M. P. Follett occupies a prominent place among the contributors to administrative thoughts, though she is less known to the public and even to some writers and teachers of administration.
It goes to her credit for initiating studies on industrial groups which had seldom been subject matter of study by political or social scientists.
She evolved principles of human association and organization specifically in terms of industry and convinced businessmen of the practicability of these principles in dealing with current problems.
Associates of scientific management schools like Fayol, Urwick, Oliver Sheldon were influenced by her. Peter Drucker, the management theoretician, called her ‘the prophet of management’ and his ‘guru’.
Folett gives very high importance to the problems of conflict in the organisation. In her celebrated paper ‘Constructive Conflict’, she advances the idea that conflict should be regarded as a normal process in the organization. It is not a wasteful outbreak of incompatibilities, but a normal process by which socially valuable differences register themselves for the enrichment of all concerned.
To Follett, conflict is neither good nor bad and has to be considered without passion or ethical prejudgment. Because of individual differences, conflict is unavoidable in human organizations. Since conflict is unavoidable, instead of criticizing it as something bad, one should try to capitalize on it and make use of it to do something good.
The question is how to make conflict work constructively. Follett says there are 4 ways of resolving conflict – domination, compromise, manipulation and integration.
While pointing out advantages of integration method to resolve the conflicts, Follett is not unaware of difficulties involved in achieving it. Follett does not think that it is always possible to achieve integration. It is often difficult to say whether a decision reflects true integration or something of a compromise. However, she asserts that the desire of the people to solve their problems through integration in itself is encouraging. If we are conscious of its advantage, we can try integration instead of compromise or domination.
Bases of integration:
1. The first step to achieve integration is to bring the differences into the open instead of suppressing them. This is necessary to identify and understand real issues involved in a conflict.
2. Second step is to break demands of both parties in their constituent parts (individual issues).
3. Third step is anticipation of conflict. Anticipation does not mean avoidance of conflict but responding to it differently. To Follett, integration is like a game of chess. Anticipation of response by itself is not enough; there is need for preparation for response as well.
Response is of two types – circular and linear. A good example of circular response is game of Tennis. Circular behavior, as the basis of integration, is the key to constructive conflict.
Obstacles to integration:
1. Integration requires high intelligence, keen perception, discrimination and a brilliant inventiveness. As long as intelligence and inventiveness is not there, resolving conflict through integration would be difficult.
2. Another obstacle is people’s habit of enjoying domination. To many, integration is a tame affair. It does not give them thrill of conquest or satisfaction of victory.
3. Theorizing the problem instead of taking them as proposed activities or practical issues needing immediate solutions is another obstacle. Intellectual agreement does not alone solve the conflict.
4. Language used is another obstacle. Sometimes language used creates new conflicts which were not present earlier.
5. Another obstacle is undue influence of leaders.
6. Finally, the most important of all obstacles to integration is lack of training. In most cases there is a tendency to ‘push through’ or ‘force through’ the plans based on preconceived notions. Therefore, she pleads that there should be courses to teach the art of cooperative thinking, to master the technique of integration, both for workers and managers.
Some appreciation please!