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Proposed Strategic Framework for Conflict Management, Analysis and Strategy

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Human Resources
Wordcount: 5149 words Published: 18th Oct 2021

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Following the analysis of stages, sources and causes of conflict within the Holyrood project, this report aims to further identify, analyse and critically evaluate conflict, with the objective of providing a conflict management framework which can be used by project management moving forwards. Firstly, the background to conflict within the Holyrood project will be reiterated. Next, a methodical approach will be used to understand which form of strategy should be used to resolve conflict issues. A holistic conflict management strategy will then be proposed, by applying and evaluating conflict management literature within the context of the Holyrood project. Conflict management principles have been established, followed by the phases in which they should be implemented. A negotiation strategy has been suggested to assist in the implementation of a collaborative problem solving approach. For this framework to be effective, strong leadership must be demonstrated by project management, as this is inextricably linked to organisational and project performance (Hogan and Kaiser, 2005). Finally, key conflicts have been identified in the appendix, with solutions made using the proposed conflict management framework.

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Problems With Previous Conflict Management

Prior to Mr Armstrong's resignation as Project Manager in the Holyrood Project, conflict and communication issues have been rife. Although it is unclear whether Mr Armstrong had a conflict management strategy in place or not, it is certain that the conflict management strategy (or lack thereof) has been ineffective thus far. As previously discussed in CW2A, Figure 1 illustrates how sources of unsolved conflicts within group work develop into bigger problems, which cause contagious conflict, resulting in weak communication, time wasted and poor cooperation, with a final result of poor project performance.

Figure 1 - Knippen and Green, 1999

Though there have been many unsolved conflicts, perhaps one of the most important has been the poorly defined project brief. During RIBA stages 0-2, an unsubstantiated cost estimate of £50 million was published prior to the consultation of professional quantity surveyors or industry professionals (Fraser, 2004). This would become the source of unsolved conflict, which would develop into bigger problems and contagious conflict, and ultimately result in poor performance. To ensure this source of conflict, among the many others, are rectified, an effective conflict management strategy must be developed and implemented. Table 1, on the following page, provides a brief overview of some of the key issues within the Holyrood Project, who the issues are owned by, and what the state of their priorities are.


Owner/Influencer/Influenced by

Priority ie.

Irreconcilable, Neutral, Negotiable

Lack of scope (Ambiguous project brief)

Project Manager


Project Sponsor




PM is being by-passed

Project Manager


Project Sponsor




Cultural differences

Project Manager




Project Sponsor


Lack of project procedures manual

Project Sponsor


Project Sponsor




Construction Management

Procurement route

Project Manager


Project Sponsor






Loss of public confidence

Project Manager


Project Sponsor




Table 1 - Stakeholders & Their Priorities

Conflict Dimensions, Desired Outcomes, Conflict Management Strategies

As illustrated in Table 1, there are currently a number of complex conflict issues within The Holyrood Project. This complexity is further complicated by the fact different stakeholders have different priorities. Therefore, the proposed conflict management strategy will take into consideration individual priorities when preparing for negotiations. Figure 2, below, further identifies and evaluates the factors that have influenced the choice of conflict management approach that will be used by project management, by using an adapted conflict management map (Jameson, 1999).

Figure 2: Factors Influencing the Choice of Conflict Management Approach Adapted from Jameson (1999)

Firstly, conflict dimensions have been identified in the form of common sources of conflict within the project; fragmented task communication, independent, low trust relationships, high time pressure, political influence, and a lack of scope. Next, the desired outcomes from using this strategy are outlined, including improved relationships, learning from experience, working towards a shared vision, and gaining individual commitment to team goals. By achieving these goals, project team performance will improve, resulting in higher efficiency, lower project costs, less conflict, and shorter project programme. Finally, conflict management strategies are proposed; including using a collaborative working approach, 3Dimensional Negotiation Strategy, working with awareness of political influence, focusing on interest (not positions), encouraging effective communication among stakeholders, defining success in real terms, and, finally, using negotiation and collaborative resolution techniques. Based on these factors, it has been concluded that the best conflict management strategy should be based on a collaborative conflict management framework.

