Conflict Management and ‘The Big Picture’
BY RALPH KILMANN, MEDIATE.COM
“What causes conflict?” asks Ralph Kilmann in this article. He says: “In my experience, I have found that the great majority of the conflict we experience stems from the system — not the people.” So how does conflict arise and how can it be prevented?
Here is a far-reaching question: What causes conflict? In particular, does conflict largely stem from differences within and between people? Or does conflict primarily arise from the attributes and forces in the situation, that is, the larger system within which people interact with one another?
In my experience, I have found that the great majority of the conflict we experience stems from the system — not the people. Indeed, if you replaced the employees in an organization and gave the new recruits sufficient time to learn their jobs and what is expected of them, it wouldn’t be long before the same conflicts arose. Soon, you’d even hear the same disagreements! As a rough estimate, I’d say that most conflicts are 80% system driven and only 20% people driven. Quality guru W. Edwards Deming repeatedly claimed that this ratio is closer to 85/15. So what IS the system that creates conflict?