This paper presents an analysis of the effect that the degree of integration of the site management team has upon project performance. It examines, commencing with an evaluation of the integration model, how conflict can influence the willingness of construction professionals to work in unison. In addition its consequential effects upon project performance.
Proposed is that in order to identify the cause of, and productively control conflict, the implementor of such tasks must be conversant and sympathetic to the negative and positive values of conflict which disrupt an harmonious and integrated management unit.
Keywords: Integration, Conflict, Perception, Physco-Productive Environment, Project Performance
In the first instance ‘Managing Conflict’ may be assessed as being instigated by one of two sources: (a) managing from within a team, (b) the managing of a team’s conflict by a party external to that team. This analysis considers the relationship between integration and conflict.
Once the integrative qualities of a team has decreased or become non-existent, the task of re-establishing unity will be more difficult to implement than controlling a herd of wild horses in an open corral. Furthermore, the need to manage conflict either by developing or reducing it will have been established from managerial deficiencies within the team and or a breakdown of it’s structure.
Conflict is borne when a team member, or several team members, attempt to obtain their own goals relative to, or as a priority to the goals of another; or indeed when a team member interferes in the attempt of another to reach his goals. Moreover, unless all team members are equally informed of the project
goals, differences between individual goals and situational perceptions will arise.
These may well be at a variance to the projects overall goals and objectives.
The above model is presented to demonstrate the effects of a management team’s integrated effort: When all the team members are fully locked into integrated effort they collectively pull the weight of project achievements towards project completion. There may not be clear indications as to any variance in the actual or perceived effort required from individual members, thus one or more team member may have a greater influence upon the teams degree of integration and unity.
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The effect of variance in team members effort
It is apparent that once a team member reduces his individual effort, be it during the period of establishing a pathway for own goals or from non-aligned perceptions of individual importance, the result is to increase the collective effort required from the remaining team members; that is, if the project’s productive momentum is to be sustained.
The velocity of a project’s performance is further retarded when a non-integrating team member attempts to operate in an opposite direction. In such circumstances the team member, or members, attempting to work in a non-aligned direction may find the collective force of the remaining team members disengage their efforts or contributions; the result would be to leave the management team inchoate, hence reducing project performance opportunities.
Should the occasion arise when the majority of team members are effectively working in the opposite direction—from that required for direct attainment of the project’s goals, such as late delivery of design or construction information, or the degree of conflict delays decision making and procedural agreements—the cog of project performance will reverse and lower the level of project achievements, thus widening the gap to it’s completion.
Full evaluation of the integration model requires consideration of ‘External Influences’. These are categorised as influences imposed upon the team or individual from outside the management team itself, usually instigated by the client, hierarchy of independent departments or practices, or essential resources.
Managing conflict to enhance project performance
Conflicts are an integral part of a physco-productive environment. They can be attributed in part to the differences and variations of the construction industry’s professional members attributes. Also, to some extent, in the levels of
‘interprofessional ignorance’ that exist in evaluation of and between individual abilities, training and professional perceptions.
Conflicts arising from an ineptness of interpersonal skills contain personal emotions such as, anger, envy, pride and frustration. Primary importance can be given to frustration. Sooner or later man becomes aware that his knowledge, innate intelligence and experience fail to achieve his individual goals.
When a person attempts to achieve a goal and something interferes with it, which he is unable to positively respond to or control, he becomes frustrated.
The reaction to the degree of frustration depends upon his tolerance, the tolerance of others, the teams’ degree of integration and to what extent it effects the project’s goals. The guidance for control in such circumstances is contained in achieving an approach towards satisfaction, the avoidance of obstacles to satisfaction and achieving a mediation which will provide an opportunity to develop an environment of productive contentment.
Regulating conflict by increasing integration
While it is unwise to consider conflict solely as a destructive element of a management structure, levels of conflict induced by interaction and non-interaction must be contained and controlled at a level which provides stabilisation of unity, collaboration and the co-ordination of efforts and attributes of all team members.
To achieve acceptable working levels of conflict we would have to acknowledge, evaluate and establish a dependency network for the management team. An individual team member’s effect upon another suffers from relative importance; that is to say, there is little value or group influences caused by the effect that one team member may have upon another. However, each member has a relative importance upon the ‘management quality’ of the team for three reasons:
A member is important for contributing to the resources in a network to the extent that other members use his contributions to add merit to their own, and towards achieving the projects goals.
