Saturday, October 18, 2008

Project Schedule Conflicts

Often conflicts arise in projects between the different parties involved. Most of the conflicts, however, seem to be related in some way or another to the project schedule.

In the following paragraphs, we will try to identify the link between schedule issues and conflicts within projects.

Schedules are related to both time management and tasks distribution. These two aspects fall under the responsibility of the project manager. Project managers are responsible not only for managing conflicts, but also controlling and resolving any that might arise in this regards.

Conflicts related to project schedule are of many types and can arise on several different levels within the project team: stakeholders/management vs. project manager, project manager vs. team member(s), and finally team member(s) vs. another team member(s).

Stakeholders are usually concerned with projects meeting deadlines that are sometimes very stressful. “Every time you increase schedule pressure, you increase the likelihood of not meeting your deadlines.” (Richard, 2005) Any delay with the project schedule can cause a conflict between the shareholders and the project manager.

On the other hand, since project managers bear the responsibility of meeting deadlines, they might request more staff members or hiring a third party contractor for a specific job when they feel that the schedule might slip or in order to accommodate to some project change. Such requests might implicate budgetary increases and as a consequence create conflict again with the management.

Conflicts related to schedule between the stakeholders/management and project managers usually reflect on the project team’s schedule. Tighter deadlines, additional tasks, changes to be accommodated within the same deadline will surely add pressure on the project team and create further conflicts.

“Developers tend to think that managers don't respect them, or simply don't care about them. “I have to work yet another weekend because my Project Mangler, who clearly doesn't understand the first thing about software development, thinks that this feature can be done in 3 weeks even though I clearly stated that I would need 5”, is the type of comment often overheard from developers.” (Richard, 2005) This creates yet another type of conflict between the project manager and his team.

Furthermore, team member(s) unsatisfied with task distribution within the schedule provided might complain to the project manager. Conflict in this case might be due to the unjust distribution by the project manager, or the fact that some tasks are more important for future career advancement than others. For instance, discrimination against women is common in this sense. Some consider women less competent in completing certain tasks related to IT due to many gender related reasons. One paper written by four University of Arkansas graduates, highlights this fact with a full study entitled: “Barriers Facing
Women in the IT Work Force.” (Riemenschneider, Armstrong, Allen, and Reid, 2006)

Other types of conflicts can exist when project managers are discontented with the performance of their team. If the team effort is not enough, deadlines might slip. Project managers, in this case, need to find solutions in order to keep the project on-schedule and avoid further conflicts that might arise in case of failure in doing such.

“You might get lucky on a few features, but sooner or later, one of them will slip. And instead of working with you to catch up, the developer will start pointing the finger at you. Then you'll point the finger at him.” (Richard, 2005)

In case a failure happens in delivering any or all parts of a project, more serious problems arise. Blame-game is common in this sense between project owners, project managers, and project team. “Ultimately, people will start caring more about who gets blamed for what than saving the project.” (Richard, 2005)
This type of conflict might reflect into conflicts within the team itself. “Slippages in schedule are not the only source of conflict among developers, and concerns over the allocation of component tasks are especially prevalent among student teams, in which no line management accountability has been established.”(Hogan & Thomas, 2005) Each member starts blaming the incompetency or poor effort of other members in order to take the blame off his/her shoulders.

As a conclusion, project schedules and project conflicts’ are closely linked due to the stress and consequences often related with deadlines and tight schedules. Conflicts can arise between the different involved parties in a project. It is, however, the project managers’ responsibility in all cases to resolve such by using different approaches and skills including: leadership, communication, team motivation, incentives, clear job definitions, team balance, trust, commitment, accountability, discipline, and negotiation.

Reference:

1. Richard, Luc K. (November 7, 2005). Excessive Schedule Pressure [online] available from: http://www.projectmangler.com/content/regular/art20051107.htm

2. Cynthia K. Riemenschneider, Deborah J. Armstrong, Myria W. Allen, Margaret F. Reid (Fall 2006) The DATA BASE for Advances in Information Systems - Fall 2006 (Vol. 37, No. 4): “Barriers Facing Women in the IT Work Force” [Research Paper] Available from: ACM digital library.

3. James M. Hogan and Richard Thomas (2005) Centre for Information Technology Innovation - Queensland University of Technology. ACM International Conference Proceeding Series; Vol. 106 & Proceedings of the 7th Australasian conference on Computing education - Volume 42; ISBN ~ ISSN:1445-1336 , 1-920682-24-4; “Developing the Software Engineering Team” [Paper] Available from: ACM digital library.

2 comments:

PM Hut said...

This is an excellent article. I have published an article once, conflict management in projects, which handles the issue of schedule conflicts, but not at this level of detail.

I am interested in republishing this post on PM Hut, please contact me through the "Contact Us" form on the PM Hut site in case you're OK with this.

Kylie Wilson said...

To be successful in your career, a positive interaction with people working around is a key. In a similar manner, it is extremely important to identify and manage stakeholders. Stakeholder management is important to the success of every project. Involving and engaging with the right people in a positive manner is highly important for project success.