A major conflict between departments can cause considerable delay to organisational success and stress for those involved. A recent discussion I had was regarding a stand-off between a client’s Sales and Operations departments. Sales were concerned that the Operations department were hampering their ability to win new clients with strict processing rules, and Operations believed the Sales department were putting the company at risk by not adhering to the guidelines that had been put in place to avoid historical mistakes and organisational costs.
When viewed in isolation, both had legitimate and well-founded views. And they’re not alone in this kind of conflict. Many a time I’ve heard something similar to “they are doing that deliberately to wind us up!” from conflicting departments.
When you have departments who are in conflict like this, it’s important to get them to truly understand and appreciate where each are coming from, and then work out ways between them to come up with solutions, compromises and new ways of working together.
Small disagreements can be resolved in less time and without the need to prepare in such depth. For major conflict, however, here’s a checklist of things to consider before and during the negotiation meeting:
Acknowledge the conflict: any conflict needs to be acknowledged before it can be resolved. Discuss the impact and agree to open and honest communication.
Motivational Needs: how can you keep the discussions in “reward mode” for all parties. What areas and phrases will make the individuals put up their barriers? Saying “you’re deliberately doing that to wind us up” is likely to trigger many!!
Understand the situation: clarify positions, facts, beliefs and assumptions. Understand fully where each party is coming from including historical information and concerns.
Expected outcomes: What will people be expecting from the negotiation based on past experience or precedents set? Have “personalities” caused previous conflicts?
Conflict resolution: do you have the necessary time and resources for collaboration? What are each individual’s natural conflict mode (eg. TKI competing, accommodating, compromising, collaborating or avoiding)?
Relationships: Could your shared history have an impact on the negotiation? Look for positives as well as negatives to be aware of.
Goals: What do you and the other party want to get out of the negotiation?
Trades: What do you and the other person have that could help the other, and would be comfortable giving away?
Alternatives: If you don’t reach an agreement, what are the alternatives and how important are these?
Consequences: What are the consequences of winning or losing for both parties?
Power: Who controls what and stands to lose the most? Who has the power and resources to resolve the issue?
Possible solutions: what compromises might there be? How can all gain through collaboration? Collaboration looks at trying to resolve the matter so that both parties gain additional benefits from the result (and so can others, such as the organisation/customer etc).
The Sales and Finance departments involved appreciated the time and discussions that were held. They were able to find improved and creative ways of agreeing new client contracts, prioritising must haves and more leniency/open communication about options available, both working to a common goal. Not only did the departments find ways of working well together, but the reduced conflict time and prioritising of issues led to quicker turnaround times for bringing those important clients on board.
Have you used this approach in preparation for negotiation, and what were the results?
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