Proposed Conflict Management Principles

One of the recurrent and fundamental issues thus far in the Holyrood Project is a lack of collaboration between stakeholders. This has been demonstrated through PS Mrs Doig bypassing former Project Manager Mr Armstrong, as well the fragmented communication between EMBT & RMJM, which has resulted in silo-working. To break down these barriers, it is therefore proposed that a collaborative problem solving process will be most effective in resolving this conflict. This will improve the current strained relationships and encourage collaboration. The proposed framework is based upon both integrated bargaining literature (Stroh, Northcraft, Neale, 2002) and Figure 2 (Jameson, 1999). Ultimately, this strategy will aim to find the best outcome for both parties, and will require project management to use an integrative perspective (de Dreu, Kroole and Steinel, 2000; Fisher & Brown, 1988) to encourage collaborative behaviour.

1. Establish Common Project Goals

Firstly, a common set of goals must be established between the conflicting parties. This will allow the different teams to understand what is expected of them, which, in turn, will boost team productivity and collaboration (McComb, Green, Compton, 2015). Goals should encourage collaboration by incentivizing mutual benefits. For instance, in this particular context, all stakeholders are working under heavy political influence, with the intention of creating a building to benefit Scottish members of Parliament, this should therefore be established as a mutual project goal.

2. Separate People from Problems - Avoid Interpersonal Conflict

Once common goals and mutual benefits have been established, emotions must be detached from the problem being dealt with. Research has shown that whilst task conflict can increase team efficiency (Simons, 2000) interpersonal conflict can "disturb the equilibrium of an organisation" (Williams, 2011). Cultural differences may be one of the underlying causes of conflict within the project; with Enrqiue Miralles feeling alienated and misunderstood it is essential for these differences to be rectified.

3. Avoid Positional Focus, Focus on Interests

Research has shown that it is easier to establish agreement on interests rather than positions, perhaps due to the fact interests can be viewed from multiple perspectives and are not assertive or demanding like positions (Whetten and Cameron, 2011).

Therefore, negotiations should identify what both (or all) parties want, as opposed to what they perceive the solution to be, this means looking at the project holistically. As mentioned in principle 1, it should be in all parties interests to provide a new parliament for Scottish MP's. This must therefore be established as a mutual interest. For example, previously, Mr Armstrong has focused too much on establishing hardline positions by sending EMBT increasingly stern letters (Holyrood Enquiry, Page 106).

4. Invent options for mutual gains

As a means of transforming interpersonal conflict to task conflict, conflicting parties' attention should be shifted to brainstorming on mutually agreeable and beneficial solutions, such as working towards a shared vision. This stage will require project management to be creative minded and generate unconventional solutions.

5. Consider BATNA's with objective criteria

Regardless of how collaborative parties may be, it is inevitable that conflicting parties may have incompatible interests. These interests may be due to different priorities, cultural differences, and so on. Consequently, an objective criteria that is independent of either parties needs must be identified. This may be achieved by asking parties "What is a fair way of evaluating the merits of our arguments?" (Whetten and Cameron, 2011).

6. Success must be quantifiable, measurable, methodical.

The value of success in conflict resolution will be subjective, and vary from task to task. However, all conflict resolution outcomes should aim towards a defined success. This means clearly having a clearly defined, realistic and achievable outcome. The outcome must be significant, benefit both parties involved in the conflict, and improve the overall state of the project performance.

