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Maintain Dispassionate Objectivity when Conflict-Solving

Conflict Solving
Reorganization

29 March, 2019

Mike Mitchell
Mike Mitchell

Interim/Fractional CPO at Trigr Innovation

Mike’s ability to remain objective throughout a highly stressful conflict between clients allowed him to navigate the situation in a way that led to happy clients and future professional opportunities.

Problem

I was working as a strategy consultant to a new software joint venture between two US government-sponsored financial entities. My clients were the JV executive team, as well as management of both parent companies, and my job was to help stand up all the functions and processes needed to operate a software firm. My clients were frustrated with the politics at the parent companies--competitors of each other--which were preventing them from executing on their business plan. While this case was pretty severe, I found this to be similar to internal departmental politics at other technology companies.

Actions taken

I spent several months building relationships with stakeholders across multiple companies and understanding their objectives and motivations. I held weekly status meetings with the JV execs to review conversations and feedback from across the companies, facilitated by updated roadmaps, a catalog of risks & issues, and the backlog of work to be accomplished. I would move forward on planning for initiatives that were being blocked by parent companies, so we would be prepared to move once a decision on direction was made. As a neutral party, I could easily expose different teams positions on various topics just as a metric I was regularly reporting on, which de-politicized things and made them more objective. Often it was enough just to point out there was a difference of opinion and have it hanging out there for everyone to see, to get parties to change their position--no confrontation necessary.

Lessons learned

Dispassionate objectivity is always really hard to maintain, as inevitably we build different relationships with different people, and some are closer than others. In this case, I was successful at doing this equitably enough amongst all the stakeholders that both the JV execs and parent companies realized I (and my company) understood their business and their politics, and cared about the success of all parties. As a result we won more business not only at the JV, but at both parent companies, in the tens of millions of dollars. I was also asked to join future projects (including internal ones) dealing with many similar issues around integration, and deciding responsibility and accountability of various parties across many business functions.

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