G: A very complex problem with a low to moderate level of conflict

The level of complexity is high, and even though the conflict is not very serious, there is a risk of further escalation.

Square G

The issue is very complex, but the tension level is still relatively low. The challenge lies in understanding the complexity and taking into account all important perspectives. Transparency, participation, and openness are important to avoid any affected party feeling excluded. We recommend a dialogue process in which the perspectives are inventoried and carefully planned. If there is no special competence within the organization, we recommend that you enlist the help of someone who has experience in designing and implementing complex issues.


There are several risks that can increase the level of conflict:

  • When affected groups or individuals are overlooked or excluded.
    when engagement is seen as cumbersome
  • when the issue is treated as if it were simple (or complicated) – in other words if only standard planning and non-inclusive decision-making processes are used.
  • when other issues – related to the problem – are not considered relevant (complex issues affect and are in turn affected by one or more other issues)
  • when there is a lack of flexibility in the organization (in very complex issues, conditions can change overnight).
  • When timeframes are too tight (complex issues are characterized by unpredictability).
  • when initial cost estimates are not communicated with a warning: the project may be more expensive than estimated.
  • Situations with a high level of complexity usually contain some tension. If well managed, the conflict level can remain low. There is, however, a risk of the conflict escalating.
  • There is always the risk of treating a complex problem as if it were simple or complicated. Problems with this level of complexity cannot be “solved” by simplifying it or excluding significant aspects or stakeholders. 
General suggestions to manage the conflict
  • Establish a mandate to work with the problem from the appropriate authority.
  • A competent mediator or facilitator with experience in complex problems should be engaged.
  • Establish contact with the parties you know are involved. Check with them whether there are aspects of the problem or other parties you are unaware of. Continuously update the actor map.
  • Identify individuals who could assist with establishing contact with key stakeholders.
  • Ensure that all involved parties know that a serious attempt will be made to resolve the problem collaboratively.
  • Creating trust is important. Consulting parties that are involved and keeping them informed are excellent ways to do this, even if you might feel that it is not necessary.
  • Some stakeholders might resist being involved in the process. Negotiating to understand their reasons for resistance and attempt to persuade them to participate might be necessary.
  • Be aware of the risk of opposition, resistance or conflict within the stakeholder organisations. If such exists, deal with it through dialogue/mediation quickly.
  • Keep a record of all conversations and actions taken.


  • treating the problem as if it were simple: that is with bureaucratic decisions and suggestions of simple solutions. The parties need to be involved in resolving this problem. You cannot do it for them.
  • making one-sided decisions that exclude the parties or in some way limit the way in which the problem is addressed. Always seek to consult on decisions that you believe might affect the problem (positively or negatively)
  • starting a process if you are not prepared to participate if necessary and honour decisions that arise from the process.
  • tension building within your own organisation. This is common in complex problems, particularly when tension increases. Ideally you will ensure good, open communication in advance, but there is no guarantee that this will be the case. Do not ignore signs of tension between staff and deal with these quickly.
  • cosmetic consultation: that is asking people what they think or what they want without being willing to engage in an honest dialogue with them and take them seriously.