Conflict Resolution to Achieve Integration

While the early theorists did not explicitly recognize the relationship between the states of differentiation and integration, they did emphasize the need for integration in the organization. Their view, however, was that integration is accomplished through an entirely rational and mechanical process. If the total task of the organization was divided up according to certain principles, the integration would be taken care of simply by issuing orders through the management hierarchy, “the chain of command.” 8 Our view, on the other hand, is that integration is not achieved by such an automatic process. In fact, the different points of view held by various functional specialists are frequently going to lead to conflicts about what direction to take. To achieve effective integration these conflicts must be resolved. The managerial hierarchy provides one means through which this resolution can come about, but it is not the only means. In many organizations integrating committees and teams are established or individual integrators are designated to facilitate collaboration among functional departments at all management levels. Routine control and scheduling procedures also provide a means of achieving integration. Finally, much integrating activity is carried out by individual managers outside official channels.9 In our investigation we have also attempted to learn what factors have created the need for these various integrating devices, and what factors may be related to their serving a useful function in resolving conflict and achieving integration under various external environmental conditions.

In learning what factors determine the effectiveness of these various integrative devices, we have focused on another shortcoming in the early organization theories. Because of their notion that the process of achieving integration is mechanical and entirely rational, the early writers ignored the feelings and emotions connected with the achievement of organizational collaboration. As a consequence, they did not concern themselves to any great extent with the interpersonal skills required to achieve integration.

This issue of interpersonal skills and their relationship to organizational integration has been a central concern of many later theorists and researchers, particularly behavioral scientists. These students of human relations have pointed to a variety of conditions in interpersonal relationships that are necessary to attain effective collaboration.11 One such condition is that the parties who are dealing with one another learn to be open and frank about their positions as they work together. This openness leads to a climate of trust among the parties, which results in more effective problem solving. Closely related to this is the idea that conflicts must be confronted and brought into the open, rather than suppressed through the power of one side or avoided by the tacit consent of all.

While we have attempted to build on these and related ideas, they do have two major limitations. First, these theorists and researchers have been so concerned with problems of achieving collaboration that many of them have overlooked the equally important need for differentiation within organizations. As a consequence, they appear at times to view recurrent conflict and disagreement as an avoidable dissipation of human energy. It is our view, given the need for differentiated ways of working and points of view in various units of large organizations, that recurring conflict is inevitable. The important question which we have tried to answer is how the specifics of each conflict episode can be managed and resolved without expecting conflict to dis- appear. In other words, how can integration be facilitated without sacrificing the needed differentiation?

Source: Lawrence Paul R., Lorsch Jay W. (1967), Organization and Environment: Managing Differentiation and Integration, Harvard Business School.

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