Don’t Fight It – how doing conflict the right way gets stuff done

By Sonia Tallarida

Every major project starts with lofty intentions – this time, we will work together; this time, things will be collaborative; this time, we will come in on time, on budget and with everyone quaintly singing kumbaya.

Collaboration workshops are held to highlight joint intentions and everyone agrees that, this time, there will be smiles all around.


But then…it all goes to that horribly familiar place…

Meetings lose their energy and become boring updates at best and bloodied fields of war at worst.

Blame starts to be thrown in the mix: it’s the contract, it’s the lack of competency, all the good people aren’t available, someone lied, someone is impossible to work with.

Decisions slow down, are made at the wrong level, and people get accused of both micromanagement and avoidance.

The discovery of “new” technical or design changes gets raised yet people hold on to positions they feel support the initial scope or intention.

Finally, project teams and equipment sit there day after day, chewing more money, increasing pressures on cost drivers and reputation until everyone just about gives up.


Sounding familiar? 

Check out our 6 early predictors to see if your project is headed off the rails (or not fit to fight) These are the early indicators that a project needs attention to “the ways of managing“ outcomes. There are key skills that will get you out of this – and if caught early enough, you can get your project back on track before you start haemorrhaging time, money or people. The more of these indicators present, the greater the urgency for intervention.

6 Early Predictors

Why is it in environments passionate about “lessons learned” and reputation, that great intentions show up at the beginning, yet somehow go all pear shaped afterwards?

In our workplace safety approaches we have learned to look at both lead and lag indicators – we measure the impact of our policies/behaviours/practices on safety outcomes (lag indicators) but we also pay attention to the red flags that suggest we are on a path to hurt, and adjust rapidly (lead indicators). We do this with physical safety, yet we don’t apply this same logic to negotiations, conflict management and decision making.

We know that what gets measured, gets done. How do you measure levels of conflict on a project to ensure you have just the right amount of “rough and tumble” to keep the job in an active state of movement, and not too much “grunt and shunt” to drop the job into the doldrums of nothingness (while our team sits idly by – waiting for “someone in management” to sort the mess out so we can just “get on with it”).

Here are 5 important questions to ask yourself to identify if your job is set up for the ‘good fight’ or if your job is set up to take a ‘nose dive’.

How addicted are your team to “knowing the answer”?

How much time is wasted in avoiding tension or conflict by “over consulting”?

How much time does your team spend preparing for meetings and reports vs having the conversations that confront reality and keep things moving?

Does your team railroad people in order to move quickly but finds it comes unstuck later?

How much do they poke holes, looking for data to support your position?


Need help with having the good fight?

To see where you and your team sit in terms of how they manage negotiation and conflict, try out our free conflict skills quiz:

Take Skills Quiz


Want to know what to do next?

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We’ve helped hundreds of organisations to build and inspire high-performing teams. We’d love to talk to you about your needs and give you with some ideas on how you can transform your culture and your business’ potential.

We’d love to talk to you about your needs and give you with some ideas on how you can transform your culture and your business’ potential.

Call us on 1300 856 920

Or email us at


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