A team member is an important contributor to the network to the extent that he contributes to other ‘important’ members of the network, and the degree to which this effects the attainment of the project’s goals.
A team member is an important resource to the team’s efforts in attaining the project’s goals, irrespective of the level of his contributions, because he has an intrinsic value to the project and other team members.
March & Simon (1958) stated: ‘Greater interdependency meant a greater urgency to come to joint decision making.’ While this does not imply there is no longer any chance of conflict it clearly leaves an opportunity (through integration) for individuals to consider the effect of decision making upon social relations and future negoiations.
Perception of power and dependency is reliant upon one member regarding the activities of another as important and that it is difficult for him to find suitable alternatives. There will remain a constant desire from some members to achieve an equal or higher regard from others, this may be achieved in maintaining their
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own importance within the dependency network. The direct path for this achievement is by increasing the degree of ones contributions and integration within the decision making framework. Furthermore conflict will arise during the presentation of ideas by such motivation. During evaluation one must reconsider the intrinsic importance of all team members and be aware that their useful contributions may be from serendipity and not extensive experience.
A higher degree of integration to attain project goals
All interactions, whether written, verbal or even gesture are sensitive to the reactions of other team members. Thus to achieve a unity in understanding the benefits of communication one refers to dependencies and interdependencies:
How will proposals affect future interactions? How will the level of conflict be expressed, and to what extent will it be instrumental to achieving the goals of the implementor, other team members and that of the project?
Relations and dependency are influenced and regulated, to some degree, by people attempting to demonstrate their competence and in strengthening their respect with others. Moreover, effectively linking outputs and developing mutually accepted decisions about production, design, and technical improvements are often a source of friction.
Conflict is generally seen as winning or losing, we or they, and competitively, between individuals, groups or sub-groups. Thus I propose that controlling conflict be viewed as a three phased programme which is aimed at achieving an integrated decision-making format and one which includes contributions from all team members.
Firstly, co-operation is required from all team members in presenting their own goals, to all other team members as accurately as possible.
Secondly, negotiations are set into operation where all of the team members personal goals are openly discussed. This procedure, while demanding strength of presentation, will identify those values which are relative to both individuals and the project’s goals..
Thirdly, an integrated and tactical use of the outcome of the previous phases is used to influence the attainment of the project’s goals.
The physco-productive environment
The quality of the management teams output will be enhanced through pre-evaluation of the attributes and knowledge levels required from its members; that they may significantly contribute to the teams degree of integration.
The fundamental requirements of the management team is that it is able to achieve its members’ goals and productively emit influential management and technical criteria to achieve the project’s goals.
The physco-productive environment is reliant upon dependency relationships.
These will be borne from within the teams social relations and technical abilities.
In such an environment conflict can be contained at productive levels through
Management engineering is a pre-requisite to achieving a physco-productive environment and is attained by selection of team members by their individual social, technical and managerial abilities. These requisites are aligned to an holistic view of interrelated criteria, that have been identified as necessary for the effective achievement for the project’s goals. When building or compiling a management team the absence of specific technical or managerial abilities will erode integration, breed conflict and create delays in production. This will be due to the team being unable to provide the project with necessary assistance to maintain constant production.
Also members may look to others for solutions whilst knowing they are unable to provide them.
The objective of this paper is to present a perspective which demonstrates the need for a higher degree of integration within a construction site management team. There can be little progress towards greater control of a projects outcome while we fail to acknowledge diminishing project performance levels induced by non-interaction, frustration and non-aligned perceptions of each others and the project’s goals. We cannot progress alone. We develop our perceptions and individual requirements as required for the attainment of a project’s goals and by presenting them to our fellow team members knowing they will be open to
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criticism. The conflict of such procedure will generate, enhance and establish social and dependency relationships. And improve interaction levels while providing a clearer pathway towards the attainment of project’s goals.
In acknowledgment of the attributes and perceptions of each others profession team members are provided with the best opportunity for enhancing project opportunities and for ‘Continuing their Professional Development’.
Bisno, H. (1988) Managing Conflict. Sage Publications, California, USA.
Brown, D.L. (1983) Managing Conflict at Organisational Interfaces. Addison-Wesley, Massachusetts, USA.
March J.G. & Simon H.A. (1958) Organisations. Wiley, New York, USA.
Mastenbroek W.F.G. (1987) Conflict Management and Organization Development.
John Wiley & Sons, Chichester, England.—Translation of: Conflicthantering en organisatieontwikkeling.