Collaborating Over Conflict

Mary Carol had a difficult decision to make. Her team had an important and risky system upgrade to complete. The upgrade definitely needed to occur over a weekend. The schedule was tight and many of the team members felt that the upgrade should occur over an upcoming holiday weekend. This would give them extra time just in case the upgrade did not go smoothly. Other team members hated this idea and were rebelling against the idea of giving up a weekend plus a Monday holiday.

As the senior project manager, Mary Carol would make the final decision. Before she made the call, she decided to gather the team together. She did not believe that she could get the entire team to reach an agreement, but she did hope that by listening to everyone, it would make it easier for everyone once she announced her decision. She had not made a final decision yet, she wanted to attend the meeting with an open mind.

The meeting room was filled with tension. Each ‘side’ had plenty of reasons as to why the implementation should or should not be conducted over the holiday weekend. The discussion was going poorly, until; one of the team made this statement, “It is a shame to take the whole holiday weekend, when the extra time we need to allow for issues is only about four hours.” Another team member quickly agreed. Members from both ‘sides’ of the conflict weighed in. The actual extra time needed was about four hours. Another team member asked, “Why can’t we start the upgrade earlier on Friday? If we can have the system earlier, we don’t need to work into Monday morning.” Everyone agreed that this would be the ideal solution. The department manager of the group who used the system was in attendance and stated that she would be more than happy to have her team sign off early on Friday afternoon in order to support the upgrade. This made her life easier too; after all it was her team may have had to give up the Monday holiday in order to confirm that the upgrade had been successful.

Whether Mary Carol knew it or not, she was using the collaborating approach to conflict resolution. Collaborating is an excellent approach to use when you want to find an approach that satisfies the concerns of both parties. Collaborating involves working together to understand each other’s needs and perspectives so that together you can find creative solutions. And that is exactly what Mary Carol’s team did; together they found a creative solution to their dilemma. By collaborating the team worked through the hard feelings that were beginning to form over who was right about when the implementation should occur and everyone became committed to the new approach.

The end result was a successful implementation and a stronger team.