Preventing Conflicts And Disputes As A Project Manager

Project management is an important aspect of an organization and a main factor for successful completion of a project. In today’s changing times tools such as project management, if used properly can provide a useful way for organizations to manage that change effectively. Managing construction projects is a complex undertaking. The quality of a project is the result of many factors & the quality of Project Manger is one such factor. Project manager make things happen on a project. A project needs a good planning, organization & management which would bring out the maximum benefits for the organization and this can be only achieved by a good leader-Project manager.

Another area which needs a lot of attention in an organization is conflicts & disputes. Conflict is an inevitable aspect of an organization. It can be destructive as well as functional and it depends on the project manager to resolve the conflict in a manner so that it does not lead to the loss for an organization. There have been many past studies on project success & factors affecting project success. These include Project manager’s competence, control systems & responsibilities, selection of teams, politics, contracting & solving of conflicts, proper allocation of resources etc. Effective project management begins with selecting and prioritizing projects that support the firms strategy and mission. Project managers have to plan and budget projects as well as orchestrate the contributions of others. Social-skills, decision making skills, problem handling skills, opportunities recognizing skills, and management of conflicts are certain personal attributes of a project manager affecting project success.

The main aim of study is to find different attributes of a project manager which would help in overcoming all the challenges faced while working on a project as this marks the success of any organization. Project manager plays a very important role in a successful working of any organization and the aim of this study is to deeply study all those attributes which a project manager must have to become a good leader who can manage his team well & extract maximum benefits out of them within the limits of time, money & resources. Projects are inherently uncertain & face unexpected events, from small changes to unforeseen changes like conflicts within organization, with the client, resource unavailability, etc. Project Manager forms a link between the top management & the other employees so it is the responsibility of the project manager to maintain a good balance between both. The conflict can arise in top management as well as other employees. The aim of the study is to see how project managers respond to such events. As this forms a major reason for the success of any organization, the aim is to give an in depth study of these characteristics of a good project manager which is profitable for all the organizations & draw a critical relationship between the Project Managers managerial attributes, the use of key project management principles, practices & project performance. The study would also recommend some methodological processes, conceptual frameworks, experiments, experiences & some conclusions drawn from various studies done in various companies & compare & contrast them with previous studies to attain a broad analysis for successful working of a project manager & his role in successful completion of a project within the given constraints. Initially the study would examine what a project is, what project management is and what is the role of a project manager. Then the study would examine the causes, types & effects of conflict followed by the ways they can be resolved & the role of Project manager in conflict resolution.

SEARCH STRATEGY

The search strategy starts with an aim & objective in mind. The aim & the objective of present study are as follows:

AIM: To study the roles & responsibilities of an effective Project Manager & analyze what attributes of a Project Manager are required to resolve different conflicts in an organization.

OBJECTIVES:

To define Project & Project Management.

To define the roles & responsibilities of an effective & quality Project Manager.

To define conflict, examine its causes, types, core processes & effects in an organization.

To examine what attributes of a Project Manager are required to manage Conflict effectively.

The key words used in the study include:

Project, Project Management, Project Manager quality, Project manager roles, Unexpected events, Conflict, Conflict Management, work performance of Project Manager, Managerial attributes, Project Performance, Power, Politics, organizational politics, leadership, communication, motivation, managing project teams, project stakeholders, project life cycle.

These words are relevant for the search because they cover the required objectives of the study. They help in finding the appropriate journal papers, links or other information regarding the different aspects of a project, project management, Project manager, conflict & conflict management by a project manager. These words help in finding information that can describe the overall aim & objectives of the study.

The other sources of information include:

Search engine used:

Science direct, Scopus, Google Scholar, Engineering Village.

Other sources:

Project Management: the managerial process 4e by Gray & Larson.

Business Psychology & Organizational Behavior by Eugene McKenna.

Commercial Management of Projects defining the discipline by Dawid Lowe with Roine Leiringer.

