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Managing Conflict
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Conflict areas outside of the manufacturing arena focus on the mas­ter production schedule (MPS) and the lack of Sales involvement or com­mitment to the MPS. The subject of capacity and the planning bills can also raise conflict issues related to the MPS. Extending the MPS to the shop floor, we can encounters conflicts between the manufacturing or­ganization and production control in terms of input/output analysis and scheduling approaches. A final area that tends not to get much attention but can produce major conflicts occurs within the arena of systems de­velopment. The issues of resources, management commitment, project timing, and the objective of the project typically produce conflict within our organizations. The problem we face in these situations is that there is not a great deal of literature or training manual information available.

These issues must be resolved through cooperation between the con­flicting parties to find a resolution that is acceptable to all people in­volved. As compared to an issue in the inventory accuracy arena, these system conflicts have no fixed answer. The answer is a resolution that everybody involved in systems development must agree upon.

There are two basic approaches to use when dealing with conflict. The first approach is referred to as the structural approach. This meth­odology manipulates organizational structures in an attempt to elimi­nate the conflict. The second approach is referred to as the process approach, which focuses on changing the dynamic/internal charac­teristics of the conflict to strive for conflict resolution. Structural ap­proaches are effective when there is no particular need to have a con­structive working relationship between the conflicting parties. These types of approaches can be used as a short-term cooling-off period prior to other resolution methods or as a permanent fix. Within the area of structural approach, there are two methodologies. The first methodology is referred to as higher-level involvement. This method brings into the conflict arena an executive whom both conflicting parties must report to. By bringing the executive down to the cross­over point, as depicted in figure 2, it is possible to provide third-party intervention. It is important to note at this point that third-party intervention typically does not resolve conflict—it simply prevents or stops further conflict.

When utilizing a management person in this role, it is essential that this individual communicate to the parties involved in the conflict that this move is not the result of their personal failures, but rather a result of a problem with organizational goals and policies that tend to be ambiguous. In this conflict situation, management must keep a clear atmosphere or the parties will tend to internalize the conflict, and there will be no benefit whatsoever from the third-party intervention. There are three benefits resulting from this type of action. The first benefit is that it is possible to focus broader understanding and responsibility on the specific issue through its executive intervention. The second ad­vantage is that by positioning an executive between the conflicting parties, the executive is able to prevent the spiral that would lead to escalation and the resulting compromise agreements. The third advan­tage is that the intervention satisfies the executive's need to know. The individual does have a hands-on involvement in the situation and can therefore understand the advantages and disadvantages of the conflict. Once again, it must be emphasized that higher-level involvement only stops the conflict—it does not resolve the conflict.

To Be Continued


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