The Pyramid of Agendas: The Key to Managing Organizational Conflict
David G. Yurth
Copyright June 2004
All Rights Reserved
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.
Carter, S. “The Importance of Party Buy-In in Designing Organizational Conflict Management Systems”, Mediation Quarterly, Volume 17, Number 1, Fall 1999.
Costantino, C. & Merchant, C. S. Designing Conflict Management Systems. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1996.
Slaikeu, K. A. & Hasson, R. H. Controlling the Cost of Conflict: How to Design a System for Your Organization. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1998.
Ury, W., Brett, J.M and Goldberg, S.B. Getting Disputes Resolved: Designing Systems to Cut the Costs of Conflict. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1988.
WEB RESOURCES FOR MANAGING CONFLICTS IN VIRTUAL TEAMS
* Virtual Organization – <www.seanet.com/~daveg/vrteams.htm> www.seanet.com/%7Edaveg/vrteams.htm
* A summary of articles, web sites and resources which revolve around teamwork and conflict resolution.
* The Center for the study of Work Teams – <www.workteams.unt.edu/> www.workteams.unt.edu/
The Center’s vision is to become the premier center for research and education on collaborative work systems. The site is the summary of their work and the ongoing development and research of collaborative work systems. They provide online and email discussion boards, e learning, and research information.
* Academy of Management – Conflict Management Division. – <aom.pace.edu/cmd/about.htm> aom.pace.edu/cmd/about.htm The Conflict Mangement Division of the Academy of Management supports research, teaching and practice in the areas of conflict, power and negotiation. They provide a list free newsletter and many links for furthering ones education about conflict management.
* Mediation Works – <www.mediationworks.com/> www.mediationworks.com Mediation Works hosts resources for the prevention, resolution, and strategic management of workplace conflict in organizations of every kind. They offer free resources as well as many products and services which can be purchased for conflict management. The site also includes many articles and resources for learning more about conflict management.
* Association for Conflict Resolution – <www.acresolution.org/> www.acresolution.org/
The Association for Conflict Resolution is a professional organization dedicated to enhancing the practice and public understanding of conflict resolution. The international organization consists of over 7000 members and welcomes anyone interested in the field of conflict management to join. The site offers many resources for learning how to improve one’s conflict management skills.
* Work911.com – <work911.com/index.htm> work911.com/index.htm The site offers a combination of free and purchase materials for learning about conflict management.
Effective communication and the sharing of resources is a key to managing and avoiding conflicts. The following tools can be used to improve communication and allow team members to effectively share resources.
* Microsoft NetMeeting – NetMeeting allows a group to share information over a network or the internet. The application provides a chat forum, a whiteboard for freelance drawing, the ability to share audio and video formats, and the ability to share any open program. The advantage of this application is that the group can connect via NetMeeting and simultaneously see the changes or development of a document. The program is free from Microsoft and nearly every machine comes with it already installed.
* Microsoft Exchange – Microsoft Exchange allows for the group to share electronic communications as well as a calendar, tasks and a contact list.
* Intel Proshare – Proshare offers the ability to improve meeting effectiveness by providing video streams to a conference call. A limitation of phone conversations is that you cannot see the other party; by using an application such as Proshare each party can see each other.
* Microsoft Project – Microsoft Project allows a team to track the progress of the project and determine when milestones have been met. The program allows the entire process of the project to be tracked and updated along the way. Each team member can have tasks assigned to them and the program will track their results as well as raise flags when assignments have not been completed.
* CentraOne 6.0 – <www.centra.com/> www.centra.com CentraOne 6.0 provides a single application for the use of online collaboration, ease of communication, and real time authoring. The program also integrates with Microsoft Outlook enabling shared contact lists, calendars, group scheduling and electronic communications. CentraOne also provides for software for e-conferences, web meetings and virtual classrooms. The combination of these resources improves the communication and effectiveness of a team therefore eliminating some of the conflicts which develop from working virtually.
APPENDIX I – Conflict Management System Planning
The following provides an illustration of how conflict management system planning can be implemented.
