Conflicts are an unavoidable aspect of agile methodology. Rather than trying to avoid them (which is nearly impossible), the goal is to effectively resolve conflicts while maintaining an atmosphere of trust and comfortable working conditions for all team members. Anastasiia Musil, our esteemed Scrum Master, provides valuable insights on how to navigate conflicts within an agile team.
Table of Contents
Understanding the Nature of Conflict
At its core, team conflicts stem from disagreements in approaches. Unlike traditional work arrangements, agile teams are more prone to internal conflicts due to their self-organizing nature. Since there isn’t a single decision-making role in agile teams, reaching consensus on different approaches and viewpoints becomes essential. In addition to establishing effective communication processes, Scrum Masters and project managers must consider various aspects of conflict management.
The 5 Levels of Conflict
Lyssa Adkins coined the concept of the five levels of conflict in agile methodology. These levels are:
- Problem to Solve
- World War
Expert Insights into Conflict Resolution
Q: How can conflicts be minimized when forming a team? Is it even possible?
Anastasiia: Conflicts are an integral part of team development. Avoiding conflicts entirely isn’t advisable. Let’s explore Tuckman’s theory of team development. After the initial stage of forming, teams often enter the storming phase, where individuals reveal their true selves and conflicts arise. During this stage, the Scrum Master’s primary task is to facilitate transparency—ensuring everyone’s voice is heard and opinions are exchanged freely.
This stage lays the groundwork for establishing team rules, which become the foundation for conflict resolution. However, it’s worth noting that conflicts involving toxic behavior do occur. Mature teams, however, possess a high level of self-management. Members are capable of providing timely feedback or even parting ways with those who disrupt the team’s norms.
Q: What are some effective strategies for resolving conflicts within a team?
Anastasiia: Open communication is key. If team members can openly provide feedback to one another, they can work through conflicts on their own. As a Scrum Master, I organized a leadership development club within one of my teams, where we read books together. One particular book, “No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention,” emphasizes the importance of a culture of radical openness. We embraced the concept of providing honest feedback and applied these principles beyond our club’s boundaries.
In situations where a team member dislikes someone’s behavior and becomes toxic or demotivated, it is crucial to identify the hidden conflict that can lead to further issues. Sometimes, I facilitate anonymous feedback, passing it on to another person as a recommendation. However, the ideal approach is to teach individuals how to communicate with each other, even in challenging situations. We often rehearse conversations, search for constructive wording, and express our thoughts.
Conflicts are manageable issues. It’s crucial to detect them on time by establishing open communication channels and fostering a trusting atmosphere within the team.
“Conflicts are necessary to set boundaries and create the rules that will define the team’s behavior in the future. My role as a Scrum Master is to help the team move past confrontation, initiate conversations, and find solutions to problems.” – Anastasiia Musil
The Rocketech Philosophy
Conflict management holds a vital role in agile software development, often more significant than initially perceived. At Rocketech, our team comprises exclusively of middle+ and senior-level specialists. While experienced professionals demonstrate high levels of self-organization and create mature teams, differences in opinions and working styles can still arise.
For this reason, resolving internal team conflicts by adhering to Scrum best practices becomes a priority in our daily operations. We acknowledge common conflicts that emerge in Scrum teams and swiftly and efficiently address them. This approach allows us to embrace the positive aspects of conflict resolution and ensure our teams’ performance and well-being remain unaffected.