#MicroStory – The conflict resolution

The room was already packed with people as I entered It. It was tensed, very tense, and quite like a graveyard. A lot of ego and tension was involved in the current dispute. The conflict was so fundamental and important that I could see people that came as spectators, probably to see the best show in town. The sports shoe group is one of the biggest and the major groups that compose our business and defiantly the one that produces most of our business revenues.

We decided to break our companies based on the target clients when we moved to Non-Hierarchal management structure, and brook the traditional department silos into hybrid groups. This group followed the same logic that the entire company followed and split themselves into several subgroups (Man, woman, and kids sports shoes) which followed the same reasoning as well. Regardless how broad or narrow the focus of the group was, it was a heterogeneous group with representatives of all the old classical departments (R&D, Sales, Marketing, HR, Legal, Purchasing, Financial, Information technologies, Audit, etc.’).

One of the subgroups of the sports shoe group is a financial group composed of people from different expertise in the sports shoe group. This group is responsible for separating the budget that the shoe group got between all the groups and functions that are part of the sports shoe group. The strategy group, on the other hand, is responsible for creating robust strategies. The conflict started when the strategy group came with a new strategy that will disrupt the kid’s shoe market in a way that will give us (as a company) a significant competitive advantage. During the budget season, the financial group decided to give more budget to the man’s sports shoe, which is the current money maker. In that decision, they ignore the need for more funds to carry out the kid’s sports shoe strategy.

Our structure gives each group complete autonomy how to run the group and decision making is distributed to each group (and individuals) as well. On the other hand, any group or individual can raise a conflict if they believe that other groups or people decisions or actions are going to impact the entire group negatively.

Taking advantage of the conflict resolution process the strategy group request to set up the dispute between their strategic decision and the financial group budget decision. This process required all individuals that are part of any groups that are part of the sports shoe group (were the dispute raised), but since all the individuals that are part of the group exceeding one hundred people just the representative of all the group composing the sports shoe came to take part in the conflict resolution process.

Emily was selected by the conflict resolution group to run this meeting (conflict). Emily used to run the HR group before we reorganized our company. She is a people person, a lovely human that everybody likes, but with the ability to see and talk the facts and the truth (even if they are not kind to hear). But on top of that, she didn’t have any part in the dispute. Emily was part of the onboarding, development and events groups. I thought that was a brilliant choice for this conflict resolution process.

I found an open space between Anna and another guy that I didn’t know. She smiled warmly, and I asked her for her opinion on Emily as the lead of this conflict resolution as I set beside her. Anna thoughts were the same as mine. Anna represents the R&D group of the youngest group (ages 1-5), so I was interested to hear her point of view. “What you are going to vote?” I asked her. Anna smiled back “For the financial group” she replayed with a big smile. When she saw my puzzled face, she added “No, just kidding. Obviously for the strategy group” That sound more reasonable. The guy that sat on the other side intervene, “But way Anna? Do you want to jeopardize our current earning with unknown future?”. But, before Anna managed to answer Emily starts the meeting.

First of all, I want to thank the conflict resolution group for selecting me to run this conflict. I understand the impact of this session on the future of one of the most profitable groups of our company, and I want to thank you for the confidence that I earned.

As you all know this meeting will start with an opportunity for the financial group to explain their decision, following by the strategy group explaining their conflict and their suggestion to adjust the financial group decision. Then we will give an opportunity to the financial group to accept or adjust their decision. If they will receive the changed decision by the strategy group, the meeting is over. If they won’t, we will give each one of you an opportunity to express your group point of view following by a vote. I want to remind you that each one of you does not just represent a group your voice is a factor of all the relevant skillsets and competencies merit of your group. Those skillsets and competencies were published by the conflict resolution group a week ago. I mention it because you can see most hands raised for one option, but the underline merit might change the decision as it will factor in merit, and merit can give more weight to the minority. One way or another once the system will provide me with the results and I announce them, we are all going to agree with the decision and we will move forward base on the decision. Any objections or questions?

Emily gave one minute, but no one raised any questions or concerns, so she moved forward in the process. “Ok, Andrew it’s your turn to explain the financial group decision,” said Emily. Andrew started his talk and Peter from the strategy group talked after him. Obviously, Andrew didn’t accept Peter adjustment which was to give more funds to the Kids shoe group. So Emily started to ask each one of us for his opinion. Every one presents his group point of view. When the discussion moved to personal acquisitions, Emily used her skillset to bring it back on track.

As we reached the last two people, it feels that the people were spread equally between the financial and the strategy group. After the last people spoke, Emily asked Andrew if he would like to change his mind. Andrew replied with a voice full of confidence that we believe that the financial decision was the right one and he would like the conflict resolution to make a decision.

“OK” said Emily. Let’s start the moment of truth. Each one of you should now log to the platform, open this conflict resolution and cast your vote. If you don’t vote is will be captured as a natural vote. You have five minutes starting now. And she smiled.

I voted for the Financial group and waited eagerly for the result while learning more about Karel that set beside me and represent the professional growth team. He was a new addition to the group with a background in psychology. It was a great discussion between Karel, Anne and I and others that joined us. Emily stopped our conversation when she announced that the five minutes are over.

“Let me share with you the results,” she said in a grave and gloomy face that is not so common to her default behavior. 34 people vote for the financial group, and 40 voted for the Strategy group. Five were natural. Andrew had a big smile on his face. “But,” she continued, “the system after factor in merit tells me that the results are” she stopped and looked even more concern. “They are, They are a tie.” Silence occupied the room. It was the first time that we had a tie in conflict resolution.

It took Emily two minutes to keep on talking. “As you know when the result is a tie I must cast my vote and make the decision.” I looked at both Peter and Andrew face, both of them were frozen. Emily kept on talking. “Based on everything that I heard, based on my understanding of the new strategy, and taking into account that this decision will impact my merit.” she stopped for a second and kept on talking. I’m casting my vote to support the strategy adjustment. That officially makes the strategy group proposal as the decision that we all need to follow.

I looked around, and I saw mixed faces, mixed emotions. What I couldn’t see though was anger. It feels that people agreed with the system and were more focused on how we a group need to move forward, rather than spending time on bogus arguments.

The room started to be empty as people began to do their way out. This is a fantastic process I heard two people talking. In such a scenario, it doesn’t matter what the decision is. If it was a tie, probably none of the proposed resolutions was terrible. I smiled to myself as I heard this discussion as I remember the criticism that we heard when we put this process in place.

2 thoughts on “#MicroStory – The conflict resolution”

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