The pursuit of change generates conflict, which when left unresolved, inhibits progress, wastes energy, destroys relationships, and potentially, can threaten the success of the enterprise.
Conflict is a natural consequence of change management. Change initiatives are accomplished by first revealing the basis for differences of opinion that are generating tension, and then productively and collaboratively working to resolve those disparities. Most often, the root cause of conflict is ambiguity about how the proposed change will be implemented, and how it will likely impact the participants and other stakeholders. It’s the result of people operating from different assumptions about their respective responsibilities, and related accountability; it typically is not the result of either incompetence or bad intentions.
These 3 steps help eliminate the ambiguity that inhibits conflict resolution:
- Keep the focus on debating ideas, not on the people proposing them.When exploring different ways to resolve a conflict, deliberations should concentrate on the pros and cons of contradictory ideas about how best to proceed, not on perceived personal motivations. Make it clear that personal attacks will not be tolerated.
- Create a contract around a written summary.
Summarize in writing everything that was agreed upon in a meeting or phone call, and distribute it to all the participants, requiring a response by a firm date that involves either a written acceptance or an explanation about how the summary may be incorrect or incomplete. The discipline of using written summaries causes meeting discussions to arrive at clear, unambiguous, mutually agreed action items with responsible parties and due dates. And securing a response to the written summary creates a contract that conveys commitment.
- Embrace productive accountability.
Ambiguity is often connected to the fear of accountability. Trying to hold others accountable while avoiding accountability ourselves is a natural part of human interaction; self-preservation seeks flexibility and plausible deniability. Productive accountability results from providing specific details and clear expectations prior to the launch of a change initiative, and then securing frequent progress feedback from all stakeholders. Leaders must lead on this – if you want commitment and accountability from others, you must first offer it yourself.
the implementation of your initiatives?