Thomas–Kilmann: 40 years of resolving conflict

History of the TKI® instrument

The Thomas–Kilmann Conflict Mode Instrument (TKI®) was developed to help people deal more effectively with conflict situations, and is based on 40 years of research and implementation by the authors.

Ken Thomas and Ralph KilmannThe TKI was developed by Ken Thomas, PhD and Ralph Kilmann, PhD, both professors of management at the University of Pittsburgh. Inspired by the Managerial Grid Model of Blake and Mouton, the two researchers developed a neat, accessible model that people at any level in an organisation could use to deal with conflict quickly and effectively. Since their early work, their model has become the leading measure of conflict-handling modes, backed up by hundreds of research studies and selling over four million copies.

The Thomas–Kilmann conflict resolution model is a way of boiling down a complex theory of conflict styles into a format that can easily understood and implemented by everyone. It rests on the assumption that although most people will ‘default’ to one particular conflict-handling style, this is not always the best approach. Depending on the situation – how important the outcome is and how much energy a person has to invest – they can choose from a wider range of styles to resolve the conflict.



Thomas and Kilmann both remain popular speakers on the subject of conflict resolution, and their ideas and products are very much in demand. The TKI’s application has been supported by research by others into topics ranging from leadership to emotional intelligence. Ralph Kilmann is also a guest blogger on The Myers-Briggs Company’s blog, PersonalityMatters.

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