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Discuss about the Managing Client conflicts Study from HBS.



In this case study from HBS, author talks about different conflicts at work place and how one goes about handling it. Think about making a journey to Paris and that you need to be there in two days. If you are in Lyon, France, there are many options — you can take a train, airplane, car or even a bike. But if you are in San Francisco, your options are likely limited to an airplane. For effective behavior conflict, it is important to know not only the future state, but also the starting point. It is often easier to paint a picture of the future, but it does take time and effort to assess where you are now. Without the first steps, it is impossible to make a journey (Managing Client Conflicts, 2005).

This tactic enables employees to understand the direction, and how they fit into the spectrum. This allows them to make their individual conflict plans, rather than treating everyone in the organization as one group

Conflict categories

If it is critical that some behaviors remain intact as the organization progresses through the conflict journey, be sure to list them in the "From" category. Ideally, the conflict journey would have the comprehensive list of behaviors that accurately describes "how works get done" in the organization today. Hopefully, some of the current behaviors are ones that need to stay and be taken to the next level (Dyer, 2015).

The "To" part of the conflict journey should describe the new set of behaviors that you want the employees in the organization to learn that will become the new normal for the organization.

Because you want this list to be comprehensive, you may have some "new" behaviors that you want as part of the organization that may not have a "From" that makes sense. For example, if the IT organization has predominantly done all work in-house and you are moving to outsourcing some set of services, then "negotiating productively with vendors" might be a new behavior for the organization that wouldn't have a corollary in "From."

Employee behavior management for conflict resolution

Similarly, you want to continue employing some behaviors that are strengths for the organization moving forward. Be sure to repeat those behaviors in the "To" column. You need to have examples of the behaviors that you want to stay, as they will inform your team members even more about the journey.

When leaders present conflict to their employees, they are often months ahead of them in regard to thinking about the conflict, envisioning what the future looks like and working through details. At Gartner, we see CIOs with the best intentions execute behavior conflict poorly and often impatiently. Many forget their employees are just hearing about this and do not reflect on how they themselves initially felt. Table 3 lists some of the conflict challenges we have spotted. The examples are amalgamations of input we have heard from our clients over the past several years.

Another challenge with influencing behavior conflict in an organization is that what employees are asked to conflict to is often vague. Many noble values such as "honesty" and "collaboration" can mean dramatically different things to individual employees. Certainly, most employees would assert that they are honest and collaborative. It is important to be specific. 4 More importantly, it is important to be specific while also acknowledging the positive behaviors that have built the foundation for these next steps (Antia, 2013).

Too often, conflict sounds like a demolition rather than just a remodel. A remodel honors the foundation and introduces the updates in the spirit of keeping up with the times or accommodating future growth. Think about remodeling a house — updating the kitchen and adding a bathroom as the family grows. The "bones" are good and have served the inhabitants well, but as children or relatives join the household, some conflicts are needed to accommodate the known and anticipate future conflicts (Managing Client Conflicts, 2005).


Identify the Reason for Conflict the "Because"

It is not enough to simply create the bookends. You are asking employees to go on a conflict journey. They need to know "why?" While it may be great to be in Paris in two days, it is critical to define why the trip is needed in order to compensate for any inconvenience. The From/To/Because model's third component is the "Because."

"Because" does several things:

  • It aligns the journey to the strategy of the business
  • It aligns the journey to the IT component of the business strategy.
  • It defines the urgency.
  • It provides context for the journey.

Some CIOs we speak with feel that once they have defined the IT strategy, the employees have the information they need to be motivated to make conflicts necessary to achieve the strategy. This assumption is incorrect for a few reasons:

  1. Most employees were not part of the in-depth discussions about the strategy and the debates/trade-offs involved to create the strategy.
  2. The strategy identifies what and how the IT organization plans to do to help the business win, but that "win" strategy is not necessarily intrinsically motivating to employees (Beitler, 2016).
  3. Employees are not always able to make the clear connection between the conflicts that are being asked for and how those conflicts make a difference to the strategy.

Behavior conflict can feel more personal; "Because" gives employees the information they need to decide if they want to continue on the journey with the organization. In some cases, a small number of employees may choose to not participate and find other options. Being clear lets everyone know what is expected

Recommendations & Conclusion

To help influence strategic business conflict, CIOs should compose the story line of organizational behavioral conflicts using the four components below:

  • "From" is a description of the current behavioral patterns of the organization. It describes not only the behaviors that need to conflict, but those that should remain intact.
  • "To" is the direction the organization needs to go in the future. It needs to strike a balance between being clear enough that employees can understand the future direction, but allow flexibility on exactly what the end state might look like.
  • "Because" is why the organization needs to make the transition. Employees will be motivated to conflict when they understand the business value in doing so.
  • Define the "Getting Started" steps. Providing the initial steps for the organization will help employees start the transition, build their confidence, and alleviate fears and concerns.


Managing Client Conflicts (2005) Ashish Nanda.

Dyer, B. and Song, X.M., 2015. The relationship between strategy and conflict management: A Japanese perspective. In Proceedings of the 1995 Academy of Marketing Science (AMS) Annual Conference (pp. 126-132). Springer International Publishing

Antia, K.D., Zheng, X. and Frazier, G.L., 2013. Conflict management and outcomes in franchise relationships: the role of regulation. Journal of Marketing Research, 50(5), pp.577-589

Beitler, L.A., Beitler, L.A., Machowski, S., Machowski, S., Johnson, S., Johnson, S., Zapf, D. and Zapf, D., 2016. Conflict management and age in service professions. International Journal of Conflict Management, 27(3), pp.302-330

Gross, M., Wallace, M., Adair, W., Neuman, E., Aarts, N., Ayoko, O., Barry, B., Barsness, Z., Beersma, B., Bies, B. and Amsler, L.B., 2016. Negotiation and Conflict Management Research

Adan, M. and Pkalya, R., 2014. Conflict Management in Kenya-Towards Policy and Strategy Formulation

Wolff, S. and Yakinthou, C. eds., 2013. Conflict management in divided societies: theories and practice. Routledge

Silvetti, M., Alexander, W., Verguts, T. and Brown, J.W., 2014. From conflict management to reward-based decision making: actors and critics in primate medial frontal cortex. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 46, pp.44-5


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