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How Management Teams Can Have a Good Fight


How management teams can have a good fight? Everyone has his own answer. Related to O.B., what’s the new answer? In the case study, we discussed about “the forgotten group member” as group. We talked about “yes or no”, “why” and “how”. Every member can have his own idea, but we must reach an agreement as our group’s conclusion. This process is called “decision making”. During this process, if all the members’ own ideas are the same, that’s perfect! But most of the time the fact is someone says “yes”, and someone says “no”, and when we met the question like “why” and “how”, the answers became even more.

Then the group meets an issue named “conflict”.This article, by Kathleen M. Eisenhardt, Jean L. Kahwaly, and L. J. Bourgeios Ⅲ, focuses on conflict in the processes of the team decision making. Let’s return to the first question that how management teams can have a good fight.

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The business professors make their research based on observing how the groups managing the interpersonal conflicts. The research about interplay of conflict, polictics, and speed in strategic decision making by top management teams last for 10 years. The objects to be observed are 12 top-management teams in technology-based companies.

As shown, in 4 of the 12 companies, there was little or no substantive disagreement over major issues and therefore little conflict to observe. And the other 8 companies experienced considerable conflict. In 4 of the 8 companies, the top-management teams handled conflict in a way that avoided interpersonal hostility or discord.

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Managers in those companies referred to their colleagues as smart, team player, and best in the business. They described the way they work as a team as open, fun, and productive.

The managers vigorously debated the issues, but they wasted little time on politicking and posturing. The other 4 companies in which issues were contested were less successful at avoiding interpersonal conflict. The executives used words such as manipulative, secretive, burned out, and political to describe their colleagues. What made the difference between the 2 types of teams? The authors identify 6 key tactics used by all of the teams that were able to keep interpersonal conflict to a minimum.

* Focus on the facts
* Multiply the alternatives
* Create common goals
* Use humor
* Balance the power structure
* Seek consensus with qualification

1. Focus on the facts
It means more information more better.
Let’s compare the 2 groups of words:
Which do you think is more personal?

When we talk about the left group, mostly we summarize it as “subjective”. The right group is usually summarized as “objective”. The teams with minimal interpersonal conflicts always work with more, rather than less objective and current information and data, such as reviewed bookings, backlogs, margins, engineering milestones, cash, scrap, and work-in-process every week or every month. Some team even claims to “measure everything”. Facts encourage people to focus on issues, not personalities and let people move quickly to the central issues surrounding a strategic choice. Building decisions on facts creates a culture that emphasizes issues instead of personalities. Therefore, the debate will be much more constructive.

2. Multiply the alternatives
It means more options, more better.
Look at the picture,

If I ask that what’s this or whether this is the sun or the moon, there are only 2 alternatives. Thus usually we easily fall into the arguments about black and white. Multiple options allow more exploration of the gray areas, and lead to more creative solutions that integrate key points of the various alternatives. Maybe you can say this is a cake, an egg, or anything else. Someone maybe consider that more choices can increase the conflict, but the research shows that multiple alternatives can lower interpersonal conflict. For one, it diffuses conflict. The individuals gain more room to vary the degree of their support over a range of choices. Managers can more easily shift positions without losing face. The team ended up combining elements of several options in a way that was more robust than any of the options were individually.

3. Create common goals
It means let’s go there!

A third tactic for minimizing destructive conflict involves framing strategic choices as collaborative. The successful groups we studied consistently framed their decisions as collaborations in which it was in everyone’s interest to achieve the best possible solution for the collective. During the process of decision making, when team members are working toward a common goal, they are less likely to see themselves as individual winners and losers and are far more likely to perceive the opinions of others correctly and to learn from them. For example, let’s discuss the first trip for practice. Our common goal is to go to Pattya. Then we discuss how we shall go. Shall we go there by minibus, taxi or airline? But if someone wants to go to Rayong and another wants to go to Huahin, a lot of time will be wasted in the argument. So, the common goals do not imply homogeneous thinking, but they do let everyone share a vision.

4. Use humor
It means Inject humor into the decision process.

In our class, there is a very cute and funny guy, his name is Pop. Every time when we do the case discussion in-class, every time when Pop raises his hand, what do you guys expect? For me, I am ready to smile or laugh. So what is the influence of laugh?

* We will have good mood.
* The pressures will be lower.
* We can get the information from others more easily than in the stressful situations. According to the research, people in a positive mood tend to be not only more optimistic but also more forgiving of others and creative in seeking solutions. So when our group tries to make a decision, such positive mood will trigger a more accurate perception of others’ argument, because people in a good mood tend to relax their defensive barriers and so can listen more effective. Humor works as defense mechanism to protect people from the stressful and threatening situations that commonly arise in the course of making strategic decisions.

