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Project Management Steering the Committee

Key Points
This Hot Seat Case portrayed a meeting between factory supervisor Patrick Bennett and three
executives to report on the progress of the implementation of a computerized tracking system on the
software production floor. The project is running behind schedule and is showing signs of going overbudget. The meetings show promise initially but dont end satisfactorily for the parties. Below is a short
analysis
Comments:
By evaluating the conflict process model, we can evaluate why Patrick responded the way he did
in the meeting. Right from the start, Patrick tries to defend himself and his actions. He feels that he is on
the right track. Incompatible goals are the source of this conflict. Patrick is too busy trying to defend his
actions to be able to see the executives concerns (that the project may go over budget, and be off
schedule). He should understand that no one is trying to blame him and he needs to focus on providing
ways for the project to get on track. Another source of conflict was that Patrick was veering towards
spending too much when his budget is limited (scarce resources). He only has a certain amount of money to
complete the project and the executives cannot have him going over budget. As was made clear to Patrick
in the meeting, going over budget would be a major source of friction within the organization. A third
source of conflict in the meeting was communication problems. Communication was absolutely atrocious
among the parties involved. The VP of distribution was always interrupting or commenting at inappropriate
times, and he was bringing nothing to the conversation. We see because the parties lack the opportunity to
communicate, the tended to rely more on stereotypes to understand the other party. The VP of operations
insinuated that Patrick was inexperienced by calling him a young hot-shot. This escalated the perception of
conflict and made Patrick go further into defensive mode.
Patrick attempts to address the conflicts by taking some actions. At the end of the first meeting
Patrick promises the executives a re-evaluation of what he has been doing and ways in which he might be
able to lower costs and get back on schedule. I think Patrick chose the problem solving conflict handling
style. While he didnt admit that there were any problems he was willing to find a mutually beneficial
solution to the disagreement. The issue here is complex and Patrick is willing to take the time to share more
information with the executives. By the second meeting however, it seems that Patrick is no longer
interested in problem solving. He takes a more compromising and even yielding approach to conflict
handling. When the executives suggest that he get a second-in-command to help assist him, he refuses
initially but finally just gives in to make them happy and only does so because he will continue to oversee
the project.
I think there are some ways in which Patrick could have handled the situation better. Going into
the meetings he should have realized that even though he might feel that he could get the project completed
in time, the executives needed more than his word. He needed to show through action that he would be able
to complete the project on time. I think the first meeting for the most part ended well. It seemed that Patrick
had a plan to tackle the issue, but by the second meeting it was clear that nothing had changed. When
confronted with Franks assessment of the progress, Patrick really should have admitted fault and accepted
help. This would have been the perfect time to utilize the problem solving conflict handling style. Finally, I
think communication was the overarching issue at the meetings. Really no one was communicating
effectively. The executives should have been more understanding of Patricks situation and they should
have tried to assuage his concerns about being seen as an inferior manager. At the same time Patrick should
have been more open and honest about what happened and why it happened. From his own assessment, we
see that Patrick view the executives in a negative light that if he doesnt confront and stand up for
himself, he will be crushed. Patrick and the executives should view themselves as a team working towards
solving the issue.

Works Cited
McShane, S., & Von Glinow, M. A. (2010). Organizational behavior. (sixth ed.). New York: McGraw-Hill
Irwin