The 4 Phases of Collaborative Problem Solving

Now that a collaborative problem solving framework has been established, the stages of how to use this framework must be understood and implemented. The stages can be broken down into 4 steps:

1. Identifying Key Sources of Conflict

Fundamentally, conflict issues within the Holyrood project stem from a lack of collaboration and communication among key stakeholders. Former Project Management failed to demonstrate strong leadership, and did not create a shared vision within the project which may be the cause of lacking collaboration. Moving forwards, a shared vision must indeed be worked towards by all stakeholders. As the Holyrood project is of a political nature, politics has a strong influence over the decision making process. However, the project vision should be to provide a better space for Scottish MP's and provide a sense of independence for the Scottish people. This is a mutual goal which all parties must be motivated towards working towards.

Furthermore, the lacking collaboration and leadership has been responsible for contagious interpersonal conflict throughout the supply chain, namely between EMBT & RMJM. Cultural differences and misunderstandings have created a silo-working environment, resulting in delays in receiving design information, which in turn, is resulting in constantly escalating cost estimates from DLE. These escalating cost estimates are causing concerns among SPCB members and the public alike, who are beginning to distrust Mrs Doig as a result. By collaboratively problem solving this issue, all parties will benefit in their own respective ways.

2. Generating a Solution

As mentioned in the collaborative problem solving principles, solutions must satisfy the needs of both parties involved in conflict, and result in mutual gains. Furthermore, solutions must be fair, and have a clearly defined, quantifiable outcome that may be reached. The first proposed solution in resolving conflict by acquiring a clearly defined project brief, or 'crystalized scope'. This will take much collaboration and communication among the key stakeholders in Holyrood. As per the collaborative problem solving principles, all parties must work in harmony, towards a shared vision, with the same goals. It is suggested that, to eliminate cultural differences and misunderstandings, a cultural diversity session will be held. This will also enhance the relationships and communication among stakeholders.

It must be made clear to Mrs Doig, that by attaining clearly defined project deliverables from the SPCB, a finalised design can be worked on by EMBT & RMJM. With this design, cost estimates are unlikely to rise exponentially, as the elements of uncertainty will be eliminated. This will result in Mrs Doig gaining back some of her lost trust from the public and SPCB alike. Ultimately, acquiring fully defined project specifications and design will benefit all stakeholders involved in the project.

As mentioned earlier, Mr Armstorng previously sent increasingly stern and demanding letters to EMBT. This line of communication is not recommended in requesting such important information. Instead, it is recommended project management meet regularly with Enrique Miralles, and allow him to work without the pressure of other stakeholders intervening in his unique way of working.

3. Formulating an action plan and agreement

Once causes of conflict have been identified and a solution has been generated, an action plan must be executed to reach an agreement between the conflicting parties.

In the context of trying to acquire defined project scope, it proposed a meeting will be held between Project Management and Mrs Doig. This will allow 'on the table' negotiation tactics to be implemented. Furthermore, sending an email or fax would not be suitable, and could even be considered insulting, when requesting such important information.

From this meeting, Mrs Doig will be prompted to attain project deliverables from the

SPCB, such as specifications, gross floor area, limitations and so forth. It must be

made clear it is in all parties best interests that these deliverables are received. As mentioned, Mrs Doig will be regaining lost trust, which should be used as an incentive to acquire the specifications.

Once these clear specifications and project deliverables have been acquired from the SPCB, they can be passed to EMBT, who must work to fulfill those specifications, and only these specifications. As there will be no uncertainty, there will be no reason for GFA, and ultimately cost, to exponentially rise.

Although it proposed that a collaborative problem solving approach is taken within the project, and that all parties involved should work together effectively, it is evident that Enrique Miralles is not attracted to the idea of working in Edinburgh. This is evident from his previous statements. Therefore, pressure should not be put on EMBT to work in Edinburgh. Instead, it is suggested that a final stage D project brief is delivered from EMBT, which will allow the rest of the project to carry on swiftly.

To ensure this issue does not become interpersonal conflict, has been proposed that a cultural diversity session will take place. Not only will this session enrich the relationships throughout the supply chain, but this should also help RMJM and other key stakeholders understand the way in which Enrique Miralles works in his own culture.

