Tag Archives: Root Causes

Conflict Management Always Begins With Myself

Think quick! How many people does it take to create a conflict???

Serious Reflection

Serious Reflection

One.

We are always torn inside, “of two minds” about our own differing values, needs, interests, approaches.

No wonder so much that is written about conflict on project teams feels so mechanistic. The helpful suggestions and techniques seem cast inside a framework that implies the project manager is the wise overseer who must reconcile these “kids” who can’t sort out their differences; when, in fact, the manager – and everyone of us – lives with the continuing awareness that often we are not really sure of the best way forward.

Engage

Engage

So, the best ways to prepare for and deal with conflict start with myself.

  1. Invest early and often in building trust, respect and connection. Conflict will come. Don’t skimp on the basics.

  2. Cultivate a healthy doubt about your own certainty. Openly question, analyze and evaluate your own assumptions.

  3. Whether or not you are the project manager, pay close attention to ongoing team work to identify – early – and resolve conflicts before they become serious.

  4. Encourage and support the exploration of alternatives.

  5. Focus on actionable solutions. Don’t belabor what can’t be changed.

  6. Make clear decisions with the rest of the team about what path and priorities are being chosen.

Security / Insecurity

Security / Insecurity

Since about a quarter of managers’ time is spent resolving conflicts, seize this opportunity to do and to model constructive, productive work. The six points listed above are a great recipe for just-plain gluten-free management.

So, why don’t we do this more often?

  1. We have a natural aversion to tension, disagreements, pain and polarization.

  2. This “people stuff,” the risk of getting entangled in others’ emotions, seems like tumbling into a bottomless pit without a bungee cord.

  3. Managers and consultants are often counseled never to show uncertainty or doubt.

  4. Today’s conflict may ultimately be rooted in a history of disappointments, betrayals and losses – which can seem overwhelming and way beyond our reach.

  5. Discussion in a conflict will often shoot off unpredictably into unforeseen, unknowable directions.

  6. Aggression and hostility are infectious, heightening feelings of aggression and hostility even among bystanders.

We have to acknowledge, but question, all these assumptions, too.

Habits - Feelings - Beliefs

Habits Feelings Beliefs

Basic psychological needs are at the root of almost all conflict. It takes courage to manage people respectfully. And what does “courage” mean here? The determination to step into the fire, to get singed – but not consumed – to feel a sense of accomplishment and to step back in the next time.

For more depth on this topic, I recommend several excellent articles:

Medical Device Leadership In an Uncertain Time: A Manifesto

Payments / reimbursement under the Affordable Care Act . . .

Purchasing consortia for hospitals and other health care providers . . .

Lower profit margins than in the previous decade . . .

An uncertain future in both FDA and foreign regulations . . .

Minimal venture capital interest in this industry . . .

How will medical device leaders choose which research directions to follow,

which product lines to invest in?

 

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The 1990s and 2000s are rather widely acknowledged to have been the heyday of finance.

Milton Friedman’s philosophy that increasing the financial wealth of shareholders was the sole justifiable principle for a corporation now governed all economic policy, seeped even into U.S. Supreme Court decisions.

The compensation of investment bankers was (and remains) the envy of all. The free-wheeling lifestyle, “masters of the universe” power, invulnerable occupational security and exciting posture on the forefront of cutting edge economic growth left many in awe and envy. Finance came to dominate all discussions of industrial and economic policy. There was practically no sector untouched by the growth of the financial industry – none that exceeded its enormous growth.

Then came the crash(es) of the last 15 years, and the vulnerability of our bets on the financial industry as the leader of growth was exposed. Losses were great – and left bare how much of the “growth” had been paper growth, not raw development.

This may be the time to capitalize on products and service as our key economic benchmark. This may be an opportunity to seize an advantage in the effectiveness, the documented outcomes of fewer, but better, products and services.

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Yes, it is difficult, risky and expensive to demonstrate effectiveness of medical devices, biologics and drugs. There are likely to be fewer (financial) winners, and the rewards may be smaller (on paper; quarterly) than in the previous decade; so, indeed, there may be fewer entrants into the race.

On the other hand, might we recapture an earlier (really, not that long ago) criterion of success: building a firm with lasting power, grounded in the security of demonstrated effectiveness, successful outcomes that could be counted on by health care providers for years to come? They are often the ones who persevere. They are the heroes, not only of the industry, but of the economy.

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Let’s think of “economic” over “finance.” Etymologically, “economy” means management of the household. “Finance” comes from a French origin meaning “payment/ending of a debt.” Economic policy – managing the good of our national well-being – should be the overriding category and priority, with financial success a subset – not the other way around. In that world medical devices companies can flourish. That is the opportunity we now have.

The “New Sheriff In Town” Syndrome

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New leaders in an organization can bring a blush of new life, new beginnings. But they can also mean the arrival of the squelching of current staff, their ideas, their creativity.

Call it the “There’s a new sheriff in town” syndrome.

When there is a new leader, it often represents some dissatisfaction with the approach of the former leader. So a new beginning is desired! Great! New ideas. Different perspectives. An understanding of shifting priorities, meeting customer demands and expectations that may have been disappointed in prior times. This could be the birth or re-birth of innovations and insights that have percolated within the organization for some time.

The danger comes when the new leader sweeps in with the perception of a mandate that says, “What has been in place has not worked, and you need to fix it.” Certainly some of the things that have been in place have not been optimal, but the new leader has to bring their perspective, their expertise, their background to bear on a situation that includes some hard work and successes that many people in the organization are justly proud of. Before new precepts issue forth from the executive suite, it is important to listen and hear what the existing expertise in the organization is and what has been learned.

One of the worst violations of the existing bank of knowledge possessed by staff occurs when those at the top countermand what line staff has been doing because “We are not meeting customer needs.” That may be true, but the executive needs to be careful about defining who “the customer” is in these circumstances. It is likely that the executive is talking to other top level executives about what they need and want. Again, that may yield true and very important information about new imperatives; but middle managers and line staff in one organization are usually working with middle managers and line staff in another organization, and their experience may yield equally important information about what is working, what is breaking down, and where fixes to those problems are most likely to occur.

New sheriffs seldom enjoy access to the informants who provide necessary intelligence to get work done most effectively. New leaders should lead, and leadership always includes a huge component of listening well, carefully and at all levels.