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Project Management Blog
Monday, 08 August 2011 01:24

3 Ways to Deal with Differences

"There are three ways of dealing with difference: domination, compromise, and integration. By domination only one side gets what it wants; by compromise neither side gets what it wants; by integration we find a way by which both sides may get what they wish..." ~ Mary Parker Follett

 The above quote is an ideal reminder that there are multiple ways to deal with conflict. Is there a bias being displayed about the best way to resolve a conflict? Sure, in this instance the favored approach is integration.

What is integration? Let’s substitute the word collaboration in place of integration. Now we are talking about the collaborative mode of resolving conflict. This means that you work with the other party or parties to find a solution that completely satisfies the concerns of all. It means all of you really have to dig and discuss and be honest about what is or is not working for you. This may not be easy but it is definitely rewarding.

What about domination? After all the quote mentions and discards domination as an approach. Well in place of domination go head and insert the word competing. This is the conflict resolution mode where you pursue your concerns at the expense of others; you use power to win your position. This is not always wrong! There are definitely times when it is OK to tell your team how a conflict is going to be resolved. This is specifically true when your team needs to work within clear safety guidelines or follow non-negotiable standards, processes or policies. It is what is and there is no room for debate.

Compromising might mean that you and the other party or parties split the difference. Maybe you adopt part of your proposed solution and part of their proposed solution.  The problem can be that this hybrid solution might not be the actual best solution. It might just be the solution that calms everyone down and keeps the peace (for now).

Remember, we all have our favorite go-to conflict resolution styles and there is a time and a place where each mode is needed. The key to YOUR success in resolving differences is knowing what style to use and when.

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 We have all been on projects where an understanding different stakeholder groups becomes a ‘touchy-feely’ process.  You have a gut feel for their tolerance for change, commitment, ability to influence and what they view as important.  Most of the time we are wrong but if we had some real data for these areas, then we could establish effective communications and begin to understand what challenges faced us during our project time line.

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 Many of you have heard the old adage of “Communicate… Communicate… Communicate” as a preamble by a Project Manager at a project kickoff meeting?
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The creation of a Project Scope Statement doesn’t need to be a daunting task. Through the use of collaborative decision making and facilitated meetings techniques, it is realistic to build the components of the scope statement while gaining alignment from all project stakeholders in as few as two (2) days. The alignment gained from this upfront scoping effort will form the foundation for success throughout the remainder of the project. The key to this dynamic activity is effective planning and execution of a Project Scope Facilitate Meeting, using collaborative JAD techniques, to build the necessary scope outputs for a project.

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scopeThrough our experiences working with project teams in many industries on hundreds of projects, we come to recognize a common pattern. Although Project Managers and project teams understand the theory and value of developing a Project Scope Statement, many do not have workable tools, techniques or processes for creating a Scope Statement. We have encountered Project Managers who have attempted to write the Project Scope Statement on their own or assigned this effort to a team member. Often, they move forward with a scope statement completed by one person and then route this scope statement to other stakeholders seeking input, buy-in, or approval. This process can take weeks and usually results in missing portions of key information needed to effectively manage scope on the project. More alarming to the overall project success is that there is minimal if any real buy-in and alignment on the scope of the project. In this situation, Project Managers are faced with spending too much time throughout the project trying to identify and manage scope creep due to unclear and uncommunicated project boundaries.  The creation of a Project Scope Statement doesn’t need to be a daunting task. This paper illustrates how to build the scope statement while gaining alignment from all project stakeholders in as few as two (2) days. The alignment gained from this upfront scoping effort will form the foundation for success throughout the remainder of the project. The key to this dynamic activity is effective planning and execution of a Project Scope Facilitate Meeting, using collaborative JAD techniques, to build the necessary scope outputs for a project.
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Quick!  Plan a meeting with 20 participants, schedule the room--with a projector, send out meeting notices, verify who will be attending, then order sandwiches.   

Argghh!  I can’t think of many things more stressful than trying to fulfill that request. For me that spells an undertaking of mind-numbing proportions.  

Then, do that 20 more times this month, each time for a different project. 

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We’ve beaten Mr. Genius, Ms. Bellows, Mr. Promise and Mrs. Process.  But what chance do we have against Ms. Meetings?  She is very sweet.  As a matter of fact, she brings donuts to all of her meetings.  And she certainly has a lot of them.  Any time there is a question she calls a meeting.  She has regularly scheduled Status Meetings, Team Meetings, Progress Meetings and Recap meetings.  During testing there is a meeting at 7:00 AM to determine the daily schedule, a meeting at noon to check on status and one at 6:00 PM to review results.  Then every hour on the hour she meets with the individual areas to make sure progress is being made.  She even had a couple of meeting to determine why productivity was so low.
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Wednesday, 11 April 2007 19:58

Are You A Master?

In the April 2007 edition of PM Network, there is an article titled "Master Plan: IT executives need to develop an eye for project managers" that I would like to comment on.

The article is mostly based off a study done by Gartner Inc., in Stamford CT, USA. One sad but true statistic stated that 20-30% of IT executives "have a 'dismissive attitude' toward project management". Those are the same execs that suffer "from poor quality, late delivery and unrealistic project costs." I can related to this information from my personal experience, and would venture a guess that when you move into executives in operational areas, the dismissive attitude towards proper project management increases. The majority of IT execs seem to have seen the light and made the realization that there really is value to be delivered by well run projects by individuals who have the right skills to do so in a formal manner. 
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The feature story in the March 2007 edition of PM Network, titled "Bridging the Gap", is a look at some of the differences in style and communication that newer professionals and project managers have compared to veterans. I enjoyed the article and found some points to agree with and some in conflict with my personal experiences.

In the article there is a quote from Dave Davis, PMP, asserting that "the younger generation doesn't grasp the value of face time and the importance of building a team identity...They avoid social time and group meetings and end up identifying more with the tasks than the team."

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