Further to attaining project deliverables, Mrs Doig should produce a project procedures manual, which, prior to 1999, has not existed within the project. This manual will set out policies, strategies, and lines of communications to be used within the project. It is suggested that project management will discuss the creation of this manual with Mrs Doig, who, as project sponsor, is responsible for its creation and implementation. Similarly to a clearly defined brief, this manual should be incentives under the premise of mutual benefits to Mrs Doig: it will make her job easier within the project, and will avoid conflict and trust issues throughout the supply chain.

It is perhaps fair to assume that Mrs Doigs lack of experience as a construction professional may contribute to why she has not yet produced this manual. As a greatly experienced construction professional, it is proposed Mr Curran will assist Mrs Doig with the production of this manual. As mentioned in CW2A, the production of this manual will greatly benefit the overall project performance whilst reducing conflict.

One of the final issues which must be addressed is former project management being bypassed. The very nature of collaborative team working and problem solving should eliminate the need for Mrs Doig to feel compelled to bypass project management.

4. Implementation and Follow up

To ensure that agreements can be reached, a 3D Negotiation strategy will be blended with the collaborative problem solving approach (Lax and Sebenius, 2003). Once agreements have been reached through negotiation, a follow-up plan must be implemented to ensure the outcome is positive, and that the conflict does not reoccur further down the line. Previously, concerns had been raised that Mr Armstrong did not have a backup plan when going into negotiations (Holyrood, Page 106). New project management will ensure Best Alternatives to Negotiated Agreements (BATNAS) are in place for all negotiations.

3D Negotiation Strategy literature proposes that negotiations are split into three dimensions: Tactics, Deal Design, Scope and Sequence. Within these three dimensions, there are common barriers, and approaches to overcoming such barriers. A simplified analysis of Lax and Sebanius's literature would conclude that negotiations should not focus solely on one dimension of negotiations. For example, people and processes may be dealt with successfully in one conflict issue, but value and scope must not be neglected during the negotiation.

Figure 3 - 3-D Negotiation Strategy (Lax and Sebenius, 2003)

This negotiation process requires project management to be somewhat flexible depending on who and what conflict issue is being negotiated with. As poor project scope is one of the fundamental issues; this again will be used as an example.

The 1st Dimension concerns tactics, or the people and processes involved in the negotiation process. When negotiating with Mrs Doig, tactics could include the style of communication used, or the communication line. It would be disrespectful to negotiate on this issue over email or fax, and instead, should be negotiated face to face, in a meeting. This will also provide a better opportunity to deal with Mrs Doigs difficult attitude.

The 2nd Dimension, deal design, considers the value and substance of the negotiation: what will be offered and gained from it? In this example, project specifications and deliverables will be ascertained, under the premise of Mrs Doig regaining positive public perception and trust in the SPCB. This dimension is ultimately about preparing exactly what is to be achieved from negotiating before meetings, and considering what is the substance of the negotiation.

Finally, the 3rd Dimension, or set up, must be considered. This means considering who is involved in the negotiation, where it will take place, what will happen after the negotiation, and what back ups or alternatives are in place? For example, if a fully defined project scope cannot be ascertained from Mrs Doig, a Best Alternative to Negotiated Agreement could be at least to acquire a more accurate GFA for architects to work with. Although this would not be the ideal outcome, EMBT would have less reason to make complex design changes, resulting in DLE not having to publish increasingly growing cost estimates, which damage public confidence and stakeholder trust.

Project management should follow up on all negotiations. Dates should be set for follow up meetings, where objective, quantifiable data can be tracked to monitor progress on the conflict resolution. During these meetings, mutual goals should be reiterated to ensure that both parties understand what is expected of them within the project. If collaboration between stakeholders is still failing, it may be necessary to reconsider the proposed conflict management strategy, and consider a hard-line approach. That being said, this approach has been used by previous project management to no avail, therefore, it is likely that a collaborative approach will indeed succeed.


