Friday, November 9, 2012

Conflict and the Prediction Horizon

Conflict: "A state of disharmony between incompatible or antithetical persons, ideas, or interests; a clash"

Sound familiar? It does to me. In fact, any HR pro worth their salt has in some part built their career on this most powerful yet often misused human trait. Typically the term conflict gets a bad rap, as our definition above would suggest. There is another perspective on conflict however, and that speaks to how powerful conflict can be to affect change. Meaningful change, not the kind that finally has Lois in Accounting blowing her stack at Bill in I.T. and Lois ends up losing her job.

I'm talking about the power of conflict that results in something good. Many variables come into play when attempting to harness this of those is the concept of the prediction horizon.

Crystal Balls Are Real

Prediction Horizon:  "The time interval in which conflicts will be detected"

One of the challenges for those of us in leadership is that conflicts seem to come out of nowhere and suddenly we have a mess on our hands. In retrospect, there are often behavioral clues that, if considered more closely, might help us predict that a conflict is looming. No one can truly anticipate exactly when an issue is going to occur, but if we invest a small amount of time ensuring we understand the various dynamics around us, we'll more than likely be able to identify the negative conflicts before they explode.

Making Conflict Productive
The real power of conflict is that we can move to a state of change. I'm a huge fan of change, because if it's managed well you can move your team, your organization, and yourself forward. That's a pretty good combination!

So how does one avoid the "bad" conflict and reap the benefits of "good" change? Well, there are no easy answers, but I do know the first step to getting there.

Try something new.

I guarantee that standing still will ensure you are in the exact same spot for the foreseeable future. Don't be that leader. Try something. Understand your team so you can predict when trouble is going to strike so you can make the changes you're seeking turn out well. 

How About You
Have you taken the time to understand the strengths, tendencies, hot buttons, and styles of your people? Do you know what sensitivities are just below the surface with your colleagues? Being armed with this knowledge gives you a chance to set your own prediction horizon for the conflict that is sure to come. Are you ready?

I'd love to hear from you.

No Excuses.

photo credit #1 photo credit #2


  1. Conflict is everywhere, we invest, no make that waste, huge amounts of time and effort trying to avoid it and that only makes it worse. I know it's tough but when people fall out of agreement with one another, the first place they should go for a resolution is straight back to that person, and quickly. Escalating something as a first resort nearly always sucks because a) you're playing just one side of the story to the person you're escalating to (the other guy's boss usually) and b) in so doing you're just undermining the other person.

    Differences acknowledged quickly, and peer to peer can often yield quite positive outcomes. I don't know anyone who appreciates it when folk go behind their back and that is almost always what happens when conflict rears it's head at work.