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Paths to harmony: Working with conflict among groups
The benefits achieved through actual interventions are described from the viewpoints of those directly involved and of those sponsoring improvement. Conflicts having major emotional and commercial elements are considered, between two or more parties of disparate power. Issues addressed include goal and role confusion, responsibility overlaps or underlaps and process mismatches. Utility of some theories and approaches designed to assist understanding and intervention is noted: from participants’ perspectives, much theory seems unhelpful and the best approaches quickly change specific situations, issues or behaviours that exemplify the conflict. Their call for help seems better met by small changes now than by deeper analysis. Examples compare aspects of legalistic and other paths to improvement: one example reinstated harmonious working relationships in a health profession where the previous year had seen over $200,000 spent on lawyers without improvement. Some consequences of path choice, timing and extent of benefits are reported, as well as the impact of readiness, willingness and ability of participants: a brief intervention removed $100,000 in monthly cost in a three-party conflict around annual service contracts of $20M+, despite their failed earlier attempts to find an improvement path.