Putting together a high performance team is probably the most important ingredient of good agile adoption. If your company has a lack of team spirit, you are likely to have a pseudo agile-team. In my personal experience, with a pseudo agile-team, your agile adoption will fail. Sad, but brutally true.
One of the main signs of this behavior is when a team avoids conflict during a sprint retrospective. This appears to be counter-intuitive based on the number of good books (written by good people) arguing that teams should never touch on a dangerous issue (conflicts) during a retrospective.
With great respect to these authors, I say, “What? The retrospective is the most important mechanism to promote real improvement in your team. If you run away from the difficulties, how do you intend to promote these improvements?”
I know that it’s not an easy approach.
I know that it could be dangerous for team formation. But avoiding or delaying improvements could be more dangerous to your organization.
Think about it.
Product management has the famous mantra to “fail fast“. Inspired by this mantra we have a similar mantra at the team level. We “conflict fast” to make deep and real improvements within the team dynamic.
If we take the Lencioni model as a reference, we can see that one of the dysfunctions of a team is fear of conflict. When a team avoids conflict, there’s usually no trust among the team members.
Connecting this idea with the Tuckman model, when a team avoids conflict, they extend the forming phase. It is important to remember that for the Tuckman model, a team must face phases like forming, storming and norming before reaching the performance phase. There are no exceptions.
How can we solve this?
In my experience, to solve this kind of issue you as a facilitator, leader or scrum master could create a secure environment where the team can promote the conversation about the most critical issues, about the behaviors, the thinking and the values.
Lyssa Adkins, author of the famous book Coaching Agile Teams (Affiliate Link), pointed out that: “Navigating conflict is our new mind-set, in which we help teams move from conflict to constructive disagreement as a catapult to high performance“. Patrick Lencioni, author of The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, suggests that “the first step to overcoming the fear of conflict is acknowledging that conflict is productive“. These brief statements reinforces the gist of the Conflict Fast Model.
Of course, you don’t need to apply the Conflict Fast Model at the first sprint, but as I mentioned before, you don’t need to apply that only to the the 30th sprint. Remember, you might carefully choose the right time to create a space where the team can put the Conflict Fast Model into practice.
In this session we’ll discuss and experience a few ways to put the Conflict Fast Model into practice.