Phase 1: Identify and Describe Problems and Needs
* Gather information about the team and its organization.
* Gather information about conflict management problems in general relative to the company and/or the team’s experience. This will be used as part of the needs analysis and will also provide the baseline data for program monitoring and evaluation.
* Prepare an inventory of existing and proposed mechanisms of conflict management currently in use by the company or used in the past by the team.
* Prepare a conflict management needs assessment.
Product #1: Conflict Management Needs Assessment
Phase 2: Develop an Action Plan
* Define the units and structures within which the pilot projects will be implemented
* Select the individuals who will be involved in the planning and implementation of the pilot projects
* Pilot system design – need to select the specific program structures and methods to be used
* Determine the goals and objectives of the program
* Based on training needs, set training program standards
* Prepare a work plan
Product #2: Action Plan
Phase 3: Carry Out the Action Plan
* Obtain support for the program. An important component of this will be the communication plan.
* Conduct training for those selected to participate on the team(s).
* Establish operating procedures for each team.
* Deliver the program
Product #3: Implemented Program
Phase 4: Monitor and Evaluate the Program
* Monitor the program’s implementation
* Evaluate the program’s impact
* Write an evaluation report
Product: Information to determine whether the program has been properly implemented, if it should continue, and how it should be modified or adapted to changing conditions and requirements.
ENDNOTES, REFERENCES, COMMENTS AND HYPERLINKS
 Thomas J. Peters and Robert H. Waterman, Jr., In Search of Excellence. New York:
 Kathleen M. Eisenhardt, Jean L. Kahwajy, and L.J.Bourgeois III, “How Management Teams Can Have a Good Fight,” Harvard Business Review, July-August, 1997, p. 84.
 Building Strength, Joel Schettler; Training; June 2002; pg. 54.
 Wheatley, M., Leadership and the New Science: Discovering Order in a Chaotic World Revised, Berrett-Koehler Pub; 1st Edition (January 15, 2001). ISBN: 1576751198
 The Agile Environment: A Case For Teams, M. McCrackin,Thoughtspace – Strategies for Sustained Performance; www.thoughtspaceinc.com/pubs/agile6.html.
 <content.xanedu.com/CCP2/xcp134/2_142985_3143.pdf?ID=0.1893310546875& IE=x.pdf> Coaching: A commitment to leadership; S.J. Stowell; Training and Development; American Society for Training and Development (ASTD); (42:6); 1988; 34-38; (5)
 <coursepacks.xanedu.com/perl/dview?DON=1200454&PACKID=181318&HLVL=210 98&TYPE=CoursePack> I’m OK, you’re Theory X; Geber, Beverly; Training; Jan 1987; pg. 99; (2 pgs)
 This is my working definition. It varies from the conventional definition which defines the term as simply “.a list of things to be done, especially in the context of a meeting.”
 Quinn, D. (1998) My Ishmael. New York: Bantam Books.
 Self-efficacy; V.S. Ramachaudran; Encyclopedia of Human Behavior; Academic Press, Inc. (FL)*; 4; 1994; 71-81; (11) Credits: Reprinted from ENCYCLOPEDIA OF HUMAN BEHAVIOR,#4, V.S. Ramachaudran
 <coursepacks.xanedu.com/perl/dview?DON=1207748&PACKID=181318&HLVL=210 98&TYPE=CoursePack> Implementing a professional development system through appreciative inquiry; Robert A. Goldberg; Leadership & Organization Development Journal; 2001; pg. 56
 Childhood Trauma and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: A Developmental and Cross-Cultural Approach (Comprehensive Summaries of Uppsala Dissertations, 874), Abdulbaghi Ahmad.
Kennerly, H., Overcoming Childhood Trauma, NYU Press (2000) ISBN: 0814747531
 Weiss, B.L., Moody, R.A., Through Time Into Healing, Fireside (Sept 1993) ISBN: 0671867865
 Carter, S. “The Importance of Party Buy-In in Designing Organizational Conflict Management Systems”, Mediation Quarterly, Volume 17, Number 1, Fall 1999.