Conflict in Capture Management Conflict Mediator 01 - Introduction to conflict in Federal sales

Aug 27, 2018

Conflict exists in any opportunity life-cycle. Do you have the tools needed to transform destructive conflict into collaboration and innovation? Diplomats and mediators use established tools and techniques every day. Every capture manager and small business owner can benefit from learning and applying them. 

Chasing and winning federal contracts is high-paced, high-pressure, high-stakes work. Every bid has huge stakes and every deadline is immovable. From business developers to executives, the biggest personalities most companies have are at the table and each one has a vested interest in, and their own vision of, success. 

I was once in a war room for a red team review representing a subcontractor on a massive bid. We were only 45 minutes in when things fell apart. Compliance issues were glaringly obvious and the solution… well it just didn’t exist. The CEO of the prime contractor stood up, threw a volume across the room, and fired the capture and proposal team on the spot.  

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Conflict can be downright ugly when not properly managed. 

Let’s get into some basics. In the following posts, we’ll apply this directly to capture and proposal management.  

What is conflict? 

Dr. Wallace Warfield was a true legend in the conflict community. He mediated conflicts around the world and I was lucky enough to learn from him. He changed the way I thought about the world when he re-defined the word conflict.  

“For practitioners, conflict is a perceived divergence of interest, a belief that the parties’ current aspirations are incompatible” 

When you run that definition through your head a few times, it’s easy to realize that conflict is everywhere. It happens all the time and there is no way to stop it. You cannot banish conflict from any team or effort.  

Imagine you’re going into a final review of a “must-win” proposal. Your coordinator tells you there’s a conflict brewing between your capture manager and your solution architect. Does that sound like a positive thing? I think it can be. 

A Common Misconception 

There are a few commonly held misconceptions about conflict that lead us to believe any conflict is inherently negative. One is that conflict is inherently destructive.  

This can be true. Studies have shown extended, poorly-managed conflict leads to heightened alcoholism, marital problems that affect child development, PTSD, long-term economic effects, and wasted time. Some say the same about being a professional in this field, but that’s another topic. Is this feature inherent and unavoidable? 

Darwin wrote that conflict drives emergence of inherited characteristics that foster survival. Freud wrote that it drives individual growth and insight. Marx believed that it drives social change. Think back on the great strides we’ve made as a society. Could any of them have happened without conflict? 

Here are some other proven effects of conflict: 

  • Premature group decision making can be avoided 
  • Legitimate interests and good ideas that differ between people can be brought to the forefront and reconciled 
  • Long-term group solidarity can be promoted when conflict is successfully resolved within teams 
  • Group solidarity is also promoted by conflict with other groups 

Conflict is everywhere. When managed properly it drives innovation and brings people together. In your bid team, conflict will arise. Who is responsible for managing that conflict? Does anybody have the tools and understanding to do so? The answer to that question may very well be the difference between a win and a loss. 

In the next post, we’ll cover another common misconception and begin to unpack some of the tools and techniques many diplomats and mediators use. These approaches to conflict management and resolution are a critical part of any capture or proposal manager’s toolkit.  

Conflict happens in every organization and team. When managed properly, it can be a force for good. We offer in-person and online training, consulting, and direct conflict intervention. You can harness the power of transformative conflict resolution to revolutionize your business.

Contact us today to find out more.

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