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Meetup - Why conflict is good in an agile organization?

Updated: Aug 8, 2019

We have organized the 3rd Hungarian Scrum Master meetup at LogMeIn offices, where approximately 50 of us discussed how to address conflicts in an agile organization, what levels can conflicts reach, or what are the similarities between a broth and conflicts.

Why navigate it instead of managing it?

One of the strengths of being agile lies in empowered teams. The team itself decides how big work completing a particular task is, by what time, how they will solve it, and how they will ascertain whether the solution was good and was delivered with the right quality. We know, this kind of freedom leads us to better solutions and can sustain motivation for individuals and teams even for longer periods.

In the same spirit as we are not directing the team from the outside, but rather the team manages itself, we should give and leave the option to them to deal with the conflicts that have surfaced. Having an external force handling, managing, solving these conflicts, will weaken the self organizing capability of the team. Conflict navigation means transferring, using as facilitation source, or teaching the toolkit to the team with which they can handle their conflicts by themselves.

Different levels of conflict: from healthy to damaging

Conflict is a natural phenomenon in agile teams. Clashes, badinages, intense disputes, quarrels, and other forms of disagreements can fill the days of the teams. The variety of these conflicts also brings the need to make a distinction between constructive and destructive conflicts. Just like we need to keep a broth simmering slowly, we constantly need to keep the team at the level of “constructive disagreement”, so that they can achieve a high level of performance. Thus, it is important that the agile coach’s / scrum master’s heartbeat is synchronized with the teams’, he/she vigilantly escorts these situations and consciously decides when it is necessary to intervene, and how to do so.

Tools to navigate

During the meetup, participants had the opportunity to try out three different tools they can use for navigating conflicts.

Line Dance: people align by a line placed on the floor, where the two ends of the line are representing the two opposite poles of opinions about a particular topic. (eg.: How useful do you think this meetup is? This was the best meetup I ever had <--> It would have been better to spend this 90 minutes somewhere else.) After people took their positions, they can modify it after hearing others’ opinions.

Constellation: Let’s put an object/ball on the floor, and the team circles around as it was the origo. The object represents a proposition/statement (eg.: In my opinion the Daily Stand-up is the best thing in Scrum) Those who agree stand closer to the object, those who disagree at some level stand further away (or might even walk out from the room)

Explain & Explore: The team puts their answers about a given question on post-its. (eg.: What do you think about getting up early?) For some time they circulate in the room, then for a given signal they pair up and tell each other what they have jotted down. In the second round, they circulate again, form pairs again on the signal, and exchange the post-its. In the 3rd round, they try to convince their 3rd pair about the content of the post-it they now have.

The tools mentioned above, help us visualize the distribution of opinions within the team, while they also give us the opportunity to explore and assimilate to other opinions.

Through the lens of this Meetup the participants were able to peek into the world of conflicts and then take away tools they can use to navigate the conflicts arising in their teams.

Hope to see you next time!

Further information: Lyssa Adkins - Coaching Agile Teams

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