Project Schedule Conflicts
By Eddy Touma
Often conflicts arise in projects between the different parties involved. Most of the conflicts, however, seem to be related in some way or another to the project schedule.
In the following paragraphs, we will try to identify the link between schedule issues and conflicts within projects.
Schedules are related to both time management and tasks distribution. These two aspects fall under the responsibility of the project manager. Project managers are responsible not only for managing conflicts, but also controlling and resolving any that might arise in this regards.
Conflicts related to project schedule are of many types and can arise on several different levels within the project team: stakeholders/management vs. project manager, project manager vs. team member(s), and finally team member(s) vs. another team member(s).
Stakeholders are usually concerned with projects meeting deadlines that are sometimes very stressful. Any delay with the project schedule can cause a conflict between the shareholders and the project manager.
On the other hand, since project managers bear the responsibility of meeting deadlines, they might request more staff members or hiring a third party contractor for a specific job when they feel that the schedule might slip or in order to accommodate to some project change. Such requests might implicate budgetary increases and as a consequence create conflict again with the management.
Conflicts related to schedule between the stakeholders/management and project managers usually reflect on the project team’s schedule. Tighter deadlines, additional tasks, changes to be accommodated within the same deadline will surely add pressure on the project team and create further conflicts.
Developers tend to think that managers don’t respect them, or simply don’t care about them. The situation is worsened when the Project Manager doesn’t know how to code. This creates yet another type of conflict between the project manager and his team.
Furthermore, team member(s) unsatisfied with task distribution within the schedule provided might complain to the project manager. Conflict in this case might be due to the unjust distribution by the project manager, or the fact that some tasks are more important for future career advancement than others.
Other types of conflicts can exist when project managers are discontented with the performance of their team. If the team effort is not enough, deadlines might slip. Project managers, in this case, need to find solutions in order to keep the project on-schedule and avoid further conflicts that might arise in case of failure in doing such.
“You might get lucky on a few features, but sooner or later, one of them will slip. And instead of working with you to catch up, the developer will start pointing the finger at you. Then you’ll point the finger at him.” 1
In case a failure happens in delivering any or all parts of a project, more serious problems arise. Blame-game is common in this sense between project owners, project managers, and project team. “Ultimately, people will start caring more about who gets blamed for what than saving the project.” 1
This type of conflict might reflect into conflicts within the team itself. “Slippages in schedule are not the only source of conflict among developers, and concerns over the allocation of component tasks are especially prevalent among student teams, in which no line management accountability has been established.”2 Each member starts blaming the incompetency or poor effort of other members in order to take the blame off his/her shoulders.
As a conclusion, project schedules and project conflicts’ are closely linked due to the stress and consequences often related with deadlines and tight schedules. Conflicts can arise between the different involved parties in a project. It is, however, the project managers’ responsibility in all cases to resolve such by using different approaches and skills including: leadership, communication, team motivation, incentives, clear job definitions, team balance, trust, commitment, accountability, discipline, and negotiation.
Eddy Touma is a Project Manager working in the IT sector. Eddy runs a professional blog, http://dradib.blogspot.com, where he discusses several Project Management subjects.