37signals co-founder Jason Fried published an article in INC. titled Managing Conflict. It’s a good look at conflict and how it can be beneficial if managed properly. He also gives a few examples of how they actually handle conflict management. One thing that stood out for me was:
…we try to get real with things as quickly as possible. For us, real means something we can all look at — a picture, a sketch, something visual. Until everyone’s looking at the same thing, it can be hard to reach actual agreement. Five people may read the same paragraph, but they often interpret the words differently. But when you look at a picture, a mockup, people are more likely to reach agreement — or valid disagreement. Whichever way they go, at least we know where they actually stand, not where we think they stand. Pointing at something real cuts through to the truth.
I agree with this wholeheartedly. At Site9, one of our mantras is: “prototype early, prototype often.” It can be more beneficial to quickly build small sections of a larger prototype in order to answer questions as they arise rather than hold all questions till the complete prototype is finished. Some ideas need a lot of structure in order to make decisions, but a lot of ideas don’t. If you want to show what a nav bar will look like, or some logo treatments, you don’t need the whole page. Better to get the ideas out and in front of people and make decisions.
I recommend reading the whole article as it has a some great advice on how to handle the times when you can’t avoid conflict and you have to choose one side or the other.