[MUSIC] So for most of my career, I've worked in administration in very large institutions. Particularly, higher education institutions, like universities and colleges. Really large institutions have some unique problems that smaller institutions don't have or have different versions of. One of those being that they share a similar mission. And in the case of most institutions or most universities, the mission is to produce the next generation of citizens. Educate the next generation of citizens, it gets phrased different ways, different times. But despite that common mission, the institutions are so large that there's lots of constituencies and each of those constituencies has a different way of thinking about or achieving that mission. Almost different goals in line with that mission. The administration may be very focused on simply graduating students and credentialing them, giving them degrees. Individual departments may be more focused on producing more scientists or producing more literature arts majors. And so, large institutions by nature are always in a state of conflict and that conflict isn't necessarily a bad thing and I'm sure that's something you've heard from many of the speakers in this program. I would go one step further and say that conflict is actually a necessity for progress in large institutions maybe even all work organizations, although my experience is limited there. So to give you an example, one of the things I did when I was working at a large Midwestern University was I got called in to Shepard the development of the five-year plan for the liberal arts college. And the liberal arts College at this institution was the biggest college on campus. It had thousands of faculty, tens of thousands of students, thousands of employees and one dean. So you've got this sort of interesting situation. Very similar to a private work environment, where there's one person at the top, but they're really not gonna accomplish anything or move anything forward unless they're able to bring in all these other actors and all these other stakeholders. So one of the things we did was very early on we say, we've got so many people here with so many different goals, so many different views of how this mission should be executed. What the school should look like five years from now, that we decided to feature the conflict that was likely to arise front and center as early on in the process as we could. So we actually got to convened three really large symposia, where we brought together a few hundred stakeholders in each of these symposia. And we actually sat them down and we said, we want you to write the headline about this school five years from now. What should that New York Times headline say about this school? Now we took all those headlines and we put them up around this big auditorium and then we let the groups duke it out for a while and argue about those headlines. And have a fair bit of conflict about what they thought was the best direction for the school and the best direction for the organization overall. And what we found was by featuring that conflict front and center, we brought out all of the best ideas that we could rather than the administration putting forward a few ideas and then letting people fight it out. That conflict actually served as a real sort of incubator, a real sort of oven for pushing out great ideas. And it also gave people an early opportunity to see how others in the group were thinking and how others in the organization were thinking. So for me, it was a real eye opening experience where I was able to see conflict not just as something that could potentially be good, but that something that was really necessary. The change in management in this organization really depended on people disagreeing with each other. And if everyone had a sort of magically had the same idea and the same vision right off the bat, I really, firmly, believe that we would have had a very subpar product come out of that planning process. But by nurturing the conflict by in fact, embracing that conflict, we were able to sort of bring out the best in all the constituencies early on. Now conflict doesn't always sort of give you sort of magical results like that, obviously. And there were plenty of examples in that process where groups became so focused on sort of what they considered key resources. We need this space to make this happen. We need this amount of money to make this happen. That sort of conflict became much more difficult to manage. And so one of the things I found is that when you're working with large organizations, conflict over resources tends to be less productive, whereas conflict over ideas tends to be more productive. And if you can look at some of these resource conflicts, whether it's conflicts over space or conflicts over money or conflicts over personnel. And you, as the conflict manager or the administrator, the boss, however, you think of yourself. If you can reframe these conflicts over resources as conflicts over ideas, you can actually sort of take what's become a sort of a deadlock situation and turn it into something productive. So to give an example, if people were fighting over space and in my organizations, universities that is the most common resource that people fight over. They wanna grow as departments. They need more lab space. They need more teaching space. So if they're fighting over space and you can sort of say, let's not make this a conflict over space. Let's make this a conflict over how we use the space and think about the ways that we use it, then you can get people thinking differently. You can get them willing to push away from their sort of dearly hold positions about we desperately need this space to survive and start getting them thinking about different ways of cooperatively using the space, ways of using the space more efficiently. And that's actually a good thing and an okay thing and something where I've really seen lots of progress come about from conflict. So, I don't know that I have one particular style of conflict management. And in fact, I think different types of conflict and different situations of conflict call for different management approaches. But one thing that I always advocate for, particularly when I'm working within complex situations, like these large organizations or complex situations where it's groups that in conflict rather than individuals is to try and bring as many people to the table as early as possible. Now part of this is about as I said earlier, featuring