Scrum is a methodology often used by businesses for allowing teams to self-organize and use agile principles for making changes quickly. The facilitator for such an agile development team is called the Scrum master and they are responsible for managing the process of how information needs to be exchanged. The purpose of applying this framework is to encourage an open dialogue and environment amongst its employees, but the fact is that conflicts tend to arise when several people are working together. They can be healthy as long as they are encouraging debates and promoting team discussions, but if they get intense, they can actually impact the cohesion and dynamics on the Scrum team.
Therefore, it is essential for the Scrum master to be able to navigate these difficult conflicts and break them down at the appropriate time to ensure productivity. How can this be done? Listed below are some great tips every Scrum master can use for breaking down conflicts:
Always be Proactive
It is recommended that you stay proactive, which means heading off your problems just before they snowball. Talk to your subordinates and peers and get feedback on how things are moving along and what can be done to improve and facilitate relationships. Being one step ahead can be a huge plus for you.
Establish Rules in Advance
You have to understand that conflict is inevitable and even necessary in creative settings and it is a good idea to plan in advance for it. The working agreements should be regarded as ground rules for behavior not just in the team, but outside of it as well. It is better to be safe than sorry and having ground rules for managing conflicts can aid in resolving them fairly quickly.
Learn to Deal Directly
It is best for the Scrum master to deal with the conflict directly and not go for triangulation. This refers to the situation where a third party, usually the boss, is involved for managing the conflict. The problem with triangulation is that it is regarded as an attempt at just avoiding responsibility by bringing in a third party for supporting you on the issue. If you don’t resolve the issues amongst yourselves, it is only going to worsen the conflict and even prolong it.
Don’t Disclose Private Disagreements Publicly
If two members of your team are having a disagreement privately, it is your job as Scrum master to help them resolve it without making the details public. If the disagreement is disclosed to everyone, it will just increase the tension because people are more likely to become defensive as they are afraid of others’ judgments.
Only have Discussions with Involved Parties
The discussion should be stopped immediately if someone brings up a problem with another team member who is absent. Remind your team that you owe it to that member and tell them to postpone any debate or discussion on the issue until they are present to provide their own viewpoint.
Don’t Stray from the Facts
Those who are involved in the conflict have to be prepared for discussions and need to focus on the facts alone. Other details are considered irrelevant. Also, when they are prepared with the facts, it will be possible to have healthy debates about critical issues that are based on information instead of anyone’s personal feelings. You should only encourage the team members to participate in informed discussions.
Moreover, you need to come up with multiple options for resolving the conflict when one arises and even include ones you don’t support. Let the team members decide together and the conflict will resolve in itself.
I am Martin Sumichrast, CEO of Level Brands Inc. I have been a seasoned entrepreneur in my entire career. I have co-authored multiple books and also worked for some big magazines like Engadget.com and Seeking Alpha. Currently, I am working as a part-time blogger for Dream Jobs that provides job vacancies in Sri Lanka.