As MD are you faced with the people challenge where sales is in conflict with operations, or account managers are in dispute with production or the ‘creatives’, or operations not working well with IT? It might be between 2 individual or it might be between the functions themselves. Conflict is inevitable and sometimes desirable to unleash that creative breakthrough, but does the problem seem to be getting bigger – particularly as you grow?
Often the management response is a structural one to an essentially people problem. The response might be re-shaping the organisational structure, changing job titles, moving work stations around, or changing bonus arrangements. All might be appropriate but people problems need a people-based solution. This means that the offending people need to be part of creating the solution by being consulted, actively collaborating, creating options and being accountable for agreed actions.
How do you do this?
My first step would be to quantify the impact of the conflict. What tangible outcomes have there been in terms of lost orders, lost clients, inefficiency, or repeat work? This creates the business case for change and depersonalises personality clashes, different working styles, different agendas etc by focusing people towards a common goal – business improvement.
One very effective way of engaging two departments is to look at how workflows can be improved between them. Step 1 is to map the AS IS position. Get everyone involved around a huge piece of flip chart paper (or similar) and rigorously map the workflow from beginning to end. This will identify where there are breakdowns in the process by the people who do the work. Step 2 is then to map the TO BE position ie what changes need to be made to improve the workflow – what changes to policies, procedures to improve efficiency. The actions need to be driven by the team to maintain ownership of the problem and its solution.
Where two individuals in different departments are at loggerheads mediation might be a solution. Having a concrete business outcome is still helpful to provide a focal point for all parties. Whether as MD you decide to do it yourself or bring in a third party, mediation can be really effective if both parties are willing to give mediation a try and the situation hasn’t escalated too far into entrenched positions from which there is little immediate hope of a recovery.
Both these approaches can be started pretty much straightaway and although they will require time to enact, should yield immediate results. Part 2 of this blog will look at a longer term solution by improving your performance management system.
If you want to talk this through then contact Stephen Cowburn.