APM Conflict Management 

 September 23, 2020

By  Dave Litten

APM Conflict Management

What is the difference between APMP and PMQ?

The PMQ, formerly known as APMP, syllabus assesses breadth of knowledge in all areas of project management and covers knowledge areas from the APM Body of Knowledge, including budgeting and cost management, conflict management, communication, earned value management, leadership, negotiation, procurement, sponsorship and teamwork.

There are two examination routes for the qualification:

  • A three hour paper where candidates must answer ten from sixteen questions. OR
  • For PRINCE2® Registered Practitioners a two hour paper that recognises prior learning. In this paper candidates must answer six from ten questions.

APMP Question 1

Explain five different approaches that could be used in a conflict situation and give an example of when each approach would be relevant.

The answer given below is longer than you could expect to complete within 15 minutes but it does give some extra detail that will aid your revision.

The grid above details 5 methods of dealing with conflict.  It comes from the work undertaken by Kenneth Thomas (1975).

APMP Conflict Handling Modes – Competing

An individual pursues his own concerns at the other person’s expense.

This is a power-oriented mode in which an individual uses whatever power seems appropriate to win his or her own position.  Examples include ability to argue, economic sanctions and their rank or position.  Competing might mean “standing up for your rights” or defending a position that you believe is correct.  Alternatively, it may be simply about trying to win.

This mode would be most suitable when the team is going through high levels of conflict, for example in the “forming” and particularly “storming” phase.  In order to get the work done decisions must be made and the team leader may use this style to get things moving and then move into other areas to help the team get to the “norming” stage.

APMP Conflict Handling Modes – Collaborating

This mode is also known as Problem Solving.

Collaborating involves an attempt to work with the other person to find some solution that fully satisfies the concerns of both individuals.  It means digging into an issue to identify the underlying concerns of the two people (or groups) involved in order to find an alternative that meets both sets of concerns.

Collaborating between two persons might take the form of exploring a disagreement to learn from each other’s insights, concluding to resolve some condition which would otherwise have them competing for resources, or confronting and trying to find a creative solution to an interpersonal problem.

This mode is most appropriate when problems occur – perhaps it is not possible to complete the work in the way planned and different solutions are required.  An example would be when a project issue is raised.

APMP Conflict Handling Modes – Compromising

The objective is to find some expedient, mutually acceptable solution that partially satisfies both parties.

Compromising falls on a middle ground between competing and accommodating.  It gives up more than competing but less than accommodating.  Likewise, it addresses an issue more directly than avoiding, but doesn’t explore it in as much depth as collaborating.  Compromising might mean splitting the differences, exchanging concessions, or seeking a quick middle ground position.

This would be most useful when neither party feels strongly about a problem and both would move in some way to get the work completed, for example if overtime were required it might mean payment and time off in lieu.

APMP Conflict Handling Modes – Avoiding

The individual does not immediately pursue his or her own concerns or those of the other person.  The individual concerned does not address the conflict.

Avoiding might take the form of diplomatically sidestepping an issue, postponing an issue, or simply withdrawing from a threatening situation.

This is likely to occur during the storming stage when it may be necessary for both parties to avoid the conflict, make progress with the project, and then move to a collaborative approach when they are surer of their ground and position in the team.

APMP Conflict Handling Modes – Accommodating

When accommodating an individual neglects his or her own concerns in order to satisfy the concerns of the other person; there is an element of self-sacrifice in this mode.  Accommodating might take the form of selfless generosity or charity, obeying another person’s order when one would prefer not to, or yielding to another’s point of view.

For example, one party may feel that the team leader is taking a course of action that is inappropriate but in the interests of longer term relationships it would not be appropriate to stand one’s ground.  This could easily occur in the storming stage of teambuilding when the leader is “competing”.

Specific Example:

If a customer complained about some aspect of the project, it may be initially best to adopt the accommodating approach with the customer, use competing with the team to rectify the situation and then use collaboration to ensure the problem did not occur again.

Compromise with the customer may be necessary if some form of recompense was required.

It would not be appropriate to use “avoiding” in this situation, as the situation must be resolved.

Dave Litten

David spent 25 years as a senior project manager for USA multinationals, and has deep experience in project management. He now develops a wide range of Project Management Masterclasses, under the Projex Academy brand name. In addition, David runs project management training seminars across the world, and is a prolific writer on the many topics of project management.

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