How to handle unresolved conflict in a scrum team?

A Scrum Team is a group of people working together to deliver the product increments needed. One of the main characteristics of the scrum team is self-managing (self-organizing changed to self-managing in the 2020 Scrum Guide), which means that they decide themselves who is doing what, when and how.

Conflicts, even in the most productive of a scrum team, are unavoidable. Regardless of the source of the dispute, conflicts will easily affect each scrum team member morale and efficiency if they are left unresolved. The face of the scrum team could be easily changed by managing disputes and other types of potential conflict. But ignoring them could bring down the team or even the organisation in many ways. This article will cover how to handle unresolved conflict in a scrum team.

Problem description

Imagine there is a conflict in a scrum team and as a scrum master did everything that is required but the conflict still exists. Also, in addition to you, other team members believe the dispute that affects the ability of the team to achieve their sprint forecasts. What’s the next step?

Although unfortunately, there is no magic wand that can solve problems at once, by carefully reading the Scrum Guide, you can find clues to solve the problem.

The first clue: Transparency

Scrum incorporates four formal events into a containing event, the Sprint, for inspection and adaptation. These events work because they implement the pillars of transparency, inspection, and adaptation of the empirical Scrum. The first critical element of the Scrum process that needs to be clear to those responsible for the result is transparency. In its everyday operations and artefacts, transparency demands that certain elements be identified so that the team can have a shared understanding of what is being seen.

The second clue: Retrospective

A retrospective is anytime your team reflects on the past to improve the future. The Sprint Retrospective is an opportunity for the Scrum Team to inspect itself and create a plan for improvements to be implemented during the next Sprint, as explained in the Scrum Guide.

The third clue: Scrum Master serves

In a role-playing game, a scrum master might sound like a character, but it is a serious job that is rooted in leadership. Throughout a project, the scrum master is responsible for maintaining a true scrum process. They keep the scrum framework together, facilitating the organisation, product owner and scrum team process.

Based on the 2020 Scrum Guide, in many respects, the Scrum Master serves the Scrum Team and the organization, including:

· Coaching the team members in self-management and cross-functionality

· Causing the removal of impediments to the Scrum Team’s progress

· Helping employees and stakeholders understand and enact an empirical approach for complex work

· Removing barriers between stakeholders and Scrum Teams

Solution

As a Scrum Master, the wellbeing of the team needs to be supported in whatever way you can. Also, transparency is a secure approach when in doubt, making the situation and the consequences as visible as possible. Understanding how this dispute arose would be very beneficial. Moreover, you need to bring the dispute to the retrospective meeting and let the Developers (development team changed to developers in the 2020 Scrum Guide) working around the following questions because they are self-managing:

1. What is advice from developers?

2. Will they feel impotent?

3. Did they have any suggestions?

4. If it were up to them how would they handle the situation?

As a facilitator and based on context, a Scrum Master would know when to step back or forwards. It is your responsibility to help developers understand how to self-managing and how to recognise the advantages that can be received by the Scrum framework. About how they want to work, the organisation and developers have made decisions. It is up to you as a Scrum Master, to help them make the best decisions, and those decisions need to be appropriate for the individual teams as well as for the business. You are not the Scrum Police and you can become just that if you escalate things to management.

Conclusion

Removing impediments does not mean that all the work has to be finished. You are doing a disservice to the team if you do all the work to remove an impediment because they are not learning how to be more self-managing. Instead, they would depend on you to solve all their issues.

When developers make decisions and are self-aware of how the Scrum framework is helpful to their ability to provide stakeholders with continuous value, the usefulness of Scrum is better understood.

I am a results-driven, compassionate Scrum Master and Software Developer who believes in the art of the possible.

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