Chapter 17 begins with Topmkins realizing that they need a way to solve conflict. I think this is obvious considering all the conflict that we have had in previous chapters, especially the Belok conflict. Conflict is everywhere at this point of the story. System development organizations in particular tend to have poor conflict resolution skills. They desperately need someone to help them with conflict resolution and Gabriel comes up with someone, he is a kindergarten teacher. The teacher is good at solving conflict since he has to deal with kids constantly, but it comes natural to him, he can’t really teach it. Because of this, he is going to help with the PMill-A project. Finally, Aristotle speaks up about Dr. Larry Boheme, this man can teach them about conflict solving so Tompkins goes to meet him.
Larry teaches Tompkins a lot about conflict resolution. He mentions how conflict will arise as long as there are 2 different parties involved in a project. These conflicts arise because of different interests, but just because they are different doesn’t mean that one of them is wrong. Both parties have their reasons so this is why you should approach conflict with respect instead of trying to suppress it. Conflict isn’t unprofessional and everyone’s conditions must be respected.
“Negotiation is hard; mediation is easy.”
That phrase means that when negotiating, if you want to win the other needs to lose in return. This is not the correct way to solve it. Instead, a mediator that is a neutral party can help by showing them that their interests may align more than they think. They may not align 100%, but maybe 80% or 90% of the interests line up and a better solution can be reached.
The next chapter focuses more on the kindergarten teacher Maestro Diyenira, but I’ll call him Kayo. We learn that Kayo just talks and talks, he tells stories. The stories tend to have some sort of relevance to the project, but Kayo isn’t really making them about the project on propose. Lunch takes 2 hours with his stories, but it turns out that the time lost may actually be beneficial. I find it funny how Kayo’s talks lose time, but keep people in the project and end up increasing the work done.
Tompkins has a call with Allair and it’s just bad news. Finally, it seemed like the projects may be done in time, but Allair just decided to move the deadline one month sooner. Allair also demanded that workers work all 7 days of the week. This is, again, the opposite of what needs to be done. Less work days can sometimes lead to more productivity. In this example, a 4 day work week increased productivity by 40%. However, there is a lower limit, working 1 day a week won’t suddenly increase productivity. Another, often overlooked benefit is the savings that came in the form of less pages printed and less electricity used.
Tompkins and Kayo talk about solving conflict and come to the conclusion that solving a conflict is similar to a mother taking care of a child that skinned his knee. You need a kiss and then distract him from the pain. In this case, the kiss is getting consent from both people to let you mediate them. It’s also better if you are not in a position of power in relation to them. Conflict solving skills can even be learned in 10 minutes.
As for the interlude, Belinda decides they should keep lying to Belok since he hasn’t been particularly helpful. They decide to take a 3 day weekend while telling Belok they work 24 hours a day 7 days a week. During the weekend, Tompkins decides to go stay at a place that Kayo talked about frequently in stories. Getting there he missed a sign. Turns out that if you focus too much on what you know, you won’t notice other things. In this case, the description of the sign was slightly wrong so he was completely blind to it because of the small difference.