Managing Conflicts with Scrum

November 22, 2013

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.

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.

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


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.


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.


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.


At times, a Scrum Master or another influential team member may believe he/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.



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