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How to Handle Scheduling Conflicts Like a Pro.
If you’re a project manager, then you know that scheduling conflicts are an unavoidable part of the job.
But that doesn’t mean they’re not disorienting. Trying to keep everyone in sync while also getting the job done on time can feel a lot like herding cats.
Not only do you have to worry about conflicting schedules, but you also need to juggle different personalities, working styles, and communication preferences.
But don’t worry, we’re here to help.
By the time you’re finished reading this blog post, you’ll know how to handle scheduling conflicts like a pro.
First, we’ll address the causes as well as the best practices for handling scheduling conflicts. So that, you can avoid them all together. After that, we’ll explore different types of conflicts and how to handle them.
So without further ado, let’s get started.
Causes of Scheduling Conflicts
There are a few different reasons why scheduling conflicts might arise in the workplace.
Good Old Fashioned Forgetting
The first is simply that people are forgetful. No bad intentions, they just plain old forgot.
Now normally this is no big deal, you can just send a reminder and everyone’s back on track.
However, if forgetting becomes a habit or the scheduled event is very important, it can lead to some serious issues.
When forgetfulness is a pattern it can be a huge problem. Especially, if someone is constantly forgetting deadlines or appointments, it might be time to have a talk about time management.
When the scheduled event is super important, it can also lead to some big problems.
Another super common cause of conflict is over-committing.
This one’s a little more insidious because it often comes from a place of good intentions. You know the type, they want to help out with every project and say yes to every request.
But eventually, their over-zealousness catches up with them and they’re left with a pile of commitments they can’t possibly keep.
When this happens it not only reflects poorly on them, but it also causes problems for the rest of the team.
Now, there’s nothing wrong with your employees wanting to help out or being a team player. But it’s important to know your limits and to be realistic about what you can actually accomplish.
If you have a team member prone to over-committing, try to take a step back and only commit to what you know you can handle.
It’s better to under-promise and over-deliver, than the other way around.
Another common cause of scheduling conflicts is a breakdown in communication.
This can happen when team members are working remotely or in different time zones. It can also happen when there’s a lack of clarity around roles and responsibilities.
For example, if two team members think they’re responsible for the same task, they might both end up working on it simultaneously. Or if a team member is unclear about their deadlines, they might miss an important milestone.
Communication breakdowns can also happen when there’s a lack of transparency around the project schedule. If team members don’t have visibility into the entire project, they might make assumptions that lead to conflict.
Best Practices for Handling Scheduling Conflicts
Now that we’ve gone over some of the common causes of scheduling conflicts, let’s talk about how to handle them.
The best way to deal with conflict is to avoid it altogether. So here are a few best practices that will help you do just that.
Create a Master Schedule
One of the best ways to avoid scheduling conflicts is to create a master schedule.
This should be a central place where everyone can see what’s happening and when.
There are a ton of great project management tools out there that come with this feature, like Teamly.
But you can also create a simple spreadsheet or even just use Google Calendar.
The important thing is that everyone on the team has access to it and knows where to find it.
This way, there’s no confusion about who’s doing what and when things are supposed to happen.
Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
As we mentioned before, communication is key to avoiding scheduling conflicts.
So it’s important to have regular check-ins with your team to make sure everyone is on the same page.
This can be done through stand-ups, weekly meetings, or even just quick chats in the hallway.
The important thing is that you’re regularly checking in and that everyone feels like they can voice their concerns.
If there’s something going on that could lead to conflict, it’s better to catch it early and address it head-on.
Set Clear Expectations
Another way to avoid scheduling conflicts is to set clear expectations from the start.
This means being clear about deadlines, roles, and responsibilities.
It also means setting realistic expectations for what can be accomplished.
If team members know what’s expected of them, they’re less likely to overcommit or make assumptions that could lead to conflict.
So take the time to sit down with your team and make sure everyone is on the same page.
It might seem like a lot of work upfront, but it will save you a ton of headaches down the road.
Fight For Clarity In Your Plans
If you’re ever in a situation where there’s scheduling conflict, it’s important to fight for clarity in your plans.
This means being clear about what you need and when you need it.
It also means being willing to negotiate and make compromises.
