Conflict Resolution Strategies for Team Dynamics

This paper will describe the benefits and challenges of working in teams, as it relates to conflict resolution strategies. Additionally, I will examine how teams can enhance their performance and realize more benefit.

Introduction

First, we must understand that teams consist of personnel with varied backgrounds, experience, education, and intellectual ability. These differences will, by nature lend themselves to varying perceptions in business, its problems and solutions, which result in conflicts within the team. conflict has more to do with personal styles than the actual problem. Team leaders bring together certain people who possess the necessary aptitude to solve a particular problem but do not take in consideration the problem-solving styles, or cognitive styles, of the individuals involved. (Falcioni, 2007)

When management selects individuals for a team, the emphasis should be placed on what each member brings to the team. An example, if a member displays talent in a given area, but has the attitude of “Get out of the way, or get run over,” the team should be balanced with an individual who is less aggressive. He/she should possess a control factor, which will not allow the value of a “team” to diminish. This will bring cohesion between the members and not highlight just one individual. If the aggressive individual continues without a balancing factor, the team will lose the benefits of what other members have to offer. It is of the utmost importance to choose a varied group of individuals that will keep each other in check. Good leadership in those choosing the right members is only the beginning. Teamwork cannot be demanded. Everyone involved must discuss and understand what the goal is and what is required of them. Teams should have traits such as goals and objectives, empowerment, trust, authentic participation, innovation, creativity, risk taking and leadership. (Temme and Katzel, 1995)

While finding a good balance, conflicts will most certainly arise. Conflict resolution strategies must be utilized, for the team to be effective and meet the goals and objective of their assignment. These conflicts may be more evident in certain types of teams more so than in others. Conflict is common when working in teams. Its is important to have team meeting in order to lay out potential problems and disagreements and prepare to support the teams final decision. (Weinstein, 2007)

In resolving conflict, ask the question, “How do we keep this from happening again?” The first thing is to be objective. This helps in managing conflict by keeping team members focused on the problem at hand (Huber, 2007)

In the following section, we will see that there are several types of teams to be discussed. Regardless of the type team, conflicts are inevitable and therefore, resolutions must be found to remain productive.

Team types
In an effort to address types of conflict resolution strategies, we must first know a little about the teams themselves. In today’s business world, there are four basic team types.

Cross-functional teams
These include members from various departments or business specialties such as marketing, information systems, communications, public relations, operations, human resources, accounting, finance, planning, research and development, and legal. Cross-functional teams are usually charged with developing new products or investigating and improving a companywide problem such as the need to increase speed and efficiency across departmental lines or the need to adopt a new companywide computer system. Cross-functional teams derive their strength from diversity. By including representatives from all or most of an organization’s primary functional areas, the team can diagnose a problem from multiple perspectives simultaneously, ensuring that all relevant points of view are taken into account. This can speed up the problem solving process and result in an outcome that is more readily accepted by the various departments that are affected by the change.

Self-managed teams
These are “groups of employees who are responsible for a complete, self-contained package of responsibilities that relate either to a final product or an ongoing process.”15 Also known as self-directed, self-maintained, or self-regulating, self-managed teams are typically given a charge by senior management and then are given virtually complete discretion over how, when, and what to do to attain their objective. Self-managed teams are expected to coordinate their work without ongoing direction from a supervisor or manager. Self-managed teams set their own norms, make their own planning schedules, set up ways to keep relevant members and others informed of their progress, determine how the work is going to be accomplished, and are held accountable for their end product or “deliverable.” Many of these teams are responsible for hiring, training, and firing team members. The flattening of organizational structures, resulting in less hierarchy and fewer managers, makes self-directed teams a popular concept in business today.

Task Force
This is an ad hoc, temporary project team assembled to develop a product, service, or system or to solve a specific problem or set of problems. Companies are always faced with the challenge of getting ongoing, day-to-day work done while utilizing available resources to work on various change processes or product innovations. For example, a technology company might designate a group to study the next wave in
software development while others are maintaining and servicing existing software programs. Often task force members are individuals who have demonstrated interest or skill in the area being examined by the task force, so the members are enthusiastic about the project and its potential.

Process Improvement teams
These teams focus on specific methods, operations, or procedures and are assembled with the specific goal of enhancing the particular component being studied. Process improvement teams are typically composed of individuals with expertise and experience in the process being reviewed. They are assigned the tasks of eliminating redundant steps, looking for ways to reduce costs, identifying ways to improve quality, or finding means for providing quicker, better customer service.16 Process improvement teams are often given training on problem solving tools and techniques to help them map processes, identify root causes of problems, and prioritize potential solutions.

Each type teams are made up of individuals with differences in opinion, perspective, and understanding. Regardless of the type of team, none of these teams are immune to conflict. One difference that can be seen is in the self-managed team. These individuals probably have the same conflicts as other teams but it is not publicized due to the autonomy of their team. Below are strategies used in conflict resolution, which may be successful on any level, whether one on one relationships or team dynamics.
It is not uncommon for teams to run into problems. Some of the few problems are the scarcity of resources, the differences of values, attitudes and perceptions, which include poor communications, inadequate organizational structure for teamwork, and unclear goals and responsibilities.

It is not wise to have too many assistants for one worker. The order in which to prioritize the work can cause arguments. The solution is to appoint one manager among the four on a rotating basis to prioritize. Another problem touched on was poor communication. Do not take for granted that someone else is handing something and then find out nothing was done. A similar outcome is likely when goals and responsibilities are not clear. Managers need to communicate what an employee is responsible for, and provide feedback. (Weinstein, 2007)

One could easily argue that teamwork is critical to business survival, especially when you consider that 80 percent of all small businesses fail within five years of inception. Choosing the best players to create a healthy group dynamic is essential. (Youngwirth, 2007)

References
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Guttman, H. (2005). Conflict Management: The Key to High Performance. manage Online, 3,
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Huber, B. (2007). Maintenance and Operations conflicts. Rock Products, 110, Retrieved Sept
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Youngwirth, J (2007). Do More than Dream About Teamwork–Create It. Journal of
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