July 24, 2014 Leave a comment
Resolving conflict begins by understanding, clarifying, and confirming the purpose of the resolution being discussed. When that appeal fails, active listening coupled with extensive challenges ought guide the discussion. Finally, an appeal must be made to the objectives being supported by the decisions, such as the project, program, business, unit, or enterprise objectives. Let’s look at these three steps in additional detail:
1. Confirm Purpose
The contextual burden on a facilitator demands building consensus around the purpose of the decision and what it supports. You cannot afford to have a moving target if you want to build consensus. Not only do you need to make the group’s integrated purpose clear, it needs to be articulated clearly. Consider using the Purpose Tool as a quick and effective means of building consensual purpose, in writing, with narrative feedback for all of your participants.
Active listening comprises four separate steps; namely:
- Make contact with the speaker, typically eye contact is leveraged to ensure the speaker is engaged,
- Absorb what is being said so that you can advance the group understanding about the individual’s contribution,
- Reflect what was said to ensure the participant understands what you heard, BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY, WHY their contribution was made and how it relates to the question they were answering (frequently it is best to provide their reflection by writing it down on large Post-It paper), and
- Confirm that their content, as reflected, is correct.
Each person in any given group does not necessarily listen or even hear what another person says. Some people don’t even listen to themselves. Reflection constitutes the most essential part of effective, active listening.
3. Appeal to Objectives
After two or more competing arguments have been clarified, and preferably documented carefully, ask the group to compare the two positions by asking them “to what extent” each supports the reasons for the meeting, specifically:
- To what extent does each position support the overall project objectives?
- To what extent does each position support the program objectives (ie, the reasons for approving the project)?
- To what extent does each position support the business unit objectives (ie, what would the executive sponsor say)?
- To what extent does each position support the enterprise objectives (ie, what would the chief executive officer say)?
When the three steps, in sequence, fail to drive consensual resolution, take the documented positions back to the steering team, decision review board, or other ‘superior’ for their input. Most likely, they will use #3 above and appeal to the reasons for the project or program. Sometimes participants fail to agree with each other based on irrational or irreconcilable terms. No facilitator can build consensus around every issue, but having a method to follow provides the assurance that you have done your best.
Let us know what you think by commenting below. For additional methodology and team-based meeting support for your change initiative, refer to “Change or Die, a Business Process Improvement Manual” for much of the support you might need.
Become Part of the Solution, Improve Your Facilitation Skills
The FAST curriculum on Professional Facilitation Skills details the responsibilities and dynamics mentioned above. Remember, nobody is smarter than everybody, so consult your FAST Facilitator Reference Manual or attend a FAST professional facilitative leadership training workshop offered around the world (see MG Rush for a current schedule — an excellent way to earn 40 PDUs from PMI, CDUs from IIBA, or CEUs).
Do not forget to order Change or Die if you’re working on a business process improvement project. It provides detailed workshop agendas and detailed tools to make your role easier and your team’s performance a lot more effective—daring you to embrace the will, wisdom, and activities that amplify a facilitative leader.