5. Balance the power structure

It means (focus on equity) to create a sense of fairness by balancing power with in the management team. Most people will accept decisions they disagree with if they feel the process was fair. In the balanced power structures, the CEO is still more powerful than the other members of the top-management team, but the members do wield substantial power, especially in their own well-defined areas of responsibility. The teams with high interpersonal conflict are mostly found that the leaders are autocratic or weak.

6. Seek consensus with qualification
It means give the chance to everyone to bring his idea.

In the process of decision making, the teams that managed conflicts effectively all used a two step process that is called consensus with qualification that is when the teams meet an issue, the members will talk over it and try to reach consensus. If they can, the decision is made. If they can’t, the most relevant senior manager makes the decision, guided by input from the rest of the group. Individuals are willing to accept outcomes they dislike if they believe that the process by which those results came about was fair. So how does consensus with qualification create a sense of fairness? Most people just want their opinions to be considered seriously but to prevail. So just encourage everyone to bring ideas to the table. If the members can effectively join the process of decision making, the interpersonal conflict will be minimized.

Linking conflict, speed, and performance

The healthy conflict can make better decision and make the teams move more quickly as well. Without conflict, groups lose their effectiveness and lower performance. Managers often become withdrawn and only superficially harmonious.

So let’s return to the first question that ”how management teams can have a good fight?” The key to doing so is to mitigate interpersonal conflict. Well, how teams argue but still get along? That’s the content of this presentation.

Tactic| Strategy|

1.Base discussion on current, factual information| Focus on issues, not personalities|
2.Develop multiple alternatives to enrich the debate| |
3.Rally around goals| Frame decisions as collaborations aimed at achieving the best possible solution for the company|
4.Inject humor into the decision-making process| |
5.Maintain balanced power structure| Establish a sense of fairness and equity in the process|
6.Resolve issues without forcing consensus| |

Overall evaluation

This is an article with clear thinking. The authors got their conclusion through long time research based on objective observe and numerous data, which is the way that analyzing the problem and exploring the root of the problem.

How management teams can have a good fight?

Effective decision making, implement it positively

How to deal with the conflict during the decision making process?

Manage interpersonal conflict effectively

How to manage interpersonal conflict effectively?

6 tactics— Focus on the facts

Multiply the alternatives
Create common goals
Use humor
Balance the power structure
Seek consensus with qualification

The 6 tactics that the authors summarized are very direct and crucial. They seize the key of the problem-solving. During the process of discussing each tactic, they demonstrate the point by real case and data which are very convincing. In the last part of the article, the authors link conflict, speed, and performance to form a path of solving problem, the title of the article is got the answer. After reading this article, my gain involves 3 aspects as following: First, the article answered the question about how to manage the conflicts during the process of group’s decision making. During the decision making process by groups, it’s normal and natural that the group encountered disagreements and conflicts.

The critical thing of decision making by groups is to managing the conflicts. After reading the article, I have got the clear answer to solve the problem. Second, “how management teams can have a good fight” is a complicate subject. However the authors analyzed the issue and finally focused on a small and crucial topic to solve the problem. Understand such professional ways to analyze problem is very useful for me. It inspires me that “questioned—explore the root of the question—research—analyze—generalize and related to the major subject”. Finally, the method used by the authors that gathering data and analyzing with the objective facts are very objective and scientific. It’s also very valuable for me.


When I finished the article reading, I have a question, maybe I shouldn’t not describe it as weakness. Among the 12 management teams in technology-based companies which the authors observed and researched, 8 companies that experienced considerable conflicts, which is the main data source for research. For the other 4 companies, because there was little or no substantive disagreement over major issues and therefore were not discussed. In my opinion, if the major goal of the research is only to discussing the conflict from decision making by groups, then there are no problem that the authors did not discuss the case of these 4 companies, because the case have no value for the research.

But, the authors are trying to discuss how management teams can have a good fight. And actually the case of these 4 companies also occupies one-third of the feedback data. It exists there indeed. However it was not mentioned by the authors in the article. I am curious about the case that there was little or no substantive disagreement over major issues, why the disagreement is so little? What situation will it lead to? Will it also make the organization to have a good performance and get a good fight? If the authors had talked about this, we would get clearer idea.

Cite this page

How Management Teams Can Have a Good Fight. (2016, Nov 30). Retrieved from

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