Industrial Organizational Psychology by John B. Miner.

www.ogc.gov.uk

www.apm.org.uk

REVIEWS OF FOUR JOURNAL PAPERS:

Project Quality & project managers:

This journal paper ‘Project Quality & Project managers’- http://tinyurl.com/24d9ue8 emphasizes on the fact that a successful project requires sound project management practices and for any project management system to be effective, a project must be managed by a project manager who exhibits high quality managerial attributes. The research discussed in the paper is sponsored by the Construction Industry Institute.

The main purpose of the paper is to confirm the critical relationship between the use of key project management principles, practices & project performance. The paper emphasizes on the effective project management practices & their use by project managers at all levels during a project life cycle. The paper argues that the relationship between a Project Manager’s managerial attributes & project success is indirect. The project performance is affected by the effective application of project management principles by a project manager. Further the paper also argues that the high quality managerial attributes are an equally important contributor to project success and commensurate with high quality technical skills.

The paper presents the key principles & recommended practices such as strategic project organizing, design effectiveness, project control & management of quality articulated by the Construction Industry Institute (CII) & the Business Roundtable’s Construction Industry Cost Effectiveness (CICE) project. They are believed to have the strongest effect on project performance.

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The paper clearly defines the objectives & scope of the research. The data does not only give theoretical results but also provides empirical support by acquiring data through detailed questionnaire developed to survey 400 construction companies where the respondents provide individual views based on their experiences on projects in the heavy engineering, building & industrial construction sectors. This paper also provides strategies to improve project manager effectiveness. This helps in deeper understanding of the managers ability to consistently produce project success. However this paper considers only the aspect of project Manager as the factor for project success. Project success could be assessed not only on project management techniques but also on other external factors. The Project Manager must also allow the client to take equal responsibility of the project. It is important to determine the expectations & importance of each customer in the project by the project manager as this also marks one of the factors for successful running of project. [1,2] Along with leadership skills there is also a need of emotional competencies and as the project managers progress they need to enhance their leadership competencies particularly developing the emotional dimensions. [3] This paper also does not examine the working environment affecting the performance of project managers. This is important not only for determining the success of a project, but also in continual of the good performance of project managers. [4]

The research done by CII & CICE indicates that the critical factor to project success is the quality of a Project Manager. Managing construction projects is a complex undertaking & requires many factors. The quality of Project Manger is one such factor. Project Manager needs to stress different attributes at different times over the life of a project to make the project successful. Many Project Managers are perceived to lack the requisite managerial skills so new strategies such as increased pre appointment training, mentor system, careful selection of potential project managers etc are suggested to improve the quality of an effective Project Manager.

2) Conflict & its management:

This journal article http://tinyurl.com/37skcfr presents a detailed analysis of conflict & its management by disputants themselves or by third parties such as Project Managers, mediators etc. The paper first examines the causes, core processes & effects of conflict & subsequently probes into conflict escalation & de-escalation, context & conflict management. In the end the paper also concludes some suggestions for future research & provides recommendations for practicing managers.

The article highlights the issues by reviewing certain scholarly reviews of the conflict literature which have already been published. The major purpose of the article is to draw attention towards the inevitable & unanticipated nature of conflict and how these can be managed by disputants or by third parties such as Project Managers who play an important role in conflict management. The article defines conflict as a process where one party perceives that its interests are being opposed or negatively affected by another party. It then goes onto explain the causes of conflict like individual characteristics, inter-personal factors, communication, behavior, etc. It explains the effects of conflicts on individuals & organization & subsequently determines the concept of conflict escalation & de-escalation. It then unfolds the conflict context which has been approached from 4 different perspectives: (i) A description of the conflict setting, (ii) A reference to the independent variables, (iii) The environment in which the conflict is embedded & (iv) The structural level or paradigm of the conflict. The article then explores the role of disputants in managing conflict such as Perspective (establish co-operative goals, note the alternatives etc), descriptive ( agree to symbols of defeat, compromise, convert the opponent etc) & the role of third parties such as Project manager tactics (adopting appropriate leadership styles, group-discussions, encouraging negotiations etc), mediation, arbitration, conciliation & recapitulation.

