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Pjbussol
Pjbussol

Trust in conflict – The healthy way to pick a fight!

 

TRUST IN CONFLICT - THE HEALTHY WAY TO PICK A FIGHT!

 


 

Perched on top of the Royal Liver Building in Liverpool, the city I grew up in, is a very special couple; married for over 100 years and standing 18ft tall the legendary Liver Birds, Bella and Bertie have unflinchingly protected the city and her people since 1911. Bella looks out to the River Mersey keeping an eye on Liverpool’s seafarers whilst Bertie looks inwardly towards the city watching over their families. In essence they have two very different roles but one common objective, to protect the people and prosperity of Liverpool.

This type of Janus Relationship is often used to illustrate the relationship between the Project Manager and the Business Analyst and rightly so. The two roles are very different but there is a shared objective - The successful delivery of a quality product.

It stands to reason then that meeting this objective is dependent on the Business Analyst and the Project Manager always being in agreement and always getting along then right? Wrong! Let’s be very clear, conflict is healthy - so long as it approached in a positive way. When done right conflict can enthuse, harvest trust and build rapport. However, done badly, conflict can be catastrophic. Negative conflict can kill any project and have serious and lasting impacts on the people involved. So, how do we promote healthy conflict?

TRUST AND RESPECT

Sounds like a cliché but it is imperative that the Business Analyst and the Project Manager respect each other’s professional boundaries – In the modern workplace it is very easy (and often encouraged) for these roles and responsibilities to become blurred but as mere primates we all react badly when we feel our personal space is being invaded. It is therefore natural for friction to occur if one feels that their professional territory is being annexed. Often this annexation happens when one party does not fully understand the others role or genuinely trust the others judgement or ability to deliver.

PROVE YOURSELF

So how do we develop that trust? Rather cynically, I believe that we are all inherently distrusting of ‘strangers’ and changing our initial opinion requires some effort. When establishing new working relationships, personal beliefs need be formed and developed and cemented over time. This is why trust cannot be built overnight. In my humble opinion, the most powerful way to build trust is to deliver. Take every opportunity to demonstrate your brilliance and prove that you have each other’s back but be very careful… You must be genuine, you must be consistent, you must be honest and you must be assertive – Let the storming, norming and forming commence!

COLLABORATE

In my experience the projects that run most smoothly are those were the Business Analyst and the Project Manager have an equal stake in the game. The relationship is one of a partnership were each other’s strengths and weaknesses are well understood and were opportunities to support each other are sought rather than opportunities to catch each other out. In a strong collaborative partnership both parties are in sync and present a united front – one managing the needs of the business the other the needs of the project, but always ‘on message’ and working in a truly Janus fashion.

FEEL PSYCHOLOGICALLY SAFE

A friend of mine used this phrase during a conversation recently to describe high performing workplaces – Essentially it refers to the creation of a culture where people feel relaxed being their real selves; there is no act and there are no pretences. This requires serious respect, trust and a colossal level of emotional intelligence but to crack this is to find the holy grail of project success. Admittedly you may have little control over how psychologically safe your organisation is but you can affect your immediate environment. You can ensure that all members of the team feel comfortable expressing ideas and opinions and that they are really listened to. There is no better way to encourage innovation, enthusiasm and good, healthy, positive conflict. Team members will immediately flag concerns, ask questions or seek clarification, without fear of humiliation or blame and knowing that their professional credibility and worth are not being judged.

The Business Analyst and Project Manager both benefit greatly from a psychologically safe environment but have a significant role in creating it... We must ask the right questions and deeply probe responses to ensure that we really understand our team members and our stakeholder’s point of view. We must discourage dominating behaviours and we must accept that we are all fallible and that, under the right circumstance, failure is always an option and even better if it happens fast! – How else do we learn?

IN CONCLUSION…

The role of Business Analyst is very different to that of a Project Manager however both are equally important to the success of a project. The Business Analyst will work with the business to understand their needs and define the right product whilst the Project Manager will ensure that product is delivered in a timely and efficient way; although both have the same end goal there are often competing priorities which can result in conflict. However, this is not necessarily a bad thing. When working as a professional partnership the chances of success are significantly increased especially if both parties are prepared for and welcome healthy conflict.

In order to ensure conflict is healthy, there must be a solid foundation of trust and mutual respect for each other’s roles. Every opportunity should be taken to develop this trust through consistent, high quality delivery, leading to a truly collaborative relationship. Ultimately a psychologically safe environment should be cultivated for the good of the project and all of those involved. A psychologically safe environment is the key to a highly functioning and highly performing team. But what happens when conflict is not properly managed or if relationships turn sour? Well, legend has it that if either Bella or Bertie decided to fly away, the River Mersey would burst its banks and flood the city of Liverpool. So, fair to say it wouldn’t be good news for anybody!

This entry was published on Jun 26, 2018 / Pjbussol. Posted in Roles and Responsibilities. Bookmark the Permalink or E-mail it to a friend.
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