by Jurie Smith

Conflict resolution for project success

PM Psychology

Conflict resolution for project success
Conflict resolution for project success

The internal dynamics of a project and organisation need to be taken into consideration, otherwise there could be a total derailing of the undertaking, or at the very least, progress may be impeded.

The role of the project manager is to successfully achieve the desired targets and aims of the firm by the employment of certain strategies (planning, organising, leading and controlling) and mainly, through the coordinating and directing of people. This allows the PM to effectually complete the project within the constraints of the assignment by applying his knowledge and skill to the task at hand.

Ceteris paribus, there are, however, certain drawbacks that may show their inconspicuous forms and gradually gain such a massive build that they eventually become too lofty to disregard. One of these is called conflict!

Within a project team or the company itself, members may have several differing backgrounds, personalities, responsibilities and contradictory interpretations of priorities. The project manager must expect that there will be conflicts among his team members and clairvoyantly work out strategies to expediently resolve them for the greater good of the project and ultimately, the firm. Nonetheless, striking a balance between the unit members is easier enunciated than attained!

In my experience, at PM Academy, I have come to realise that conflicts may arise for any number of reasons, although they may generally be narrowed down to; the lack of communication, the dearth of clearly defined roles, dependency on the completion of tasks by other team members, scarcity of resources, personal work execution styles and working in sub-groups.

Furthermore, Project Managers must be aware that conflict is natural and causes an examination of other alternatives. The discord may arise between two individuals in the crew but may spread like wildfire and consume the rest of the assemblage.

Despite the fact that conflict is inevitable in a project setting, there are resources that may be utilised in the event of it emerging.

Concurring with the PMI, Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK®) Guide; there are generally six methods of conflict resolutions where each technique has a particular place and application.

  • One such procedure is that of withdrawing or avoiding. This is the act of fleeing from a definite or impending conflict situation. It may require the intuitive abilities of one or all the parties involved in the imminent wrangle.

  • Alternatively, smoothing or accommodating, where emphasis is placed on the spheres of accord rather than of dispute, may be applied. By focusing on the positives of the matter, the undesirable aspects may be diminished.

  • Additionally, a compromise may be sought in which some degree of satisfaction to all the cabals is reached. A meeting of minds and ideas may take place and brew a concoction of unity and more desirably, of progress.

  • However, forcing one’s viewpoint at the expense of others will only offer a win - lose result. Nevertheless, it could be quite useful where there is a deadlock in which either party refuses to budge from their position for the benefit of the team and project.

  • The incorporation of several perspectives and comprehensions from different angles will, most likely, lead to a harmony as well as obligation from the vested parties. Therefore, collaborating, pragmatically leads to a win – win solution.
  • The last technique of conflict resolution is that of confronting the issue head-on by working proactively to reach the problem’s solution. This will require candour which, in most instances, resolves disagreements and is useful in dispersing untoward feelings of resentment. The parties will be required to have a give-and-take attitude and converse openly.
Invariably, the human element in any project is like a rose. It can be beautiful to the eye and quite prickly if not handled with much care and wit. To whom much is given, much is required.

Jurie Smith (MBA, PMP®, PRINCE2® Practitioner, and MSP®) is the CEO at the PM Academy. He is an experienced business executive with over 24 years’ experience in project management consulting and training. He is a Project Management Assessor registered with the Services SETA, an Executive on the Steering Committee of the Project Management Standards Generating Body and has held various executive positions at Project Management South Africa (PMSA). For further details: or visit
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Issue 29


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