“All war is a symptom of man’s failure as a thinking animal.”

― John Steinbeck

It could be argued that conflict in project management is preordained. The probability for conflict in projects is high as it involves parties from different backgrounds, mindsets and orientations working together to accomplish a complex task. Conflict in group projects can be traced back to differences in principles, attitudes, needs, expectations, perceptions, resources, and personalities. Proper skills in dealing with conflict are thus essential in order to effectively handle and resolve conflicts.

Amy Ohlendorf in her book ‘The Project Manager as Negotiator’ claims that managers spend 42% of their time reaching agreements when conflict occurs. Dispute resolution within a team environment requires the ability to solve problems, set goals, compromise, settle personality differences, and resolve conflicts.  Hence project managers need to familiarise themselves with the concept of dispute resolution if they are to be successful, as they are typically responsible for handling conflict during a project.

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    Understanding Disputes in Project Management

    In the realm of project dispute resolution, a dispute is viewed as a competitive state where by each party wishes to occupy a position unsuited to the other. This competitive state encompasses elements of behaviours (actions that result in project issues), emotions (where the parties are hostile to each other), interdependence (when the parties tasks interdependent), and perceptions (blaming the other party).

    Properly managed project disputes are extremely effective in bring to fore underlying project issues and in encouraging problem solving through the analysis of possible solutions. In the management of project disputes real interests, objectives and needs of the parties involved are addressed and communication on those issues encouraged. A properly managed project also helps in preventing untimely and unsuitable resolution of project disputes.

    The measure or success of any project dispute resolution is when the parties involved are able to; change and learn from the dispute, get more involved in their roles, work cohesively, and find a solution to the dispute.