conflict as early in the process as you can. So that conflict becomes not just a hindrance, but it becomes something that's acceptable and okay as part of that situation. It actually becomes seen as a benefit to resolving that situation and moving the project forward, but it's also about getting stakeholders involved early, so that they're informed. Because one of the worst things that can happen in any sort of change management situation is surprise. And surprise happens when you or a small group of people make decisions for others. They may be very well informed decisions. They might even be the very best decisions that could be made. But if you make them early on and in secrecy and with a lack of transparency, then whatever you're rolling out for your organization or for your employees or for your colleagues, it comes across as a surprise and people in work environments don't like surprise. They like to know what's going on. They're there, because they're being paid to control the situation. Maybe they're controlling a product that's being created or they're controlling a service. But when you surprise them, that sense of control gets threatened. That sense of security in their position gets threatened and it rarely works out the way you want it to. I'll give you one example of this. So again, back at that large Midwestern University. I was working with the school of dentistry and in particular one department in that school. And the department had recently appointed a new chair and the chair serves as sort of the boss of the department and she wanted to think differently about the way they were teaching their students. She wanted to make the teaching more interactive, she wanted to make the teaching more hands on, earlier on, so that the dentists were learning how to do their jobs sooner rather than later. She had real ideas about how to do that. They were good ideas and she had read the research on teaching and learning and she knew what she wanted to accomplish. And their initial thought was that she would try to roll this out with one or two faculty who she knew were on her side. And who she thought she could get to do a good job with these courses and then she would show this results to the rest of the department and sort of say, this is the way we're gonna do this for now on and that might have worked. We actually don't know, because what we actually suggest that you try is instead, let's bring a group of constituents to the table. So we brought in some of the faculty, some of the students, some of the lecturers, some of the support staff and we sat them all around the table as early as we could and we pitched these ideas to them. And at first that group was very resistant, but what we essentially said to them was look, we’re giving you ownership of this process. We want you to fight it out here and we want you to take it back to your constituencies and we want you to argue about this. And think about what you’re trying to accomplish that’s best for the students and best for your constituency there. And that early engagement in the process, the conflict management process or the change management process that goes hand in hand with that was successful. We didn't get exactly what she wanted, the end result was not exactly the sort of curricular change or teaching change that she was looking for. But what we got had everyone's involvement and everyone's buy-in. And ultimately, went on and became and effective way of teaching and learning in that school. My experience is primarily in working with group conflict. I have managed teams, where there were individuals within those teams in conflict. And I don't know that group conflict, that managing that is any easier or harder than managing individual conflict. They come with a different set of challenges and a different set of opportunities, but some of the things I've noticed are that groups behave in a way that is very different from individuals. Groups have what I call group culture and this isn't necessarily the culture of where they came from or where they were raised. This is the culture of the group. And if you think about any group of colleagues you have, we can think about maybe the tech department in your unit or we can think about the management group in your unit or the service employees in your unit. I suspect you have a sense of them having a group identity. Now rightly or wrongly that culture comes to impact the way that group interacts with other groups and interacts with management. Not everyone in the group is going to fully ascribe to that culture and thinking you know how individuals are gonna behave, just because their group tends to behave that way is probably not gonna payoff for you well. But group culture is something you have to think about when you’re working with conflict management between groups and I'll give one example here. So the most common type of conflict in the organizations I've worked in is the administration versus the faculty. So again, I work in higher education institutions, large universities where the administration represents a small, relatively elite group of folks making the big decisions for the organization. And the faculty represent the largest constituency of stakeholders who've been there the longest, have the most to lose if things go south for the organization and have the most to gain if there are real benefits for the organization. So faculty have their own culture. They tend to be intellectuals. They tend to be researchers. They tend to be very focused on ideas rather than necessarily results. Administrators on the other hand, have their culture. They're probably more focused on results. They may be more focused on the bottom line. They may be more willing to be risk takers, whereas faculty tend to be more conservative and less likely to sort of take that leap to the next big idea. Group culture does impact the way they handle conflict. And what I have seen in my experience is certain groups, who for whatever reason, maybe because of leaders within the group. Maybe because of the history of that group. Maybe because of the constraints that are currently being imposed on that group. Behave a certain way and hold out for certain things and fight for certain things that another group might not. And you, as a change manager or as a conflict manager. If you're trying to help these groups get along, often times you don't know exactly how that culture operates. You don't know exactly how that group is going to participate. So when I was trying to