Given the challenging economic times many organizations are facing, organizational leaders are forced to review and change policies, procedures, and strategies.  Change, while not always welcome, is inevitable if organizations are to survive and thrive.

Paradoxically, change is both an antecedent and a consequence of conflict. It leads to exciting opportunities to transform relationships or revolutionize practices, and when the change is properly managed, the workplace is more collaborative and harmonious.  

Unfortunately, when changes, and the resultant conflicts, are mismanaged, the well-oiled organizational machine can sputter and stall on the side of the road.  Disputes, sabotage, inefficiency, and low morale are all warning signs that unproductive conflict is about to halt a firm’s progress. 

Organizational conflict is often a manifestation of displeasure resulting from incongruent goals, expectations, or interests, and change may exacerbate discontent leaving employees feeling unsettled and unproductive.  In times of change, hierarchical management styles are less effective.  Teamwork is the norm, and in downsized firms fewer people are asked to do more with fewer resources.  As a result, companies are looking for better ways to accomplish their vision and goals. One of these approaches is collaborative problem-solving. 

When implementing collaborative problem-solving strategies, consider these suggestions by Roger Fisher and William Ury of the Harvard Project on Negotiation:

  • Separate the people from the problem
  • Focus on the interest, not the positions
  • Generate a variety of options before deciding what to do
  • Insist that the solution be based on objective criteria that is linked to the organization’s vision and mission

 Adopting a collaborative approach to conflict identification, containment, and resolution can provide a spark that ignites creativity, innovation, and improvements in dynamic organizations.