A conflict isn’t always a bad thing – Part 6

Looking at the kind of conversations one can have in a project context.  The ones I have been involved in can be categorized in three groups.

1. Polite discussions: interactions on a level of political correctness. No harm done, but nothing gained either on the level of creativity or relationship.

2. Passionate discussions: Above and beyond the exchange of information and facts. These moments can be filled with joy, sadness, fear, but most of the times they are guided by anger and frustration (Yep: such is life on large scal projects). The point is that there is a counterpart in these conversations acknowledging the feeling you are expressing. Relationship matters. I have learned that when people connect at this level, that they are capable of innovative and very high quality work.

3. Powerplay: ‘Mine is bigger than yours’  and command and control discussions where one party needs to win on the other’s expense. I have learned that these suck the last drop of motivation and commitment out of people in the long run. The result is only as good as the IQ of the winner (which, most of the times resembles Rambo’s instead of Einstein’s).

For the sake of simplifying reality so that it fits into my brain, I have plotted the categories on the chart below:

The moral of the story: you need an optimal level of conflict for a good solution, for conflict is what ensures contact. So don’t be afraid to show some guts from time to time.  Just one big warning sign so you don’t tilt to the complete righthand side: if you loose your vulnerability in the conflict, you loose your dignity and you fall into powerplay mode.

Related articles:
A conflict isn’t always a bad thing – Part 5 – January 12th, 2009
A conflict isn’t always a bad thing – Part 4 – December 14th, 2008
A conflict isn’t always a bad thing – Part 3 – December 7th, 2008
A conflict isn’t always a bad thing – Part 2 – November 29th, 2008
A conflict isn’t always a bad thing – Part 1 – November 22nd, 2008
Forming – Storming – Norming – Performing  – September 12th, 2008

  • CadePMP

    This graph seems like the x and y axis are mixed up. As passion increases, conflict becomes an all time high, not quality. Once you’ve gone through the emotional (passionate) state and have come together, like storming, that’s when you get quality. I think conflict should be shown on the y axis here

  • Hello,
    The relationship I have drawn is that Y is a function of X;
    In that sense: quality increases when the level of conflict / confrontation increases… but there is an optimum. Please note that the X-axis does not read ‘passion’ but ‘conflict’. Passion is reached at a certain level of conflict (the summit of the curve).