Many companies have started implementing Scrum and have embraced the Agile Methodology as it provides all the solutions that the companies used to face when implementing the traditional software methodologies. Scrum has become one of the most adopted Agile frameworks as it is reliable, easy to use, and lightweight. Small scaled companies can easily process the product development through Scrum without any hassle. Scrum is not only limited to the information technology industry, but also many other industries such as aerospace, banking, and finance, government-related projects, architecture, healthcare, etc. The Scrum Team consisting of the Scrum Master, the Product Owner, and Developers handles all the operations of the product. To complete the product, there has to be smooth communication and collaboration between the members of the Scrum. But what would happen if there are conflicts between the team members? Work could not be completed as planned and the company couldn’t deliver the business value and deliver the product as promised. In this article, we discuss the various ways of resolving conflicts in a Scrum Team to increase their efficiency and deliver value to the product.
What is Scrum?
Scrum framework is one of the most popular frameworks in Agile Methodology. It is an iterative and incremental approach towards product development and delivery. In this development method, the value is released in time-boxed periods called Sprints which last for a maximum of 30 days. The Scrum Team consisting of the Scrum Master, the Product Owner, and Developers. The Product Owner envisions the product and plans a product roadmap based on the requirements of the customers and the users. The Scrum Master is a true leader who helps the developers to deliver products as discussed in the sprint planning meetings. The team develops a minimum viable product at the beginning of the product and later adds increments to the product in a period manner. These increments are based on the feedback of the customer such as bug fixes and new features that are planned by the customer.
Conflict in the Scrum Team
The Scrum Team consists of Developers who have to collaborate to complete a product. Apart from the main responsibility of the Scrum Master and Product Owner, there are other skills such as Business Analyst and Architect which would be taken by one of the Developers. Often, when a group is made and people work with one another, there would be differences of opinion. Also, Scrum believes in promoting self-organization and management which gives ownership and responsibility to each of the members. When we analyze the situation that arises when these things are implemented, there are higher chances of conflict between the team members. Conflicts also mean that the team is actively participating in the product development. The Scrum Master gets a picture of the impediments faced by the team through the conflicts that are arising in the team. This helps them to identify and solve the hurdles that the Developers face. However, these conflicts need to be resolved and the team should come to the right solution otherwise these conflicts could lead to bigger problems as the work could be delivered leading to the dissatisfaction of the customer and a decrease in business value.
How to Resolve Conflicts in a Scrum Team?
In 1972, Thomas-Kilmann introduced various styles of conflict resolution which is applicable for all types of conflicts that occur in every group. These styles are not specific to the Scrum Team, it could be applied to any group which needs to coordinate with each other to get a particular work done. These conflict resolution styles should be understood clearly before strategizing to handle disputes among the developers. The five conflict resolution styles are Competing, Accommodating, Avoiding, Compromising, and collaborating. Let us understand a few ways of resolving conflicts in a Scrum Team.
One of the best ways to resolve a conflict is by giving personal coaching to the members of the team. As a Scrum Master, it is very important to have a good relationship with the team members and guide them when they go through any impediments. The Scrum Master has to ensure that the team members have a good relationship among themselves. Scrum Masters are true leaders who serve the Scrum Team and the larger organization. They have to treat the members politely and calmly and have to build mutual respect. The Scrum Master has to be constructive while addressing any problem and while separating the people associated with the problem. The leader has to remember that it is the team that is conflicting towards a specific problem and not conflicting towards one another.
Paying heed to the root cause and listening carefully and acting would go a long way. Any conflict should be discussed with other team members such that they welcome ideas that could tackle the problem. The Scrum Master has to act whenever a conflict has arisen such that the process is smooth and hassle-free. By personally coaching the team members and understanding their concerns for a particular problem, many conflicts can be resolved. It is important to give some time for the team members to figure out a way to work out, But when the conflict is not going anywhere and starts affecting the product quality and timelines, talking and understanding the matters and constructive criticism would be very effective. Here are four steps to resolve conflicts and mentor the team to make the best out of the time and help the team collaborate.
Step 1: Scene Setting
Initially, you have to understand the root cause of the conflict within the team. The disparity between the two people or two groups should be known before taking any action. Usually, Scrum Masters react aggressively towards the team members in times of conflict in hope of conflict resolution on their own. But this may suppress the problem for time being but would not resolve any underlying issues. The Scrum Master has to guide the team and make them understand that the conflict is a common problem in the workplace and can be resolved using an assertive approach. It is the leader’s job to ensure the team members that their issues would be heard and would be resolved.
Step 2: Information Gathering
Before reaching a conclusion about a particular person or suppressing the matter, it is always important to gather information about the conflict. This could be done by listening to both the parties individually and understanding the situation from their perspective. The Scrum Master could also take the point of view of other team members and always respect everyone’s decisions. The leader has to make everyone realize that this conflict would affect the entire team’s performance. Hence, by taking everyone’s help the Scrum Master has to get a picture of the conflict that is taking place in the workplace.
Step 3: Brainstorming to find a solution
Often, it may not be possible for the leader alone to provide solutions to the conflicts. Also, there would be many people in the Scrum Team who would have better solutions that would easily resolve the issue. In these cases, arranging spontaneous group discussions and sharing ideas on various tasks would encourage a healthy debate among the two people or groups. This would encourage both of the parties to understand each other’s point of view. This also gives chances for better ideas to be promoted and resolve the disparity.
Step 4: Conferring a Solution
Listing out all the solutions that could be resolved for a particular problem would only work when these solutions are implemented. Through this step, Scrum Master removes the hurdles in the team by implementing the solution. Following the “be calm and have respect” principle throughout the conflict management would help the issue to be resolved faster and more efficiently.
These steps would work between people who are struggling to understand the group dynamics and have to figure out a way to collaborate on the product. Having one-on-one conversations would help the leader to understand that the team members have to stand up for themselves and freely express themselves. Encouraging them to talk to each other and build trust would make a human connection among the team members and tell everyone that they can collaborate. This would make the communication much easier and may not even require Scrum Master to step in to solve these matters. The team members should have conversations openly with the entire team and others who they work with regularly.
Benefits of Conflict Resolution
- Increased Understanding: Discussion of the issues that cause conflicts would allow the teams to communicate with each other and help them know each other better. This would also help the Scrum Masters to decide the best ideas that could be implemented for the conflicts.
- Enhanced team cohesion: When a conflict is resolved successfully among the team members, the connection between the team members becomes higher and there is mutual coordination and increased ability to work together.
- Improved self-knowledge: When the team resolves conflicts, they learn about many things that would be new to them. Conflict resolution helps the team members to increase their knowledge and elevate their productivity.
Conflicts in an Agile team should be seen as a sign of people getting involved and working in collaboration. Conflicts could be healthy when the team members resolve on their own and could have a healthy debate with each other. Making a list of the pros and cons of a particular idea and evaluating the ideas of both parties would make it easier for a better conflict resolution. However, when conflicts are destructive, positive assertions can help the people to solve the issue peacefully, with non-confrontational discussions. Following the above steps, i.e. by creating an environment where the team members are free to discuss their ideas and opinions, and taking constructive criticism, would help the company to promote a conflict-free environment. Generally, conflicts are resolved when the team members are encouraged to have a good relationship with one another and given chances of exploring issues and possible solutions. All team members have to listen to each other and understand each other’s point of view such that any conflict could be resolved as soon as possible.