The article helps in deeper understanding of all the phases of conflict, its inevitable nature, its effects & causes. It not only explains the conflict phases , its management but also gives research & managerial suggestions for future references. The suggestions provided though are beneficial for the practicing managers but should have been more detailed & provide with examples to help in clear understanding of the point. It is important to identify five modes of conflict resolution such as confronting, compromising, smoothing, forcing & avoiding. [5] This article does not mention any cognitive analysis. Cognitive analysis approach( identifying conflict domain, generation of conflict cases, exercise of judgment, analysis of result & cognitive feedback) identifies cognitive difference between the parties as the main source of conflict which needs to be taken care by a Project manager.[6] An awareness of the potential approaches to conflict resolution and the understanding of their consequences can provide project managers with a invaluable set of tools to create an optimal work environment.

The article concludes that a conflict is self-generating & inevitable in an organization. The conflict process is dynamic, self-perpetuating & constantly changing: like effects become causes; original causes may disappear; new causes arise; the number of parties change etc. This makes conflict management a difficult target. Project Manager plays an important role in recognizing conflicts & managing them as and when required. Conflict is prevalent & cannot be recognized at all times so its management requires a lot of efforts. The challenge for organizational leaders and project managers is to try to maintain the right balance and intensity of conflict in project management. By utilizing project management principles, understanding the dynamics of conflict, and learning approaches to conflict resolution, managers will be able to establish an environment in which creativity and innovation is encouraged and project goals are accomplished. [7]

3) The Titanic sunk, so what? Project manager response to unexpected events.

The journal article http://tinyurl.com/364k9rb studies the responses of Project manager to unexpected events during a project life cycle. This paper stresses on the point that unanticipated events are inevitable in a project & the project success depends on the responses of the project manager to such events. This paper explores the gap between the practice & success by defining three elements namely: Event, Response & the perceived success. The article compares & contrasts the successful & unsuccessful responses to draw attention on successful practices.

As responding to unexpected events is a fundamental function in project management, an analysis of 44 unexpected events faced by 22 experienced Project Managers in defense & defense related organizations was conducted in the given study. The participants were asked to think of significant unforeseeable events during the project which took them by surprise or were unknown or unpredicted & their responses were recorded to such events. The research was designed using a grid to unfold the differences between successful & unsuccessful responses to unexpected events from the perspective of a project manager. The results found that some participants had difficulty in identifying ‘unknown-unknowns’ ( circumstances, events & outcomes that were not identified in the first place) from ‘known-unknowns’ ( circumstances, events or outcomes that have been identified as possibly existing, but do not know whether they will take place or not). The ability to identify possible risks reflects the experience of the participants.

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The main purpose of the paper is to draw the importance of unexpected events during a project which many times are just neglected by Managers & to study their responses in such events. These unexpected events threaten the viability of a project. The study carried on groups & organizations looked at the behavior of individuals during crisis like situation. An Adapted Repertory Grid (RepGrid) method was used to explore the unexpected events & their responses. The data was collected in three steps namely: discussion on each event to derive an overview of what happened in each event, response monitoring & finally evaluation of the internal validity of data. The study revealed that successful responses were organic & based on three pillars: A responsive & functioning structure at organizational level, good interpersonal relationships at group level & competent people at the individual level.

The study gives an idea of responses to unexpected events & their evaluation as success or failure. Certain studies suggest that conflict develops not only in environmental circumstances but in the styles used by individuals when confronted with a conflict. The manner in which a person responds to organizational decision and uncertainty will influence the responses of others and the individual’s work experience. [8] But this has again beeen contradicted by concluding that a Project managers previous experience has a minimal impact on the projects performance whereas the size of the previous managed project does affect the managers performance.[9]. However some researchers found no relationship between project success & project size. [10]

The results conclude that the successful responses to unexpected events lie within the three pillars: Responses & functioning structure, Good interpersonal relations & Competent people. Simple, responsible & functioning structures are highlighted by the study participants as fundamental pillars of success. The analysis suggests that there is a need to refrain from merely adopting a process based approach to predict all possible events. It should be understood that the combination of structure, people, & relationship are more likely to enable a successful response to an unanticipated event. The result emphasizes to focus on behavioral aspects of project management & further draws attention on successful & unsuccessful responses of project managers to such events.

