Explore how to solve them successfully.
Let me narrate to interesting conflicts that I encountered in my personal and professional life and how I resolved them using various ways of conflict resolution.
The first incident goes back to about 15 years back when I was staying in a rented house. I had purchased a new apartment, and the apartment would be ready in about three months. My landlord asked me to vacate the house with one month’s notice. This was a part of the contract. The challenge for me then was where to live next 2 months? I was married, and we had a very young child. Who would give us a house for just 2 months? Again shifting house is not a small affair where you have to change everything from the current address to the interim address and again change it to the new address. It involved packing, transportation, and the significant effort of shifting an entire house.
I was obviously angry. My wife was angrier. Some of my friends even advised me to go to the police and say that I was not in a position to vacate the house and seek legal recourse.
Given all these tense situations, I decided to talk to the house owner and figure out why he needs the house when he is staying in his own house. When I met the gentleman, and I enquired about the need for the house, he told me that his son-in-law had been transferred out of the city for a year and he needed to store all the goods from his son-in-law's house. This is because his son-in-law would come back after a year, and then again, he needed to have all the furniture and accessories. The house owner had only a 2 bedroom house, and he couldn't store these goods in his own house.
After understanding his needs, I proposed a solution to him, saying that we could manage with a single bedroom for about 2 months since we were a small family. Then we would vacate the house, and the owner can decide whatever he wishes to do with the house. This resolved the conflict because I no longer had to vacate the house, and the owner got the space to store the goods.
Another example from my professional work environment; We used to have a marketing partner who used to sell our training programs. The partner wanted to have 60% of the revenue coming from the program, saying that it does cost a lot of money to market the programs. We wanted 60% of the revenue as we were delivering the program. There are many costs involved, and it is difficult for us to manage within 40%. And obviously, both parties cannot get 60% of the revenue. There were few mail exchanges, and each time there was a mail exchange, the language became more and more hostile. So I decided to meet this partner in person and discuss the issue.
When I enquired about the details, what I understood from the partner is looking at 60% as that would pay them a minimum of $6,000 from a single program to recover all the costs that they incur in marketing and 20% margin. The cost of marketing the program was about $5000.
Once I understood their basic need was to make $6,000, I discussed with the partner asking if there was something that we could do that could make a revenues increase from $10,000 to $12,000 for each program.
We explored something which would add significant value to the customers but not a significant cost to us. We recognized that are there were few government standards that the clients needed to implement the concepts. They were available in the city but in a very specific place, and this is a time I am talking when internet and e-commerce wear still in infancy.
This being a government standard, you have to buy it from the government office. Going to the government office and coming back with just one standard copy costs a company a person-day of effort, which is about $100.The standard cost is just $10. We decided that we would buy this standard in bulk because having 20 copies purchased simultaneously is not difficult because we would have about 20 participants joining each program.
We told the participants that they were going to get the standard in the program. The participants were delighted because they saved about 110 dollars they would have otherwise spent procuring the book. We increased the program price by 100 dollars. This allowed us to get about $2,000 more. Now with a 50% share between both the parties, it made economic sense to both parties.
As you can see, I have one time applied the principle of compromise where I agreed to live in a single bedroom house than a 2 bedroom house for a specific period. It reduced the impact on me significantly. It caused hardly any inconvenience compared to what I would have incurred if I had decided to stay in an interim arrangement for about 2 months.
In the second case, we could figure out the solution approach where we can increase the pie rather than trying to increase the share of the pie.
Conflict resolution is never easy, but it is always possible for us to figure out creative ways to resolve conflicts.
Conflicts arise throughout business analysis activities. Stakeholders provide contradicting requirements during elicitation. Business analysts should pay attention to potential conflicts so that they can be identified, analyzed, avoided, and resolved early.
Effective conflict resolution is key to a project’s success. Conflict resolution strategies have a significant effect on the willingness of stakeholders involved to continue working along. Fair conflict resolutions lead to increased engagement and collaboration in the project. Vice-versa is also true. Irrespective of conflict resolution strategies, business analysts MUST involve all relevant stakeholders during conflict resolutions.
Although conflicts are most often considered negative, they can help business analysts discover new requirements.
Here are 7 techniques BA's can use for effective conflict resolution:
Negotiate a solution to the conflict. Exchange information, arguments, and opinions and try to convince each other’s viewpoints to achieve an agreeable solution.
2. Definition of variants
The system is developed in a way that permits different behaviors by the use of variants (or parameters). For example, the system can be designed to behave differently for processes executed in country A vs. country B.
Conflicting parties compromise to a solution where each party is willing to sacrifice certain aspects.
4. Decision matrix
Create a decision table that contains solution alternatives in columns and all relevant decision criteria in rows.
Identify decision criteria using the technique “consider-all- facts.” Assess each combination of criterion and solution alternative, for example, a point-scale ranging from irrelevant (0 points) to relevant (10 points).
Calculate sums of columns in order to find a solution.
Accept solution alternative with the highest score.
5. Develop a win-win solution
This is the best conflict resolution technique that addresses the needs of both parties. To develop a win-win solution, do the following:
- Make your intentions known to find a win-win solution
- Make both parties agree to the intent to find a win-win solution
- Explore the intent behind stated positions
- Think creatively – Increase the pie than increase the share of the pie
Conflicting parties vote on solution alternatives, and the alternative with the most votes is accepted as the solution/approach for conflict resolution.
Conflict is resolved by employing formal authority. It should be used only if other resolution techniques have failed or are not feasible due to resource limitations (e.g., time).
Do share your practical experiences in handling conflicts. This is an area that is not explored as much as it should be.
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