Conflict reduction in cross-functional projects in South African automotive firms

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Journal Title

Acta Commercii

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University of Cape Town

Purpose: The purpose of this article is to explore whether certain organisational control mechanisms can reduce conflict associated with cross-functional projects. Methodology: This is an exploratory study and individuals who had recently engaged in a cross-functional process improvement or change implementation project at automotives firm in South Africa were surveyed. The information collected from the survey was analysed using exploratory factor analysis and correlation analysis. Findings: The results of this study indicate that of the three control mechanisms examined, formalisation in project structure had the strongest association with a reduction in conflict. Reward systems that reward both the team as well as the individual were also found to have a significant association with a reduction in conflict. Use of performance measurement systems aimed at achieving strategic alignment did not have an association with conflict reduction in the organisation. Implications: These findings yield the following implications for management practice. Firstly managers need to be conscious that initiatives such as process improvement projects that require individuals from different functions to work together can often result in conflict. Secondly, this conflict can be reduced by formalizing roles and responsibilities and decreasing ambiguity in the project. Thirdly, design of reward systems that incentivise both the cross-functional team as well as the individual can also help to reduce conflict. Contribution and value: This study has shed light on the role of certain organisational control mechanisms on reducing conflict associated with cross-functional projects. It has also contributed to our understanding of how formalisation in project structure influences conflict in comparison to how performance measurement and reward systems influence conflict.