Managing Conflict in Agile Teams
The course is part of this learning path
This module looks at what a conflict is before investigating the different types of conflict and what they mean for an Agile team.
The objectives of this course are to provide you with and understanding of:
- What conflict is and the Scrum Master’s role in dealing with it.
- The differences between conflict, disputes and opposition.
- The common types of team conflict.
- How teams develop and how conflict can arise in an Agile context.
The course is aimed at the Agile Scrum Master. However, it’s equally relevant to the Product Owner’s role in the team.
Prerequisites of the Certifications
There are no specific pre-requisites to study this course.
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Conflict and disputes
As a Scrum Master you’re likely to find yourself having to mediate difficult situations between team members. When that happens, you need to know how to assess the situation and work out if the problem is a short-term dispute or a deeper conflict. This will also help you decide if you can actually deal with the issue.
So, when is a situation a conflict and when is it a dispute?
Disputes are generally seen as short-term disagreements that are relatively easy to resolve. They’re about interests that are negotiable so a solution can generally be found that’s at least partially acceptable to each side. For example, a customer might dispute the price of something in a shop, or two colleagues could dispute the best way of approaching a task.
Conflicts, on the other hand, generally relate to more deep-rooted problems around non-negotiable issues that are difficult to resolve – often about morals and values, identity, security and recognition. Individuals won’t compromise on these issues which is why conflicts tend to be unresolved for a long time, and can be very intense and destructive. At work, conflicts can arise through people having opposing interests, values and beliefs, or a sense of injustice.
Breaking it down a bit further, there are two common types of conflict:
Substantive conflicts, which are about things like goals, tasks, and the allocation of resources; and
Emotional conflicts, which arise through jealousy, insecurity, annoyance, envy or other personality clashes.
Recognizing a conflict
OK. We’ve seen the difference between a conflict and a dispute, but how would you identify what you’re facing if you had to mediate between two team members?
You need to work out if it’s a short-term dispute or a more substantial conflict so you can decide if you can intervene. It helps to fall back on your experience and relationships with the individuals involved, and ask yourself these questions:
Is the disagreement over a particular outcome or approach?
Are the parties personally invested in the result?
Do they use a language of fundamental values or moral beliefs?
Do the parties express personal judgment against each other?
Is there a power struggle or a mismatch between goals at the root of the issue?
Then you can decide if an intervention would be possible and helpful.
Opposition vs Conflict
It’s important to appreciate that opposition to something isn’t necessarily conflict.
We’ve seen that conflict is about issues that really matter and is probably unproductive. However, it does provide the opportunity to learn about what does matter to people and try to make things better.
Opposition is about disagreement and can be productive. We’ve all seen people disagreeing about things at work and having a productive discussion which usually leads to an acceptable outcome – this is positive, means different views are discussed and generally ends up with everybody being comfortable with what’s been decided.
The point is, people only conflict about things that are important to them whereas people have different opinions and views about a whole load of things and therefore disagree all the time. Disagreements are easy to resolve and don’t need a third-party intervention until they become a dispute or a conflict.
Tony has over 20 years’ experience in Business Development, Business Change, Consulting and Project/Programme Management working with public, private and third sector organisations.
He has helped organisations to design and create process and procedures to align ways of working with corporate strategy. A highly motivated and detailed solution provider utilising a wide range of methods and frameworks to provide structure whilst promoting creativity and innovation.
As a confident and self-motivated professional with excellent communication skills Tony is able to bring people together and get them working as a team quickly.
Tony is an Agile and Scrum trainer with a vast knowledge spanning IT Systems, Business Change, Programme and Project Management. With excellent presentation skills and a solid background, he ensures that all clients gain maximum benefit from his training. He has successfully guided those new to the industry through their initial training, helped experienced staff as they progress in their careers and worked at Director level advising on best use and practice, as well as tailoring courses to fulfil the exact needs of clients.