. 12, No. 3, pp 212-238.
These authors performed an extensive study to determine if there was a relationship between geographic distribution and team conflict. They agree that conflict can spur innovation and improve performance or it can cause rifts and worsen performance. The article identifies the following hypothesis:
1. Distributed teams, as compared with collocated teams, will experience more task and affective conflict.
2A. Reliance on technologically mediated communication will be greater on geographically distributed teams.
2B. Reliance on technologically mediated communication will be associated with higher affective and task conflict.
3A.Cultural heterogeneity will be greater in distributed teams than in collocated teams.
3B. Cultural heterogeneity will be associated with higher affective and task conflict.
3C. Distributed teams that are culturally heterogeneous will report more task and affective conflict than will collocated teams that are culturally heterogeneous.
4A. Shared team identity will be negatively related to affective and task conflict. Shared team identity will be more associated with reduced conflict in geographically distributed as compared with collocated teams.
To test the hypothesis, the authors conducted a web-based survey of geographically collocated and distributed product development teams. They attempted to measure conflict, cultural heterogeneity, shared identity and among of communication using different media. The web-based surveys were followed up with a phone interview. The findings of the survey surprised them. They found that both affective and task conflict was greater in collocated teams than in distributed teams. The survey results also indicated that their hypothesis that geographic distribution would be associated with more conflict was not supported. The results found no indication that the distributed teams used communication technologies more than the collocated teams. There was not significant relationship between the percentage of mediated communication and affective conflict, but they did identify a significant relationship between mediated communication and task conflict as proposed in hypothesis 2. They found cultural heterogeneity higher in distributed teams than collocated teams, although the relationship was not significant. Findings suggest that cultural heterogeneity may have led to less conflict in these teams. Regarding hypothesis 4, they were unable to find a significant relationship between shared identity and either type of conflict in either type of team. This is an interesting study comparing conflict in distributed and collocated teams.
Caudron, S., (1998), Keeping Team Conflict Alive, Training & Development, September, pp48-52.
The authors of this article believe that “Instead of trying to stamp out the weeds of conflict, they should d everything they can to nurture them. From the roots of conflict come the fruits of innovation. Ironically, what a lot of trainers do to “manage” conflict may actually push it underground, making it worse”. When employees perceive conflict as bad, they are less likely to voice their objections, concerns or opinions or suggest new ways of doing things. “Conflict is a potent source of creativity-especially in troubled times”. If conflict is good, why does it feel so bad? This author believes that conflict is viewed as something to be avoided because it “feels bad” and employees are usually not prepared to deal with it. This article shares some approaches for encouraging productive conflict.
[i] Carter, S. “The Importance of Party Buy-In in Designing Organizational Conflict Management Systems”, Mediation Quarterly, Volume 17, Number 1, Fall 1999.