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Conflict Resolution: A Critical Part of Global Supply Chains

There are good reasons why a formal process for conflict resolution is necessary in the context of supply chains, says Stewart L. Levine, founder of ResolutionWorks. The very nature of supply chains, with their panoply of internal and external partners, gives rise to conflict. What's needed, he says, "is a conversational process whereby you can teach people how to move through conflict."

It's human nature for individuals to get "entrenched about the rightness of what they're advocating," notes Levine. Strong emotions can block the resolution of critical disagreements. A cosmetic solution, which fails to address underlying issues, virtually ensures that "conflict on a relationship level is going to come back to bite you."

Another reason for implementing conflict-resolution procedures within the supply chain is the formality they bring to an environment that is increasingly being dominated by "virtual" relationships. In the age of the internet, says Levine, it's vital to have in place "a consistent, formally accepted and previously agreed-on process."

In approaching the issue of conflict resolution, individuals need to become "emotionally intelligent, conscious communicators." Such a trait requires the ability to work well across geographic boundaries, and understand the differences between cultures. "People need to realize that what they say innocently could create havoc on the other side," according to Levine.

Within a complex global supply chain, there's no alternative to acquiring skills of communication and conflict resolution. "You can put your head in the sand, cross your fingers and pray that nothing huge will happen," says Levine. "Or you can recognize that inherent in the process, you're going to have conflict. So why don't we realize that on the front end, and agree to a process to move through it?"

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Keywords: Collaboration & Integration, Business Process Management, Customer Relationship Mgmt., Sourcing & Procurement Solutions, Supplier Relationship Management, SC Planning & Optimization, Global Supply Chain Management, Supply Chain Analysis & Consulting, HR & Labor Management, Supply Chain Security & Risk Mgmt, Business Strategy Alignment, Conflict-Resolution Strategies and Procedures

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