#77: Scrum - Conflict

Continuing my mini-series on the Scrum Framework, I look at conflict.

We commonly have negative contentions about conflict; but in this episode, I talk about why healthy conflict is so important for our teams to produce the best work.

Or listen at:

Published: Wed, 10 Mar 2021 18:19:53 GMT



Hello and welcome back to the Better ROI from Software Development podcast.

In this episode, I'm going to continue my mini series looking at Scrum.

In Episode 73, I provided you a primer to Scrum. In episode 74, I talked about the theories and values. In Episode 75, I talked about some common problems. And in episode 76, I talked about the Definition of Done.

In this episode, I want to talk about conflict and how you should expect Scrum to produce conflict.

You might be thinking conflict is bad - surely this is something we don't want. Conflict normally comes with quite negative connotations - surely we want everybody to get along, surely we should be trying to remove conflict. Conflict becomes very scary.

However, we should really be thinking about conflict as being useful. Conflict, as being good and something that we should be welcoming into our teams.

The right sort of conflict allows a variety of ideas to surface. It allows ideas to come from different points of view rather than just coming from the loudest voice in the room.

Conflict allows those ideas then to be challenged and thus refined and improved.

An environment which allows for constructive conflict, increases the team engagement. They all get to have their say - and even if a different path is taken, an individual knows that they've had the ability to be able to speak their mind - for the rest of the team to listen to that, and for people to understand their point of view - even if they don't actually take that direction.

So what I'm talking about here is an openness to the conflict, a safety within the team to be able to have that level of conversation, that level of argument, that level of disagreement, that level of challenge over the path that the product is taking, how it's being built and how they work as a team.

A team should expect give and take. You should, as an individual, be expected to listen to other people's point of view as well as expressing your own. That way we gain the most from the team.

We want to encourage different world views. Each individual within our team should have their own views. On the world, and the product, the fit of the product within the world, and how we going about delivering that product by enabling a level of openness and conflict.

We can make sure those ideas are surfaced and can be discussed openly, frankly, and for the value of everyone involved.

And this all makes for better teams by having that ability to openly have a conversation, an argument, a conflict about ideals, about how things are achieved is healthy. It produces good outcomes.

By providing the autonomy and the responsibility to the team, Scrum encourages that - it encourages the team to want to be the best that they can.

As such, they should be coming to any work they do, any meeting, any conversation, any activity, wanting to do the best they can at any given point in time. They should want to have that autonomy, that ownership and that responsibility.

And Scrum encourages that respect to listen and consider other people's opinions, not just to bring your own to the table, but to listen with a critical mind to other people's ideas and opinions.

It also encourages the maturity to agree.

Now, we may go into a conflict situation where we are discussing something that we may have very different ideas about what is correct, but we should also have the maturity at the end of that conversation to make a decision. We should at the end of that conversation, even if it doesn't go our way, we as a team have decided to go a certain direction.

And there should be the maturity to accept that - and then work to deliver that.

Time may tell that that was the wrong choice. But for all intents and purposes, the team worked towards it because that's what they've agreed.

Remember, you probably spend more time with your co-workers than you do with your family, you should have that level of safety within that scrum team where they can have open conflict, open discussion, open arguments about what is correct, what is right, what is the most appropriate step forward.

But at the end of it, as for a family, then coalesce around the agreed direction. To then work to deliver what they've agreed, what they've understood and what they've expected.

In this episode, I've talked about conflict.

For me, as I say, conflict can be scary and people try to avoid it by avoiding it.

But there's a real danger that you're actually limiting ideas, you're limiting the quieter voices in the room, you're limiting people being prepared to put opposing views forward for sake of upsetting someone, for the sake of treading on people's toes.

Rather, the team should care enough to accept conflict, to accept constructive argument as being not only acceptable, but desirable in how the team works on a day to day basis.

And why?

Because a team cares about what they're doing and how they're doing it.

Thank you very much for taking the time to listen to this podcast. I look forward to speaking to you again next week.