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Week 12. The Project Managers training blog by Paul Bradley SPOCE MD

At the start of our project, we scope out what the deliverables and what the success and quality criteria are going to be. With almost all of project marathon scope complete, Paul discusses how the completion of any project almost always involves some form of conflict management, even if this is a positive one.

18th September 2022 - Marathon Day minus 2 weeks


Scope management, Conflict and Negotiation

Time seems to be flying and there are just two weeks left until the London Marathon.

I was pleased with the previous week's training - hitting 24 miles in 3 days had put me back on track. This week was the time to have one more push to before the tapering begins. Tapering is basically where the training is reduced to help rest the legs and get ready for race day. By the time the tapering starts, all but the final output will have been completed.

All good projects have a scope defined

All good projects should have its scope clearly defined at the start. This means identifying everything that will be delivered in the project. The main benefit to committing time to identify the scope, is so we can understand the full extent of the project and use this to establish and manage success and quality criteria. This enables us to manage changes to the original requirement.

My Project Marathon scope

When identifying the scope of a project, a useful technique is to break-down the final output. As an example, a breakdown of my London Marathon project would look something like this:

  • Fundraising - 100% complete

    • Fundraising plan

    • Social media / blogs

    • Training course

  • Training - 95% complete

    • Training plan

    • Running training

      • Long runs

      • Tempo

      • Threshold

    • Short runs

      • Quick runs

      • Slow runs

    • Tapering runs

    • Core training

      • Planking

      • Stretching

  • Nutrition - 100% complete

    • Diet

    • Hydration

      • Electrolytes

      • Water

    • In run energy

      • Revvie energy strips

      • Voom bars

      • Energy gels

  • Attire - 100% complete

    • Training shoes

      • Nike Alphafly

      • Nike Vaporfly

    • Clothing

      • Vests

      • Shorts

      • Socks

  • Equipment - 100% complete

    • Garmin

    • Strava

  • Travel and accommodation - 100% complete

    • Hotel

    • Transport

    • Pre-night restaurant


So with just two weeks to go, the overall preparation is 99% delivered, with just a small amount of training to go, plus the 26.2 miles Marathon to run.

This weeks plan, when things don't go exactly to plan


Back to this week's training plan, and things were starting to go awry. With the 24 miles being completed late in in the previous week, I decided to rest on the Monday. On Tuesday, I had a 7-hour return car journey, followed by a sad personal issue on the Wednesday morning.  The last thing on my mind was to go for a run. Thursday was my birthday and we went out to mark the occasion and to distract ourselves from the week's events. Coach said we need to get out and train on Friday and so arranged a 15 mile run around the bay.

Friday morning was an early start. I had planned to run 6 miles before meeting up with Coach, and then he was to join me for the final 9 miles. That plan was soon to change at the 14 mile mark.

Conflict management is an integral part of running projects


Conflict management is a topic that I teach in my project management training, but fortunately something I never need to use when I'm out with Coach. The 'Thomas-Kilmann conflict mode instrument' is a well established model which examines the different stances people take in a conflict situation.

  • Competing - High assertiveness/Low cooperativeness

    • I am right, you are wrong.

    • Used to force the other party into submission.

    • Results in a Win-Lose situation.

  • Collaborating - High assertiveness/High cooperativeness

    • Let's work together.

    • Used for problem solving and sharing ideas.

    • Results in a Win-Win situation.

  • Avoiding - Low assertiveness/Low cooperativeness

    • After you - no, after you.

    • Ignore conflicts and hope they disappear.

    • Used if the disruption is not worth it.

  • Accommodating - Low assertiveness/High cooperativeness

    • You are right, I am wrong.

    • Giving way to the other party.

    • Used to help maintain a relationship.

  • Compromising - Mid assertiveness/Mid cooperativeness

    • Both parties split the difference.

    • Finding a satisfactory conclusion.

    • Used when collaboration is not successful.

Typically, in most situations, I tend to veer towards Collaborating or Compromising. Half way through mile 14 though, Coach told me that he wanted us to do another 3 miles. My stance initially turned to Avoiding, just as Coach's changed to Competing. Very soon I decided to pull my head out of the sand, and switched to Accommodating, knowing that Coach was right with the need to cover more miles on what would be my longest run yet.

Another reason for taking the Accommodating stance was that, given the late notice coupled with my state of having just run 14 miles, I was in no position for negotiating. One of the most important steps in negotiation is the preparation. When entering into negotiation, you need to plan your strategy; know your walk-away points; design your communication mode; understand different views. I knew that the 'zone of possible agreement' (ZOPA) was between 15 and 18 miles, but I was resigned to 'Competing' the higher.

Here are five typical steps of a good negotiation procedure:

  1. Understand the need for negotiation'

  2. Prepare for negotiation'

  3. Discussion, dialogue and debate'

  4. Confirm and document each others views'

  5. Check actions against the agreement'

You may need to cycle round '2, 3 and 4' a number of times to arrive at an agreeable solution.

So, 18.5 miles it was, with Coach pushing me every step of that last mile. I felt good afterwards though, knowing that I had another long run completed. The following Monday I completed another 10 miles, meaning that the week finished with just the 18.5 miles, but with 28.5 miles in 4 days. Now with 2 weeks to go, the training will be easier as I wind down in the tapering phase.

About Paul Bradley

Paul Bradley is a leading authority on project management methods and techniques. With over 25 years in the industry, Paul's knowledge and experience is respected by clients, accreditation bodies and training organisations globally. Paul has been the Managing Director of SPOCE since 2005, and is an accredited trainer for PRINCE2®, APM and AgilePM®. He is a regular presenter at seminars, providing information on project implementation drawn from his expertise as an accredited Axelos P3M3® Consultant. He has had two books published to enhance the training and use of PRINCE2®. Paul is also an active member and co founder of the renown RunFAR® initiative that raises both awareness and funds for charitable causes. The #RunFAR mission is to run for a reason and share a passion for running with others. 

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