Working as a project manager in a software development team can be challenging for several reasons. Not only do you have to juggle different tasks and deadlines, but you also have to deal with conflicts between team members, programmers, and stakeholders. Disagreements are bound to happen in any team, but it is up to the project manager to resolve them in a fair and effective way.
In this project management tutorial, we will discuss how to properly recognize and deal with conflicts so that your development team remains productive. We will also explore some tips and strategies for managing conflicts as a project manager.
Are you a project manager seeking to become certified? We have a great list of the Top Project Management Certifications to help you get started.
What is Project Conflict?
Project conflict is a situation in which two or more parties disagree about the best way to achieve a goal because of differences in ideas, needs, and values. Conflict can occur at every stage of project management and software development, from defining the goals of the project to making decisions about how to implement them and which software features to focus on first.
Typically, conflicts within a software project occur due to:
- Opposing stakeholder interests
- Schedule changes
- Changes in project scope
- Personal differences
Why Do Project Conflicts Occur?
There may be disputes in a project if there are multiple stakeholders. There are several possible reasons for this, including opposing ideas, project stress, unanticipated demands, financial limitations, lack of commitment, or conflicting egos within the team.
Disagreements negatively affect everyone involved, from top-level management to lower-level employees. This causes projects to be stalled and overrun in terms of schedules and expenses. Conflicts can stymie project development and employee productivity if they are not resolved on time.
What is Conflict Management?
Conflict management is a process that helps you deal with conflicts positively. Understanding how conflict management works and what project managers can do to ensure it is effective is essential.
Conflict management is not just about resolving or managing conflicts. It is also about preventing them from occurring in the first place to save time and resources on unnecessary work that does not get done because of conflicting issues, disagreements, and agendas.
Conflict Management Tips for Project Managers
Below are some tips and strategies project managers can employ in software development teams to solve (or prevent) conflicts.
Conflict Resolution Strategies: Set Guidelines
This method of conflict resolution may reduce the frequency with which problems arise throughout a project. There should be clarity about the expected conduct from your team members.
You should provide your development team with thorough training on various topics, including the team’s structure, who to approach when, how to run productive meetings, and how to match individual efforts with the broader organization’s objectives.
There are fewer misunderstandings when you have defined all the guidelines from the outset, reducing the chances of a conflict.
Conflict Resolution Strategies: Foster Constructive Criticism
To resolve conflicts constructively, it is important for project managers to foster an environment in which constructive criticism can thrive. This means creating an atmosphere of trust and respect, where team members feel comfortable speaking up and offering suggestions for improvement.
One way to do this is to make sure that everyone understands the goals of the project and their role in achieving them. When team members feel invested in the success of the project, they are more likely to be open to feedback.
It is also important to encourage debate and discussion amongst team members. This will help to solve potential problems early on, before they escalate into full-blown conflicts. Team members should be encouraged to share their ideas and perspectives openly, and to listen carefully to what others have to say.
Ensure that you, as the project manager, are modelling constructive criticism yourself. If you are not open to hearing feedback and suggestions, your team will not be either. Be willing to adjust your plans based on input from your team, and show them that you value their input by acting on it.
Conflict Resolution Strategies: Pragmatic Decision Making
Pragmatic decision-making is a process where the project ma
nager looks at all of the options and chooses the one that will be the most effective in resolving the conflict. This method considers both the short-term and long-term goals of the project, as well as the available resources.
Project managers who use this conflict resolution method often find it very effective in helping resolve disputes quickly and efficiently. Additionally, it can help prevent future conflicts from occurring.
Conflict Resolution Strategies: Encourage Team Collaboration and Communication
Conflict is unavoidable in every team context, but it does not have to be unpleasant. By fostering cooperation and adopting conflict resolution tactics, project managers can turn conflict into a positive force for the team.
By collaborating, we ensure an even distribution of work and avoid overburdening people. It boosts team spirit and gives team members a sense of accomplishment. Clear communication is essential to eliminate misunderstandings and keep everyone on the same page.
We have a few tutorials highlighting the best collaboration tools for developers that can help your team collaborate and communicate better:
Example of Project Management Tool, Monday.com
Conflict Resolution Strategies: Compromise, In the Interests of the Project
The project manager needs to have a strategy for productively resolving conflicts. One effective method is to use the power of compromise. Compromise does not mean that everyone involved gets what they want. Instead, it means finding a middle ground that everyone can agree on. By compromising, you can avoid escalation and keep the project moving forward.
Conflict Resolution Strategies for Project Managers
There are several strategies for conflict resolution that can help project managers to set guidelines and resolve conflicts. Some common approaches include:
- Active listening: Listening carefully to the other person, understanding their point of view, and responding appropriately. Active listening can be an extremely effective way to resolve conflicts because it allows both parties to feel heard and understood.
- Open communication: Creating a culture that encourages team members to communicate openly and honestly is essential to effective teamwork.
- Debate respectfully: To resolve conflicts and reach an agreement, you have to debate ideas respectfully.
- Flexibility: Being willing to compromise and consider different perspectives can help resolve conflicts more effectively.
- Problem-solving: Working together to identify the root cause of a conflict and brainstorming solutions can help prevent future disagreements.
Final Thoughts on Conflict Resolution for Project Managers
Project management and interpersonal skills will only take you so far; eventually, disagreements will surface. Change is not always welcomed, and people are inherently resistant to change. There is always the risk of conflict and escalation when there is a change.
No matter what form it takes, conflict is a constant threat project managers of software development teams need to manage if you want your project to succeed. By following the tips discussed in this tutorial, you can handle conflicts and the risks involved early on before they turn into major issues and escalations.