24 Nov 2016 Conflict As a Tool of Successful Delivery. Part 1 by Evgeniy Labunskiy Conflicts are like defects in Jira – it is bad when we have them, but is good that we are aware of them. When the development team works with the Jira Tracking Tool, they track issues, fix or prioritise as not important. Same goes for conflicts in the delivery team – when we are aware of “issues”, we already detect the reason and can indirectly influence it. There is no chance for the conflict to hide or happen in the backyard, biting you later, and eventually killing your team. How can we use conflict as a tool for managing a team? How may you turn it into a tool of successful delivery? Evgeniy Labunskiy, Agile Certified Senior Project Manager at Ciklum, has the right answers for us. This is the first part of the article “Conflict As a Tool of Successful Delivery“, which explains why are we afraid of conflicts, how does it influence software delivery and how can you recognise if conflict may occur in your team. “For good ideas and true innovation, you need human interaction, conflict, argument, debate.” Margaret Heffernan, an international businesswoman, author, interviewer, and TED speaker Why do conflicts influence software delivery? First of all, let’s find out what is the team conflict and how does it affect the delivery process. So, what do we usually have inside the delivery process? People in this scheme are those who choose the technology, estimate time and work in budget frames. Wherever you have people, there is communication. Conflict is an integral part of it, as the path to ideas always lies through disputes and interaction. Good team managers are always trying to decrease loads of communication and increase the quality of it. The quality of communication is influenced by domain knowledge, team involvement, your leadership experience, and conflicts. Why are we afraid of conflicts? Here are some of the most frequent factors causing conflicts: Social factor Inside, we are all afraid of conflicts. Since childhood, we are taught that starting conflict is bad. Which may be true of course if we talk about children sharing their toys in a sandbox. However, in the adult world conflicts are inevitable, and those who are afraid of conflicts try to escape and simply agree with everything. Lack of trust If there is no trust in the team, they will always avoid conflicts. In his “The Five Dysfunctions of a Team” Patrick Lencioni explains the fear of conflict as seeking artificial harmony over the constructive passionate debate. We are not sure if we can be heard. Those who are not used to be listened to, try to avoid expressing their opinion. Very often we are afraid to make the situation even worse by expressing our opinion. When should a team manager expect a conflict? In 99% cases, when the team members know each other well. If your team is new, do not expect any conflicts there. Because when we start a conflict, we hit weak points of each other to be the winner. The likelihood of conflict is higher when there are: – Bipolar minds in the group – Fight for the leadership. There was a situation in my team when the wanna-be Team Lead was fighting with the present Team Lead. The solution was to give that conflictive guy another leading role in the project so that he could fulfil his potential, especially considering his leadership skills. – The difference in personalities. For example, when you have a senior software developer who hates people without tech knowledge. What is the benefit of conflicts? The first benefit – cooling off. Facts help you move from emotional conflict into dispute. The team gets rid of emotions and starts considering the problem using facts and figures. Also, you eliminate weak sides of the team, naturally highlighted when the conflict occurs. With the help of different thoughts and opinions collected, you have the chance to find the best possible solution for the problem. Finally, the relationship in the team gets stable and reliable. If you find that your development process is weak at some points, contact Ciklum to improve the performance of your software development team.