liaise between the administration and the faculty and the administration would come to me and say, Chris, we need you to work with this department. There teaching is not where it needs to be. They need to work as a unit to improve that. I would be coming into that group of faculty as an outsider and that's a very tricky place to do conflict management. Particularly because, if I'm being sent by the administration, that group of faculty is gonna see me as being biased towards the people they feel adversarial to the administration. So one of the things that I highly recommend is that you take sort of almost an anthropological view of conflict management. You can't help two groups get along and you can't help them workout their differences and achieve a common, unified goal if you don't understand those two groups. So getting to know the groups you're working with, embedding yourself with them. Talking to individuals, trying to see how they function as individuals versus how they function as a group, really valuable. And whenever I was assigned a project where I was trying to help the administration and the faculty accomplish a shared goal where they had different ideas about how to accomplish it. I would spend as much time as possible within each of those two groups, trying to get to know them. Trying to understand where they're coming from. So there's something analogous to this to working with individual conflict. You need to understand where individuals are coming from, if you're gonna help them workout their differences. Or that's even sort of probably one of the keys of conflict management they've talked about in working out conflict with someone you're in conflict with. But with groups, it's particularly important. You can't be seen as someone sort of coming in from on high to solve their problem, you've gotta get down there in the group and help them together on that. Group conflict is challenging to manage, but it's also the most interesting type of conflict to manage. And it's actually something I'd encourage you, as conflict managers to really embrace as a neat sort of way to get work done. So we talked earlier on about not just the value of conflict, but the necessity for conflict in getting outcomes out of groups. But groups really do behave differently and I talked a little bit about group cultures. And one of the things, which makes groups particularly interesting is the degree to which they can be swayed by individuals or the degree to which they can be difficult to read what's truly going on and I'll give you one example. So in higher education where I work, one of the most powerful constituencies is actually the students and we don't think of our clients or our customers as being a stakeholder often when we're having internal conflicts. But in service organizations, like institutions or in organizations where you're providing a service product for your customers, maybe in physical fitness. If you're running a gym and you've got customers there, they become an integral part of that business. They have ideas about how they think things should be run. They have ideas about what they want from you and how much they think you should be contributing to that and how much they should be contributing. So in higher education, one of the things, one of the most challenging groups to work with in terms of conflict are those students. They have a very clear sense of how best they can learn and they have a very clear sense of what they want from you. And unfortunately, at least the research would suggest, they're often wrong in that. Their sense of how they can best learn from you, doesn't necessarily seem to be supported by the data or the evidence. So one of the very challenging situations that I would commonly run into is I would go into a department. I would be working with an individual faculty member or a group of faculty, trying to improve teaching and learning in a particular course. And often that was done by making the course more interactive, more active where students had to do more. Less passive, where they're doing less sitting and listening to the traditional lecture. And basically, trying to make it a more authentic experience where they're utilizing the skills that they'll later be employing in the workforce. Now you would think that this would be really exciting, this would be something that groups, that students would be very engaged with. But quite often, they were very resistant to it. And it a lot of times it came down to the sense of it's just change, you're asking us to do something different than what we're used to. And when the groups would be resistant, one of the toughest things to figure out is the group as a whole resisting me or are there individual stakeholders within that group of students who are speaking for the whole group. So one of the things you'll hear and in any organization with any constituency, the loudest people get heard the most. And so a group can sound very loud and a group can sound very upset and a group can sound, like they're ready to revolt and the conflicts really going to boil out of control. And if you, as a conflict manager are able to get down into that group. Again, really in bed with them, really talk with them, really figure out where they're coming from. One of the things you'll figure out is that your group is not a group at all. It's a very loosely organized sort of conglomeration of individuals and there's some individual students who are very upset, very unhappy and they're speaking for the group as a whole. That would be one of the things that we saw often. So that for me is actually one of the toughest things about managing group conflict when I'm doing conflict management is figuring out where the conflict actually is. Again, this comes back to issues of group culture. Some groups are very cohesive, where everyone thinks the same thing. Some groups are sort of all over there place, where there's a few very different viewpoints that get mushed into one common viewpoint. So, one principle that I would sort of push onto anyone doing conflict management is don't assume that a group is a group. Don't assume that the message you are hearing is the message that everybody agrees with. Do your homework, talk to folks. Get down in there and try to experience what they're experiencing. Figure out where that conflict really is originating from before you jump the gun and try to tackle something, which wasn't really a problem to begin with. But maybe by acting on it, you actually make it one.