4) Understanding the role of politics in successful project management:

This journal paper http://tinyurl.com/2va3ass links the ability of project manager & other key players in an organization to understand the importance of organizational politics which is one of the major factors of conflict as a sign towards successful project management. Politics is most often regarded as damaging but common experiences acknowledge that politics often one of the prime moving forces within any organization for better or worse.

The main purpose of this paper is to draw attention towards the role of politics in successful project management & identifying ways in which Project managers can use politics in a positive & effective manner. It focuses on the point that Project Management & politics are inextricably linked. Successful managers are those who understand that their job consists of more than simply being technically & managerially competent. Power & politics is rarely addressed in project management but it needs to be understood that their presence is ubiquitous & their impact is significant. The paper points to three modes of power: Authority, Status & influence & illustrates that these are the key problems faced by Project Manager in attempting to develop their projects in organizations. The paper explains the implications of project politics & stresses that a Project Manager needs to acknowledge politics as a fact of organizational & project life. It focuses on the fact that it is important to learn to cultivate appropriate political tactics as they decide whether it is healthy or unhealthy & give characteristics of political behavior like underlying attitudes, techniques etc. Politics if not handled on time may lead to conflicts within the organization so a Project manager needs to acknowledge politics and manage it accordingly. The article suggests some measures to be adopted by Project manager such as the need to employ certain tactics such as conduct performance appraisals on their project team subordinates as it helps in sending a clear message throughout the members that the projects are valuable & project contributions among team members will be remembered & rewarded. The Project Manager needs to learn the art of influencing by developing a reputation as an expert, and also suggests a Project Manager to develop good negotiating skills & recognize that conflict is a natural side effect of project management. These tactics as suggested can help Project managers in dealing with politics & hence would prevent conflict within the team.

This article gives a good understanding of politics which generally is neglected by Project managers. Organizational politics is one of the important factors responsible for conflicts in an organization but this factor many times is neglected. Conflict if avoided can lead to difficult situations. . Managers at all levels of an organization should be attentive to enhancing employee perceptions of organizational justice in order to encourage the use of more cooperative styles for organizational conflict management.[10] There needs to be more emphasis on project team relationship as it can be one of the causes of politics and hence can lead to conflicts. Unwillingness to cooperate is one of the major reasons for failed teams leading to conflicts Hence, successful project completion depends to a large extent on members being able to work together effectively.[4] This article helps to draw attention towards the importance of politics & provides effective project implementation techniques which may help in avoiding conflicts arising from politics. But it does not provide any empirical data proving the theories mentioned.

The paper concludes that politics and project management are interlinked & a project cannot be run without understanding politics. Politics is not necessarily evil but depends on how it is used that decides its effect. Managers do not understand the importance of politics many times but they need to understand that politics is ubiquitous; that is it operates across organizations & functional boundaries.. Successful Project Managers are aware that politics, if used judiciously can have an extraordinary positive impact on the implementation of their projects..

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SUMMARY:

The journals provide a clear understanding of project, project management, roles & responsibilities of a project manager, conflicts & unexpected events in an organization & the ways in which a Project manager could successfully manage them. All the journals focus on one point which is that a successful Project Manager requires a sound project management practices & for any project management system to be effective, a project must be managed by a Project Manager who exhibits high quality managerial attributes & knows to handle unanticipated situations in a project life-cycle.

