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  • Gail Birks Williams

Managing Conflict using Lean Six Sigma Tools

So.... Here I am again on Safari" and CONFLICT seems to have raised its ugly head and requires my attention as the leader of my tour group. First things first... What do I want???? PEACE and TREE HUGGIN', GET ALONG PEOPLE in my universe. But that is not always realistic. It is evident that an adjustment (let's call it transformation) needs to happen. Whether it is cultural, personal, organizational, etc. does not matter, an attitude change is needed by all and I am included in that number. Organization leadership is often times not properly trained to deal with conflict and therefore sweep it under the rug or defer it to someone else. The tools seem to be absent from the equation and avoidance the standard solution.

My road map for success in this endeavor will look something like this...

The big question I start with is will I be able to get everyone to the finish line? And sustaining the expectations is an even bigger challenge because of the need for full ownership of the resolution by all of the parties involved. I need this Safari to be successful. My reputation depends on it.

Once I have identified all of the "surface" issues, now you need to understand if the parties have "control" over the people, places, situations or events that are causing the perceived problem. Hence, the "Controllables" Worksheet which helps me as the tour guide and most important empowers the tour members (a.k.a. warring tribes), in determining where they should focus their "energy." The components include...

  • Givens - In place regardless of the environment

  • Non-Negotiables - Put in place for a reason

  • Negotiables - 50/50 chance of successfully getting what you are seeking

  • Controllables - You are in control of this outcome

These conversations, while appearing simple can truly become difficult for the parties in the dialogue because it requires some honesty in your response, and the Safari Guide's favorite phase has to be "... But can you control it?... if not, why not?" The discussion will definitely take a different road at that point. This is the fork in the road like the first diagram shows. The tour will either move forward to resolution or deviate to the safe place of status quo... at least for now. Either way, this proves to be an enlightening juncture in the Safari and as the Guide, I now have different information sets to work with that will better empower me in aiding my Associates in achieving sustainable success, however it is defined. I also have to be cognizant of how the conflict is affecting the rest of the members of the tour. So moving quickly to resolution and common ground is my sense of urgency.

Knowing that there is progress needed, keep in mind that this may take more than one session preferably on neutral ground. With that said, each subsequent session will need to take forward steps and the measurement of anticipated success is again done through your CTQ Diagram (Critical to Quality). With this being my script, and an evolving work in process, I can avoid revisiting items that have already been addressed.

When you reconvene in your follow up sessions (this is a must do), to track success (or lack of), discuss the LESSONS LEARNED AND NEXT STEPS. And most important, if a "Shift" occurred in the desired transformation based on the five points noted below. Noteworthy, the chart lets me monitor the ease or difficulty of the transformation required for sustainable success in my universe.

Let's Talk Out Loud Real Soon...Until Next Time.

For more information, visit us at or contact Gail Birks Williams at 954-476-3525.


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