Tag Archives: conflict

Getting Consensus?

Adelle emerged from the conference room after two long hours of debate. She shook her head from side to side, a genuine look of despair. “I tried,” she shrugged, “but we didn’t make a whole lot of progress. What we ended up with was mostly crap.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Oh, we have been trying to figure out the best way to solve this problem and there are a bunch of ideas, but we just can’t reach a consensus on which way to proceed. I am afraid to get started until I know for sure that everyone is on board. But every time we make a compromise, other people drop off and want something different.”

“What happens to the quality of the solution every time you compromise?”

“That’s the real problem. It’s the compromising that kills it. After listening to all the input, I know what we should do and the little compromises just water it down. We might as well junk the whole project because, in this state, it will not do what the customer wants it to do.”

“Whose meeting did you just walked out of?” I asked.

It was Adelle’s turn to ask, “What do you mean?”

“I mean, was it the team’s meeting, or was it your meeting? Let me put it a different way. Who is your boss going to hold accountable for this decision?”

“Oh, I tried that once, blaming a decision on the team. I got the message. My boss is going to hold me accountable for the decision.”

“Then, it wasn’t a team meeting. It was YOUR meeting that the team got invited to. It is your responsibility to listen to the input, and it is also your responsibility to make the decision. And you don’t need agreement, you just need support.”

Adelle had to sit down to think about this one.

Priority Conflict Between Two Managers

“I am getting a service from our accounting department for my project. It’s a big enough project that it has its own budget, so I talked to the accounting manager to see if they could provide five hours a week in project accounting for me,” Roger announced.

“And?” I asked.

“So they assigned Nancy, a junior accountant to do the work. But, the transaction volume in the project is double what we thought, so I really need ten hours per week. I told Nancy and she said she had other work that had to get completed and she could only spend five hours. I told her that was unacceptable.”

“Why was that unacceptable?”

“Well, I am her manager for this project. Isn’t she supposed to do what I tell her?” Roger complained.

“Are you her manager?”

“For this project, yes. She has two managers, her accounting manager for her other work and I am her manager on this project,” he flatly stated.

“And, what if there is a priority conflict in her work between the two of you?”

“She will just have to work a little longer to get it all done. Not my problem.”

“Just to be clear, you expect a junior accountant to make a decision to work overtime, or if she can’t work overtime, to leave some work undone, while she finishes your work?”

It’s Just a Dotted Line on the Org Chart

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“What do you mean, she doesn’t know she is accountable? It’s very clear to me,” Megan complained. “She has a very clear dotted line to that area of responsibility. I know it’s not her highest priority, but still, she is responsible.”

“So, there is a conflict in her priorities?” I asked.

“Not a conflict, really, she has to get it all done. Just because it’s a dotted line doesn’t mean she can ignore it. Besides, at the bottom of her job description, it says, -and all other duties assigned.- That should cover it.”

“As her manager, what do you observe about the way she handles the conflict in her priorities?” I pressed.

Megan thought. “I think it’s an attitude problem. It’s almost as if she doesn’t care about one part of her job.”

“I thought it was just a dotted line?” I smiled.

Megan stopped cold. “You think the problem is the dotted line?”

“Dotted lines create ambiguity. Ambiguity kills accountability. What do you think?”