Blogs By
Ralph H. Kilmann

Addressing the four timeless topics: conflict,
change, consciousness, and transformation

The culture of a family, community, or organization partially determines whether a given conflict mode (particularly collaborating) can be used effectively. In this discussion, I will briefly outline how the actual cultural norms can first be identified and then changed into desired norms -- so that all conflict modes can be used effectively....

People often ask me to clarify compromising and collaborating, especially since these two modes involve both people getting their needs met. In particular, people often use the word “compromise” to indicate that they have successfully resolved the matter at hand. The key distinction concerns whose needs get met (and to what extent) as a result of using a particular conflict mode....

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Ian Mitroff and I developed a systematic methodology for uncovering -- and then revising -- the hidden assumptions behind decisions and actions. This same methodology can provide new ways of thinking about and then choosing the right conflict mode for a given situation....

The immediate benefit of taking the TKI and reviewing your results (which includes a personalized report with the online version of the assessment) is AWARENESS: You learn which conflict modes you might be using too much (usually out of habit) and which ones you might be using too little (since you have not been exposed to the many positive uses of your underutilized modes)....

In the 1960s, three instruments assessed the five conflict modes: Blake and Mouton (1964), Lawrence and Lorsch (1967), and Hall (1969). So why did Ken Thomas and I develop a fourth instrument to measure conflict-handling behavior? In the early 1970s, both Ken and I were acutely aware of the potential social desirability response bias in all self-report assessments: The tendency for people to respond to test items in order to look good to themselves or others (whether this bias is conscious or unconscious) versus accurately disclosing their actual behavior or interests....

I’d like to explore a rather atypical application of the TKI model, one that often gets overlooked. Indeed, we have a tendency to focus on conflict “out there” (interpersonal or workplace conflict), but not conflict “in here” (intrapersonal conflict or what has been called inter-psychic conflict). But those same five conflict modes can be used to examine how a person addresses incompatible needs and goals of different parts of the inner self....

Every member in an organization can be viewed as a problem manager, the nature of which can be usefully categorized into five steps: (1) sensing problems (noting if a gap exists between “what is” and “what could or should be” breaks a threshold of acceptability), (2) defining problems (uncovering the root cause of the gap), (3) deriving solutions (ways and means to close the gap), (4) implementing solutions (putting the chosen solution to effective use in a living, breathing organization), and (5) evaluating outcomes (re-assessing if the gap is still beyond a threshold of acceptability and, if it is, determining...