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Managing Diverse Interface Conflicts Published: Sunday, October 27, 2002 By: Dr. Manuel Ángel Morales

Internal conflict is one of the most serious, challenging and demanding problems a corporate system can face. Conflict within organizations often result on increased costs, higher turnover, lower productivity and profits, poor quality and service, loss of energy, waste and sabotage of important plans. Yet resolving conflicts among units, departments and organizations within a corporate system is a very complex task for leaders and executives, because the mistrust and antagonism that it engenders the feeding participants and becoming self-perpetuating.

Leaders and executives have to learn about strategies for reducing tensions, resolving conflicts, establishing trust and cooperation among units and individuals that must work together to achieve competitive organizational goals. The purpose is to be in a more soundable position to confront power plays, stalling tactics, withholding information, personal accusations and other costly and disruptive behaviors.

Leaders and executives must learn how to overpass the apparent contradiction of arranging for people to participate in a process of mutual problem solving when existing tensions, frictions and antagonisms are present and these dynamics reduce any true readiness of members to cooperate.

Certain conditions are necessary to start this learning, change and transformation process. It is an imperative to count with the commitment of the top hierarchy for solving the problem plus the understanding that changes are necessary for shifting existing relationships. Also, the different parties should be willing to engage in this improvement venture. The purpose is to have members involved to acknowledge that they are willing to give the process a fair opportunity.

For years we have worked, among others, with the Blake & Mouton model using six core steps of a process, which is highly applicable to diverse interface conflicts in business, industry, university and government. The steps are the following: 1. Developing the ideal model – Each participating unit works separately to create a model of high interface effectiveness specific to their problems and needs. 2. Consolidating the ideal relationship – A consolidated model of sound relationship is then generated through the units’ joint efforts. 3. Describing the actual relationship – Actual conditions that characterize the relationship are described by each unit separately, with members analyzing historical, structural, process, technology and functional factors that shaped and influenced the relationship. 4. Consolidating actual relationship – The units’ individual perspectives are consolidated into a joint picture that accurately and objectively describes the present. 5. Planning for change – Changes to be made in specific operational terms and jointly agreed upon and described in detail. This result in plans for follow-up by the units and those not present. 6. Progress review and re-planning – Follow up dates are scheduled for units to reconvene three to six months after the initial session to review progress, assess the current relationship and plan improvement steps. Facilitators should be present to ensure the success of such undertakings.

Copyright 2002 QBS, Inc. 
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