The research sponsored by the CII( Construction Industry Institute) in the first paper-‘Project Quality & Project Manager’ highlights the importance of a quality Project Manager as one of the basic factors required for the success of a project. The paper specifies some suggestions to improve the Project manager effectiveness such as increased pre-appointment training, Establishing a mentor system, careful selection of potential Project Manager etc.

The second journal article-‘Conflict & its Management’ presents a broad analysis of conflict & its management. This article stresses on the fact that conflict is inevitable in an organization & can be handled by disputants themselves or by third parties such as Project Manager. Again this article stresses on the importance of the managerial qualities required in a Project Manager to handle conflict effectively. It provides suggestions for Project Managers to overcome conflict. These include: Project Manager should not always avoid conflict, should identify the issues & carve them down to manageable set etc.

Both the journal papers suggests that an effort needs to be made to identify & develop key management skills that may be unique to the project management environment.

The third journal -‘Project Managers response to unexpected events’ opines that projects can face unexpected events & studies how Project Managers respond to such events. The article examines some events but found that human behavior issues predominantly led to failure while all other types of events could be managed either successfully or unsuccessfully. It identifies three pillars on which success response was dependent: Response & functioning structure(high degree of freedom, rapid decision making & implementation etc); good interpersonal relationship( Engagement with stakeholders, communication & relationship between people involved) & competent people( competence of leader & team, behavior including self awareness & ability to deal with stressful situations).

The fourth journal paper- ‘Understanding the role of politics in project management’ identifies organizational politics as one of the causes of conflict & reveals that successful project management is linked to the ability of a Project Manager to understand its importance to make it work for project success. It states that project & politics are interlinked & it is up to what Project managers do depends on their ability to effectively manage not only the technical aspect of their job but also the behavioral side as well. It also focuses on the behavioral issues which need to be effectively handled by a Project Manger by understanding the dynamics of conflict process & by learning to cultivate appropriate political tactics.

It can be summarized that a project is an endeavor undertaken to meet specified goals & objectives & is usually constrained by time, scope & budget. The discipline of planning, organizing & managing resources to bring about the successful completion of such goals & objectives during a project is known as Project management. A project manager is vital & indispensable in any project. It is the Project manager who is accountable for accomplishing the objectives & goals during a project life-cycle. The key project manger responsibilities include clear & attainable project objectives, building the requisite environment, managing all the constraints of project, managing all unexpected events during a project such as conflicts etc. The quality of Project Manager is critical to achieving project success. Project Managers should emphasize different attributes at different stages of a project to be more effective. A project manager needs to understand that projects are inherently uncertain & should be ready to manage them by understanding their importance & make them work for project success. Proper skills in dealing with conflict can assist project managers and other organization members to handle and effectively resolve conflicts which can lead to a more productive organization as a whole. Using Project management principles and applying them gives the project manager the ability to establish success measures, incorporate quality principles, resolve conflicts and unexpected events, address future risk before becoming a problem, work within the scope of the project etc.

The Project manager must have a combination of above average leadership & human relations skills and administrative experience. Project performance is affected by the effective application of project management principles by a project manager. An effective Project manager should be capable of making decisions, communicate actions & eliciting the commitment of team members. An effective Project Manager needs to diagnose conflict & manage it by various methodologies such as improving communication, encourage joint responsibilities, create new alternatives, instill a co-operative, problem solving attitude between the conflicting groups. Successful project manager understand that project management skills if used judiciously can have an extra-ordinary impact on the successful implementation of their projects.

Great & successful organizations have always believed in idea generators & executors for overall excellence. Project Manager is expected to have both qualities and the ability to handle all events during the course of a project. Effective instrumental leadership abilities & initiatives have always lend a Midas touch to the organization.

Since the aim of the study to be done is to analyze Project Managers roles and responsibilities and define attributes required in a Project Manager to prevent conflict during a project life cycle, these journals help in supporting the fact that Project Managers are one of the important factors required for project success. These journals define the various conflicts, its causes and explore the characteristics required in a Project manager to overcome unexpected events during a project. This would help in the further study of the current research and help in achieving the objectives of the research.


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