The best way to avoid conflicts is to establish a good group dynamic at the beginning of the project, create a group contract and follow procedures for meetings and tasks. If problems do arise there are a number of ways you could address them.
Problem: One student dominates in meetings and decision making
Solution: Structure conversations to ensure that all group members contribute. Create an agenda before a meeting and schedule time to deal with each matter. When the group is generating ideas, invite everyone in the group to offer one suggestion. You could use the 6 'thinking hats' strategy or the balance sheet strategy to move away from personalities and focus on perspectives.
Also, try to make collaborative decision, for example, by voting on issues.
Page 30 outlines the 6 thinking hats strategy and the balance sheet strategy.
Problem: The group can't agree on the time, place or frequency of meetings.
Solution: Collaboration involves compromise. Instead of letting the dominant personality 'win', start by inviting all possible solutions to this issue. Separate commitments (lectures, part-time work) from preferences (morning, afternoon, evening, weekend) to get a clearer picture of when people are available. Think creatively: could one member Skype in to the meeting? Could you do some tasks in sub-groups and come back together later?
Problem: One member is not pulling their weight on the project.
Solution: Try to identify the problem early, as it will be easier to deal with. Revisit your group contract together to remind everyone of the commitment they have made to the project. If necessary start to gather documents which can clearly indicate the issue, for example, create a sign in sheet for meetings. If someone is not pulling their weight, it is likely that there is some underlying issue: they may have problems external to the group or feel like their contribution is undervalued. Try to be professional and adaptable, offering solutions rather than accusations. If the problem persists, you may need to consult your tutor. Your tutor will expect to see evidence that you have already tried to resolve the issue internally.
Problem: The quality of the contribution by one or two members of the group is low.
Solution: One of the benefits of group work is that you can learn from each other. To keep a balance in consistency, regularly peer-review the contributions of every member. The objective is not to punish individual members, but to offer constructive feedback which validates everybody's contribution and helps them improve the quality. If you are concerned that the low quality is related to the amount of time others are committing to the project, then establish as a group the expected amount of hours to be spent on tasks in between meetings.
Problem: Group members have fallen out, argue or don't talk to each other any more.
Solution: Managing the dynamic between different personalities is the biggest challenge when working in a group. Remind the group that you are engaged in a professional activity. You are not expected to be friends with each other, however everyone IS expected to communicate constructively and professionally, share information openly, and put differences aside to complete the task. Everyone in the group can influence the atmosphere, so try to be a role model for good communication, rather than getting drawn into conflict yourself.