Conflict within the Holyrood project is fundamentally rooted in a lack of collaboration and communication among stakeholders working within the project. Therefore, for the most part, conflicts are inextricably linked, and can be solved by implementing a holistic collaborative approach to problem solving. This report has proposed a set of conflict management principles and phases to be followed, which will allow for the conflicts within Holyrood to be dealt with accordingly. Following the specific examples provided, Table 2, on the following page, has provided a list of key issues which must be addressed using the provided conflict management framework.

Key Conflict Identification: Resolutions Using Proposed Strategic Framework



Conflict Identification


Conflict Strategy





Stakeholders Involved

Proposed Resolution

Action Plan Implementation

Follow Up


Lack of Scope

Disputes in Brief,

Design changes, Escalating cost,

Unclear interests, fragmented

communication, lack of collaboration


Manager, Project





End User


Set up collaborative negotiation with

mutual interests

among stakeholders.

Set clear, measurable targets.

Defined brief will

allow EMBT & RMJM to work to brief and collaborate

Meeting with Mrs Doig to request information

from SPCB, under the premise of regaining

trust from SPCB and


Provide defined brief to EMBT & RMJM

Keep log of project deliverables and


monitor any changes

to the brief or design

Hold regular meetings with EMBT to follow up on design


Keep SPCB informed of scope


Cultural Differences



Delays in receiving design information,

Silo-working culture

Project manager,




Cultural diversity sessions will provide

stakeholders with cultural

understandings and enrich interpersonal relationships

Hold cultural diversity sessions with all major stakeholders involved

Monitor the relationship status and interpersonal

conflicts before and after diversity

sessions; hold more if necessary




Management being by passed

Interpersonal conflict,

Fragmented communication

Lack of collaboration

Trust issues







Collaborative working will eliminate the need for PM to be bypassed; fully

defined project scope

will prevent SMP's

for interfering in project work

Crystalized project scope will eliminate

outside-interference (SMP's/public stakeholders)

Collaborative working should encourage PS to stop bypassing PM

Keep holding regular meetings with

stakeholders; ensure

communication takes place throughout supply chain

Do not withhold information from key

stakeholders where possible


Loss of public confidence

Bad press in the media,

Loss of trust from public & client






Public confidence

may be regained if

cost estimates stop

rising regularly and exponentially

Again, clearly defined project scope will

allow EMBT to finalise designs which will

stop increasing cost estimates from DLE

Follow up meetings to keep track of design

specification/brief changes

Keep track of press


Construction management

procurement route

Project Sponsor must be in control of project; lack of

technical expertise

causing conflict





Procurement route cannot be changed; regular technical

advice must be given to PS to help manage the project

Encourage collaboration from PS and experienced construction professionals

Send regular project updates to PS and

offer technical advice as she lacks this knowledge




Filzmoser, M., Hippmann, P. and Vetschera, R., 2016. Analyzing The Multiple Dimensions Of Negotiation Processes.

Hogan, R. and Kaiser, R., 2005. What We Know About Leadership.



International Journal of Conflict Management, 10(3), pp.268-294.

Lax, D. and Sebenius, J., 2003. 3-D Negotiation: Playing the Whole Game. Harvard Business Review,.

Knippen, J.T. and Green, T.B. (1999) Handling Conflicts. J. Workplace Learning.

McComb, S., Green, S. and Compton, D., 2015. Project Goals, Team Performance, And Shared Understanding.

Steinel, W., Abele, A. and De Dreu, C., 2007. Effects Of Experience And Advice On Process And Performance In Negotiations.

Stroh, L., Northcraft, G. and Neale, M., 2002. Organizational Behavior : A Management Challenge.

Mahwah, N, J: Lawrence Erlbaum.

Williams, F., 2011. Interpersonal Conflict: The Importance Of Clarifying Manifest Conflict Behavior.

Shreveport, LA, USA.: Department of Management & Marketing Louisiana State University Shreveport.

Whetten, D. and Cameron, K., 2011. Developing Management Skills. Pp.398-426.


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