Sunday, July 6, 2008

Interest of Conflict

...a bit of a play on words... "Conflict of Interest" is an expression used to describe an ethical problem, like hiring your brother-in-law as a consultant for your employer and sharing the fee. And yes, PMs need to be aware of Conflicts of Interest. But that is not the subject of this posting. Here, I'm talking about the interest PMs need to have in conflict.


This posting is chock full of some good links, so read carefully and be prepared to bookmark, listen to a podcast or two, and even order - or borrow - a book...
One of my favorite blogs is Anthony Mersino's EQ4PM (Emotional Intelligence for Project Managers). One of my favorite postings on that blog is this one: "Nobody Really Manages Projects" .
In this posting, Mr. Mersino says:
Nobody Really Manages Projects - Not Even You
That's right, I said it, nobody really manages projects. Not even project managers. Not even you. In fact, the term project manager is a misnomer.

--Project managers do not manage scope
--Project managers do not manage time
--Project managers do not manage costs
--Project managers do not manage projects

They also don't manage integration, risk, quality, communications, procurement or any of the other nine knowledge areas of the Guide to the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK® Guide) save one. There is really only one of the nine knowledge areas that the PM actually does manage.

So what is that one thing that project managers do manage? Project managers manage only one thing; people. It is through people that all of those other things are managed.

Okay. Since managing people is the way you get your projects completed satisfactorily, and since people do not always do everything the precise way that you expect them to do them, you are going to have to deal with conflict. And since you have to deal with conflict, I thought I would also pass along today an excellent podcast and some resources on that subject.

The podcast I refer you to is The Cranky Middle Manager - a fanciful one which you can find at this link:

In one episode of The Cranky Middle Manager, Wayne Turmel, the irreverent host of that podcast, interviews Gini Graham Scott, PhD.
Gini has a very pragmatic model of conflict called E-R-I: Emotion, Reason, Intuition. You can actually learn alot about this model by reading sample chapters of her book, "Disagreements, Disputes, and All-Out War: 3 Simple Steps for Dealing with Any Kind of Conflict". These are available at no cost at .

Below is some descriptive text on the E-R-I model:


How the E-R-I Conflict Management Model Works
The basic way to use the emotional-rational-intuitive approach to managing conflict is to look on any conflict situation as a problem or potential problem to be solved. First, you must get past the emotions involved, so that you can use your reason and intuition to deal with the core problem. Then, you select the appropriate problem-solving techniques from an arsenal of possible strategies for dealing with the conflict. The strategy you select will depend on the stage of the conflict (potential conflict, developing conflict, open conflict), the importance of a particular resolution to you, an assessment of what the other person needs and wants, and the types of emotions released by the conflict.
Once you select the appropriate technique, you then determine the best way to apply it. The optimal choices depend on your ability to assess the situation and the alternatives rationally, your ability to intuit what option is best for the situation, and your ability to put that choice into action.
Whenever you find yourself in a conflict or potential conflict situation, go through a quick "self-assessment" like the one that follows. Depending on your answers, choose the appropriate response. Give yourself time to learn to do this, because at first you will have to think through your reactions. But in time, as you use this approach regularly, the choices will come to you spontaneously. It will be like flashing through all the options in your mind in a moment, then intuitively choosing the ones you want to employ in that situation.
The following chart, which is adapted from my out-of-print book Resolving Conflict (originally published in 1990 by New Harbinger Publications, Inc., Oakland, CA), describes the questions to ask and strategies to use. Subsequent chapters describe how and when to use each of these strategies in more detail, so when you are in a conflict situation you can review your options and decide the best ones to choose.

Questions to Ask ...followed by... Strategies to Use
1. Are emotions causing the conflict or standing in the way of a resolution? If yes: What are these emotions?
1. No matter what the emotions, there are techniques to calm feelings, both your own and the other's, so that solutions can be worked out.
ANGER? If so, whose?
a. The other person's?
a. Techniques to cool down or deflect the anger, such as empathetic listening, letting the other person vent his or her anger, soothing hurt feelings, and correcting misunderstandings.
b. Your own?
b. Techniques to channel or control your anger, such as short-term venting, deflection, and visualization to release anger.
MISTRUST? If so, whose?

a. The other person's?
a. Techniques to cool down or deflect the anger, such as empathetic listening, letting the other person vent his or her anger, soothing hurt feelings, and correcting misunderstandings.
b. Your own?
b. Techniques to channel or control your anger, such as short-term venting, deflection, and visualization to release anger.
FEAR? If so, whose?

a. The other person's?
a. Techniques to reduce fear.
b. Your own?
b. Techniques to assess the accuracy of this fear or to deal with it openly and productively.
OTHER EMOTIONS (jealousy, guilt, etc.)?
If so, whose?
a. The other person?
a. Techniques to calm the other person.
b. Your own?
b. Techniques to calm yourself.
2. What are the underlying reasons for the conflict?
2. Ways to search for the true needs and wants of both parties.


Direct communication, asking the person to outline reasons, needs, and wants.
Intuitive and sensing techniques to pick up the underlying reasons if the person isn't willing to speak or isn't self-aware enough to recognize these underlying needs and wants.

Self-examination to determine your real desires and needs if you aren't already clear about them.

Intuitive and sensing techniques to consider your underlying goals.

Contrast these statements: You Statements (shown in red) , I statements (shown in blue).

You Statements (sound accusatory)
I Statements (express feelings, make requests, are solution-oriented)

"You never call me to go somewhere or do something until the last minute."
"When you call me to make plans at the last minute, I'm not always free, although I would like to go with you if I could. I sometimes feel hurt that you wait so long. I would appreciate it if you would call me earlier so we can make arrangements in the future. "

"Why do you always interrupt me?"
"When you try to talk to me while I'm talking, I can't really pay attention to what you're trying to say because I'm thinking about something else. I'd really appreciate it if you could wait until I've finished talking, unless it's really important and you feel you have to interrupt right away.

"You don't respect me. You never remember my birthday."
"When you don't remember my birthday I feel like you don't care about me or respect me. I would like to feel that you care."

"You are annoying me with all your questions."
"When you ask me questions while I'm doing something else, I feel distracted and irritate, because I'm not really ready to pay attention to them. I'd appreciate it if you could ask me these questions again at a more convenient time, such as" [you specify when].

"You never do what I want; always what you want."
"When you make a decision for us without asking for my opinion, I feel hurt and I feel that you aren't interested in my ideas. I'd like it if we could discuss these things so we could do what we both want."

Enjoy these valuable resources and remember that you simply cannot get your projects done on your own. Admitting this, you will need to deal with people, and thus with conflict. Developing a mastery of dealing with conflict will enable you to reduce stress and get more done through others. It's a soft skill with a hard result.

1 comment:

Cindy King said...

Your article was Published on the Get International Clients Sunday Blog Carnival, at

Very good article that every beginner Project Manager should understand. Delivery of project is difficult and not having these concepts down would make it even more difficult.

Managing people also means understanding how they manage their time. Someone required to deliver something on a project does not mean that the person will be able to deliver on time, especially if they do not manage their time properly.

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