Managing conflict in cross-functional project teams in Hong Kong

Review of literature of the previous few years has uncovered that minimal research on conflict management has been conducted in the Hong Kong manufacturing industry despite Hong Kong being one of many planet’s most competitive economy. Observing the growing use of the matrix organisational structure recently in Hong Kong industry, this research looks into how today’s project support personnel from either marketing, product development or manufacturing section or department of their respective companies perceive and manage conflict in their project work. The study also discusses how their conflict management practice impacts team and project performance. The study was conducted in 2 stages, namely, exploratory interview and mail survey.

Project engineers/managers from chosen local manufacturing companies were invited for the exploratory interview in order to gather information of their thoughts about conflict management that was utilized to create the questionnaire for the mail survey in the subsequent stage. The questionnaires were sent to the members of the Federation of Hong Kong Industries to confirm a few of the discoveries of the interview survey. By interviewing 28 project engineers/ managers and surveying 129 manufacturers, it’s been found out that both unresolved emotion-oriented and task-oriented conflict may have negative impact on team performance. It’s fascinating to discover that more and more people from both middle and upper management levels see conflict can be valuable.

The outcomes indicated that the resolution or handling approach followed to address emotion-oriented and task-oriented conflict were different even though “confrontation” mode was widely used. Past conflict management experience of functional members was observed to have positive influence in the managing of task-oriented conflict while one’s own past conflict management experience was beneficial in handling emotion-oriented conflict. The study conclusions resulted in development of what the writer explains as the ‘cognitive-affective’ conflict. A conflict framework and implementation strategy is formulated and suggested.

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Source: City University of Hong Kong

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