We can’t roll with Role Conflict
Mary Carol saw that the team was experiencing a classic case involving role conflict and possibly role ambiguity. Two members of her team had just complained to her about another member. Mary Carol was initially surprised but soon realized that she could have predicted this.
Both team members asked in unison, “Why should we bother attending the design reviews if he doesn’t listen to any ideas?”
The design reviews required a lot of facilitation. There were clearly disagreements about how to proceed with the new system. It would have been surprising if there hadn’t been any conflict over the design. It was actually better to have the conflict before the design was finalized.
Mary Carol changed the next design review from a meeting with the team to include all three members of the team after listening to the concerns of the two team members. As she thought about how to handle this potentially emotional conversation, she had an “Aha” moment. She had the tool she needed to guide her team through this conversation at her fingertips. She regretted not being more formal and creating this item earlier.
What was this magical tool? The responsibility assignment matrix, or RAM. The responsibility assignment matrix (RAM) is used to guide each member of the team through their roles during the design process. This will make it easier to clarify misunderstandings and resolve conflict. It would create a conversation that was less about one-team members complaining about another and more about the shared expectations and responsibilities. It was obvious that all three members of the team were confused about their roles. Mary Carol understood that project team members were stressed by role conflict and role uncertainty. She knew that her role was to resolve such conflict. She was happy to be able use the RAM to focus this discussion.
Mary Carol created a draft RAM to prepare for the meeting, filling out the names of team members and the work that needed to be done. To make it easier for team members to fill out, she intentionally left the rest blank. She was also ready to facilitate discussions when team members disagreed on their roles.
It is a relief to have tools and techniques for project management that can help ease tensions in difficult situations. This is the art and science behind project management.