For example, if you’re working on a project that has a tight deadline, you might need to be flexible on the scope.
Or if you’re working on a project with a lot of moving parts, you might need to be flexible on the timeline.
The important thing is to be clear about your needs and be willing to compromise.
Only commit to what you can realistically accomplish.
And don’t be afraid to ask for help if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
Scheduling conflicts are a fact of life. But with a little planning and communication, they can be easily avoided. So take the time to put these best practices into place and you’ll be well on your way to a conflict-free project.
Types of Scheduling Conflicts & How To Handle Them
For a moment let’s pretend you haven’t been following the best practices, and now you find yourself in the middle of one.
What do you do?
Well, it depends on the type of conflict you’re dealing with…
Type# 1 – Dependency Conflict
The first type of conflict is a dependency conflict. This happens when two tasks are dependent on each other but are scheduled for different times.
For example, let’s say you’re working on a website and you need the design before you can start coding.
But the designer is scheduled to start work after the coder.
This is a dependency conflict.
The best way to handle this type of conflict is to sit down with the team and figure out a new schedule that works for everyone.
It might mean shifting some deadlines around or changing the order of tasks.
But it’s important to be flexible and make sure everyone is on board with the new plan.
Type# 2 – Capacity Conflict
The second type of conflict is a capacity conflict. This happens when two tasks are scheduled for the same time but can’t be done at the same time.
For example, let’s say you’re working on a project and you need to meet with the client and work on the visuals at the same time.
But there’s only one person who can do both tasks.
This is a capacity conflict.
The best way to handle this type of conflict is to prioritize the tasks and figure out which one is more important.
If the client meeting is more important, then you might need to shift the visuals to another time.
But if the visuals are more important, then you might need to shift the client meeting.
It’s important to be flexible and make sure the most important tasks are getting done.
Type# 3 – Resource Conflicts
The third type of conflict is a resource conflict.
It’s very similar to Capacity Conflict but is more focused on the resources needed to complete the task.
For example, let’s say you’re working on a project and it requires you to use the company truck.
But the truck is already scheduled to be used by another team.
This is a resource conflict. And it happens a ton in large organizations.
There are two potential solutions here: one is a quick fix and the other is a long-term fix.
The quick fix is to find another resource that can be used instead of the truck. Maybe there’s a different truck that can be used or maybe the team can rent a van for the day.
The long-term fix is to figure out a way to schedule the use of resources so that there’s no conflict.
This might mean creating a new system or process for scheduling resource use.
Type #4 The Late Arrival
We’ve all been there- you’re in the middle of presenting your ideas and suddenly, someone walks in late. It can be super frustrating, especially if you were in the middle of a great flow.
This is a tough one, because on the one hand, you don’t want to be rude and stop in the middle of your presentation. But on the other hand, you also don’t want to give the late arrival preferential treatment.
When this happens it’s important to politely acknowledge the person and then continue with your presentation.
You can say something like, “Welcome, we’re just getting started. I’ll be happy to answer any questions you have at the end.”
This way, you’re being respectful but also making it clear that the person is not going to disrupt the rest of the meeting.
Type #5 – Scope Creep
Have you ever been in a situation where your project starts to get bigger and bigger and suddenly you’re doing twice the work you originally agreed to?
This is called scope creep and it’s a very frustrating situation to be in.
The best way to handle scope creep is to stay calm and try to get the client back on track.
First, remember that you are not obligated to do extra work just because a client asks for it. It’s important to set boundaries so that you don’t end up doing more than you agreed to.
Second, explain your position calmly and clearly. Sometimes all a client needs is a little explanation about why additional work would be a problem. They may not have realized that they were asking for too much.
Third, offer alternatives. If the client is insistent on additional work, see if there’s a way to compromise. Maybe you can do a smaller version of what they’re asking for or break the project into phases.
It’s important to be flexible but also to stick to your guns and make sure you’re getting paid for the work you agreed to do.
Navigating scheduling conflicts can be tricky, but it’s important to remember that there are solutions to every problem.
By staying calm and being willing to compromise, you can usually find a way to work through even the most challenging conflicts.
So next time you’re faced with a scheduling conflict, take a deep breath and remember that you’ve got this!