Project Mediation Thesis

 The topic of my thesis is project mediation. I chose this topic because I strongly believe that mediation is the best tool to resolve conflict in a timely and cost-effective way, as far as I know time- and cost-effectiveness are beneficial to projects. The Mediator can support collaboration and constructive conflict management. Collaboration and communication are crucial during the project because project members have to communicate with each other and complete the project. 

Structure of thesis:  

            1.         Theoretical Background: (1) the examination of secondary data, (2) Definitions. 

            2.         Presentation of primary data and conduct interviews.

            3.         Analysis, Results, Discussion and Conclusion.  

 

 1.   Theoretical background

First, I presented the scientific background and terminology of project management (definition of the project concept, criteria of successful projects and project typology). I analyzed several project definitions and found three fix points that are defined as basic project definitions. These attributes are: all projects have a purpose, time limitation and outcome(s). A successful project is characterized by: (1) completion in a timely manner, (2) high quality of outcome and (3) fixed cost. Project typology is based on finance, complexity and participation.

Secondly, I defined the concept of mediation and its attributes. In addition, I presented general information about alternative dispute resolution. I described the similarities and differences between mediation arbitration and Dispute Adjudication Board as well. 

I explored the impact of mediation on risk mitigation. I presented legal environment in the European Union (EU) and in Hungary concerning the subject. The focuses of my thesis are methodology and applicability of mediation. I demonstrated several conflicts in four different EU supported projects in Hungary. 

2. My research

In Hungary there are a lot of EU projects which means EU is the main financial sponsor. These projects are giga because of the amount of money, the final product, and multiple parties involved which could be departments, companies, stakeholders. Usually these projects can not be finished on time, or the final cost or product are not the intended ones but no one understands the reason behind it. In my thesis I focused on multiplayer project, where more than two parties, departments or companies participated. My research aim was the exploration of these conflicts or reasons. 

My hypothesis was that the success of a project depends on hidden conflicts. Hidden conflicts can damage projects but these damages could be reduced by mediation techniques.

Main research points:

            •           Conflicts can generate project damages

            •           Project damages can be handled and reduced by mediation techniques 

            •           Project damages can not be reduced by mediation techniques

            •           Project damages can be reduced partly

 I face on my primary  data, that project mediation topic is new, as far as I know nobody researched it before me. Which meant I made an explorative research, that was one reason I applied qualitative method to explore the area. The data gathering based on a half structured interview technique. I made 6 deep interviews which had 15 fixed questions besides that; interviewers could speak openly what they thought and what was important for them. Structure of interviews:  There were 3 parts. First I asked about their position. Second about the project risk. Lastly the interviewers choose an specific project that could describe me and could tell me about in more details. Each interview took between 1 and 1,5 hours. It was hard to find people who could tell me real situations and their own thought, felt comfortable and safe enough to say the truth, or project bias. However I found that the main difficulty of these 4 giga projects was that people were afraid to speak openly, because they did not trust me, It seemed to me they really cared about what they could tell me.  As far I saw in all projects the main problem also was distrust between each other, miscommunication and misunderstanding during the project.  However this is a very sensitive topic (particularly in Hungary) , because people do not like to speak about problems or conflicts, they think it is wrong and unsuccessful things. So they pretend everything is good and goes well. 

3.  Consequences and reason based on my 6 interview analysis

            •           The project could not be finished on time: 

The problems and conflicts were detected and showed in first period of the project. 

Reason: misunderstanding of content, lack of information flow, interpreted differently division of task, different technical specification. They mentioned environmental factors

            •           Project damages:

Could be increasing project cost, project can not be finished at all or just partially, getting a partially refund to EU. 

            •           Conflict between parties:  

Behalf of research I can determine that every level can be created conflicts, the most typical conflict with project managers. Respondents mentioned conflict can be created at all levels, even intended or extended.

            •           Hidden conflicts gave rise to bigger damages

            •           Disposition of resolving conflicts: 

The disposition of resolving conflict proportionally increases project risks, which means execution fails. Nobody wants to lose, and take part in a failed project.

            •           Third neutral person:

All interviewed people (All interviewed people ruled out external neutral third-party to assist with conflict) thought there is no possibility and chance that a mediator or a 3 neutral-party could be involved in the project conflict. The reasons were: hierarchy of the company, hidden conflicts, impartiality into question.

             Based on the interviews I concluded that use of mediation techniques would significantly reduce the conflict potential and project damages. Taking everything into consideration mainly that Hungarian people do not trust a third party, my conclusion was that project managers should improve mediation skills, therefore I suggested mediation training for them.