By Goke Ilesanmi
Only very few workplace situations are as annoying as belonging to a team experiencing conflict. Conflict disrupts productivity and leads to frustration. It is noteworthy that there are no quick fixes for this. There are typically many reasons for team conflict. The desire to make one’s feelings known is the first step towards solutions. Gary Harper, author of “The Joy of Conflict Resolution: Transforming Victims, Villains, and Heroes in the Workplace and at Home”, says in conflict, each person has his or her story and people tend to see themselves as either the innocent victim or perhaps the righteous hero.
Dealing with conflict
Irrespective of the level of the conflict, the first step in conflict management is simply to deal with it. Dianna Booher, author of “Get a Life without Sacrificing Your Career” educates that there are two key concepts here: sensitivity and willingness to resolve the situation. Those who have their eyes, ears, and minds open will see what others do not. Having a good sense of your surroundings and associates is the best way to recognise when and how conflicts arise. The willingness to act intelligently and decisively is equally important. While many are contented to watch, wait, and wonder, effective professionals get involved. They solve problems rather than let them simmer.
When companies first encounter a problem they need to solve it in order to grow, they have to find out how to get the right information on the problem, how to come up with solution options, and how to implement the selected solution. According to John Mautner, a profit-improvement expert, author and founder of Cycle of Success Institute, action teams can perform this task because they are well-structured groups meant to address business management problems. If you truly want to change your company, then adopt the action team concept.
The team will normally meet for four to six weeks, concentrating on just a single problem. Meetings should be held once a week and limited to one hour. At the end of each meeting, if needed, assignments are given to team members to complete before the next meeting. This keeps everyone actively involved in solving the problem.
The action team normally consists of four to six people, and each member should have some stake in the assigned problem, but it can be peripheral. Mautner says if the problem happens to deal with inventory, you may have people from shipping, manufacturing, inventory management, purchasing and accounting since they each deal with inventory in one way or the other. What you do not want is a team made up entirely of the responsible department, in this case, inventory management. Also, team members should come from a variety of levels, not just from management. During team activities, all team members should be considered to be on the same level, rather than on their level in the company outside the team. In an action team, each member is equal—there is no rank in the team.
When it comes to the roles that employees will hold in the team, the first one to fill is that of the team leader. This is the person who must keep the meetings moving forward and ensure that all members are involved. The focus should be to look forwards to solutions rather than rehashing problems once they have been clearly identified. The team leader must also be prepared to hold members accountable for their performance when necessary. When choosing a team leader, select someone who has emotional intelligence and reputation for high performance. Another critical position in the team is that of the secretary. This person is responsible for capturing the meeting proceedings. These written minutes and assignments should be distributed to every person in the team not later than 24 hours after the meeting so that everyone knows his or her tasks for that week. The secretary can be selected by the leader at the first team meeting.
To start the problem-solving process with an action team, choose a problem. Ensure that you carefully word your “problem to be solved” so that there is a clear understanding of the expected results of your action team. Then send out an e-mail to all selected members of the team, requesting their participation in the team. At the first meeting, you should brief team members on the importance of their assistance in the team, noting that it is just as important, if not even more than their normal responsibilities.
Ensure that you hold the meetings during working hours so that members can understand that you are indirectly paying them to work on this important task. Each action team project should be scheduled as a standard four-week process, although some flexibility may be required which is why about a period of six weeks is allowed.
You can easily solve the problem by having a schedule. Mautner suggests that the process should typically follow this outline: Week one involves clearly defining the problem and researching the issues and related data. This may include figuring out cost items and looking at different, possible solutions. Week two is used to review the issues and the data, identifying new or modified procedures, and to identify updates or changes required to reporting systems. You want to track how the changes are affecting the business, so you need to establish some kind of measure to monitor. Week three is used to finalise the new procedures through group interaction.
In other words, the team is starting to establish written procedures on new, required actions. Week four culminates with the final draft of all new procedures and an implementation of the plan. The result should be a new standard operating procedure and training on how to use the new process that is being created.
There are problems keeping organisations from reaching their goals. Relentlessly keeping a solution-oriented mindset is therefore essential to succeed in the corporate environment.
Till we meet on Wednesday.
GOKE ILESANMI, Managing Consultant/CEO of Gokmar Communication Consulting, is an International Platinum Columnist, Certified Public Speaker/MC, Communication Specialist, Motivational Speaker and Career Management Coach. He is also a Book Reviewer, Biographer and Editorial Consultant.
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