Various Conflict Management Techniques in SCRUM Process

February 16, 2017
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Organizations applying the Scrum framework encourage an open environment and dialogue among employees. Conflicts among Scrum Team members are generally resolved independently, with little or no involvement from management or others outside the Scrum Team.

 

Conflict can be healthy when it promotes team discussions and encourages debates, as this usually results in benefits for the project and the respective team members. It is therefore important that the resolution of conflicts be encouraged, promoting an open environment where team members feel welcome to express their opinions and concerns with each other and about the project, and ultimately agree on what is to be delivered and how the work in each Sprint will be performed.

Usually there are four approaches to managing conflict in an organization applying Scrum processes:

Win-Win

It is usually best for team members to face problems directly with a cooperative attitude and an open dialogue to work through any disagreements to reach consensus. This approach is called Win-Win. Organizations implementing Scrum should promote an environment where employees feel comfortable to openly discuss and confront problems or issues and work through them to reach Win-Win outcomes.

 

Lose-Win

Some team members may at times feel that their contributions are not being recognized or valued by others, or that they are not being treated equally. This may lead them to withdraw from contributing effectively to the project and agree to whatever they are being told to do, even if they are in disagreement. This approach is called Lose-Win. This situation may happen if there are members in the team (including managers) who use an authoritative or directive style of issuing orders and/or do not treat all team members equally. This approach is not a desired conflict management technique for Scrum projects, since active contribution of every member of the team is mandatory for successful completion of each Sprint. The Scrum Master should encourage the involvement of any team members who appear to be withdrawing from conflict situations. For example, it is important for all team members to speak and contribute at each Daily Standup Meeting so that any issues or impediments can be made known and managed effectively.

 

Lose-Lose

In conflict situations, team members may attempt to bargain or search for solutions that bring only a partial degree or temporary measure of satisfaction to the parties in a dispute. This situation could happen in Scrum Teams where team members try to negotiate for suboptimal solutions to a problem. This approach typically involves some “give and take” to satisfy every team member—instead of trying to solve the actual problem. This generally results in an overall Lose-Lose outcome for the individuals involved and consequently the project. The Scrum Team should be careful to ensure that team members do not get into a Lose-Lose mentality. Scrum Daily Standup and other Scrum meetings are conducted to ensure that actual problems get solved through mutual discussions.

 

Win-Lose

At times, a Scrum Master or another influential team member may believe he or she is a de facto leader or manager and try to exert their viewpoint at the expense of the viewpoints of others. This conflict management technique is often characterized by competitiveness and typically results in a Win-Lose outcome. This approach is not recommended when working on Scrum projects, because Scrum Teams are by nature self-organized and empowered, with no one person having true authority over another team member. Although the Scrum Team may include persons with different levels of experience and expertise, every member is treated equally and no person has the authority to be the primary decision maker.

Conflict management techniques are used by team members to manage any conflicts that arise during a Scrum project. Sources of conflict evolve primarily due to schedules, priorities, resources, reporting hierarchy, technical issues, procedures, personality, and costs.

 

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