One of the great challenges of being a project manager is the fact that, in almost all cases, the members of your team don’t report to you. Nevertheless, you must command their cooperation and hold them accountable for the tasks assigned to them. Here are three important steps to conflict management for project managers:
Documented Participation Agreements
The first step in conflict management for project managers is avoiding possible problems arising out of this non-reporting relationship. Ensure you have clear agreement from each team member’s manager on his or her employee’s participation. The terms of participation, including the number of hours per week the team member has been committed to devote to the project, should be documented for everyone’s reference. That way, should you get push back along the lines of “I’ve got my own job to do”, you’ll have recourse to the participation agreement.
Clearly Defined Project Parameters
Clarity around the role each team member is to play is another way to side-step confusion and possible friction. The second step in conflict management for project managers is ensuring that your project charter spells out everyone’s responsibilities ahead of time and is approved by the appropriate management. The charter should also lay out the parameters and scope of the project, including such things as desired outcomes, risks, estimated timeline and budget. One of the first orders of business when the team comes together is to review the charter with everyone on the team. Encourage questions and discussion to ensure everyone is on the same page. Toes are bound to get stepped on in any group endeavor, but a clear game plan that everyone understands goes a long way to minimize collisions and again provides something to refer back to when settling disputes.
A Well-Structured Project Plan
One of the trickiest sources of conflict to navigate is the participation of management in the project. Ideally, management is kept informed through separate progress reporting meetings. However, many a C-level executive has been known to take a “deep dive” into the details of the project you’re managing, including attending project team meetings. Conflict management for project managers should include the best defense against well-intended but sometimes counter-productive interloping: a well-structured project plan and team meeting agendas. Be willing to step up to guide conversations to ensure pre-planned protocols for scope expansion are adhered to and critical agenda topics are covered.
Remember that at the project team table, regardless of titles that pertain outside the project — you are the boss. Contact Magnovo Training Group to learn more about conflict management techniques.