Month: November 2018

Thought of the week

A project manager

Must think like a designer

Organise like an accountant

Inspire and motivate like a warrior

Move like a trackstar

Report like an auditor

Thank and stay humble like a servant

Conflict. Bring it on?

– Conflict is good, my junior colleague said to me on our way to an important meeting. He just read an article in HBR.

I wondered if he meant conflict in the team or with the client. It could have been on either fronts. Or even on both.

I did not pursue that conversation back then. I knew he was going through a tough period in his personal life and was looking for an excuse to vent his spleen. “Not on my watch”, I thought back then. Bringing personal conflict into professional life is a no win-win. Same is valid the other way around.

Let’s look at origin of the word: “conflict” com “with, together” (see con-) + fligere “to strike” (see afflict). Think about it.

Conflict happens quite often in projects. Some time it is avoidable. Sometimes, it is unavoidable. When it happens, there are things to do or abstain from. It depends on a series of factors, among which I would consider the following:

1. The origin of conflict

Different priorities, incompatible communication styles, unclear roles or a lack of trust are often at the root of conflict between team members. Unmet expectations, exceeded budget, unmet objectives or deadlines can generate conflicts with the project sponsor or contractors.

2. The parties to conflict

Conflicts happen between team members, with the project’s sponsor or contractors.

3. The objective of the conflict or what are the parties after.

Some just love to live in a perpetual conflictual state with no positive objective in mind. Some want to bring to the surface things, which are not seen as positive or beneficial for the project or a party concerned.

Depending on the answers to the above, a conflict management strategy has to be put in place. It has to be managed, otherwise it will manage the project right into failure or difficulties.

There is plenty of literature on approaches to manage conflict. Here are a number of my observations as a project manager over a number of years in a number of projects:

1. Start with checking your assumptions about the origin of the conflict and the purpose of parties concerned. Do not be mislead and do not mislead.

2. Look for common ground. For example, the project sponsor wants more visibility and threatens to cut funds. At the same time, the project team is reluctant to go “public” and feels unappreciated. A common ground could be to present the visibility requirement of the sponsor as an opportunity to do justice to the project team’s work.

3. Keep your head and stay neutral, the same way Switzerland preserves hers. Avoid at all costs taking sides, unless there is blatant injustice to any of the parties concerned. For example, a team assistant blaming the driver for a failure of the translation equipment and putting at risk the entire event. A good conflict management strategy in this case is to talk to all concerned and find out what happened exactly and ask both of them to read again their respective job descriptions. Designing a standard operating event management procedure and/or an event preparation check list helps to prevent potential future conflicts.

Sharing is caring. About whom? About what?

– Oh, you have a new décor!

– Yes, Japanese. It is thanks to you!

– Me?

– You told me about Tanaka and I introduced it in my wellness center. My clients love it and my services are in high demand.

My heart rejoices. The dialogue was with my dear reflexologist – Joelle.

Sharing is caring is a buzz word. I hear it often around me.  How come? We live in the era when sharing is a click away, effortlessly. So, why is there more demand for sharing?

Perhaps it is this effortless share that makes it meaningless. Perhaps those with whom we share it – the public, friends, acquaintances – do not need it or do not see the value of it.

Sharing is caring, when we share a piece of bread and a hot meal with someone who is hungry. And sharing is something more. It is sharing with those who have a first for learning and knowledge.

Can we go back to public lectures? The times of Agora meetings are behind us and long forgotten, with a few exceptions, here and there in some Universities. And even if we are there, at the public lecture, our eyes are on the phone, finger scrolling down.

I came across the name of Karl Friston, the author of the free energy principle, the organising principle of all life and all intelligence. He avoids one-to-one human interaction and has no mobile phone. He is the most prolific author in any discipline – 85 publications in 2017 alone, i.e. a publication every four days.   He opposed the patenting of the statistical parametric mapping and this is how PET scans became widespread (source: https://www.wired.com/story/karl-friston-free-energy-principle-artificial-intelligence/?utm_source=MIT+Technology+Review&utm_campaign=403ce86738-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2018_11_15_11_44&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_997ed6f472-403ce86738-158060557). You get the point.

Next time I will hear the call ‘sharing is caring’, I will be sure to ask myself: when was it last time I stood in front of an audience of people eager to learn and shared my learning, so that it becomes everybody’s learning? Or produced something and gave it for free? Don’t hesitate to join!