Conflict Makes Perfect


I will open this article with a story.

There were a couple that went to a pastor for marriage preparation.
Pastor: “How long have you been together?”
Man: “One year, pastor”
Pastor: “Can you share me your greatest conflict in the past one year?”
Man: *thinking – then shake his head*
Woman: “Conflict? No, pastor, we never fight. Our time together were always good”
Pastor: “Maybe both of you can come back to me when you see the worst emotion state of each other.”

Above story is only an anecdote, but if we think about it, there’s a valid point there.
Sometime we need to have a conflict to see how we deal with it.

I am not saying that conflict needs to be created, but we need to know how to see the conflict with the right perspective, how to handle the conflict and how we can grow from that conflict.

A Conflict Story

Then again, another story 🙂


One day, Jack the developer was angry because the code he was working on was changed without his knowledge and caused errors in many places.
This was not the first time. Many times this happened and this time he could no longer tolerate it.

With great emotion, he exploded and shouted in the group chat.
“Who is doing this again? Can you use your brain in working?”

After investigating, turned out that Debbie, one of the developers on the team, accidentally deleted the code made by Jack.
Several times this happened because of Debbie.

Debbie admitted her mistake with full of fear.

Jack, who finally ran out of patience, said rudely, “If you can’t code, you better just resign. What’s the point of having you in the team if you only create mess. You bring nothing but trouble. Who do you think should fix this? Me again, right? Coz surely you can’t contribute in anything!”

Debbie was shocked and frustrated.

Randy, the Scrum Master, jump into the discussion with a calming message and take Jack and Debbie aside for separate discussion.
He asked them to tell each other version of the incident that just happened.
He asked each of them to speak their mind.
But first he reminded them about the Scrum Values so they can address those with considering Respect, Openness, Courage, Focus and Commitment.

After some discussions and digging down to the deeper condition, Jack and Debbie finally understand each other background and condition.

Jack understands Debbie’s lack of understanding and agreed to help her.

Debbie understands Jack’s frustration and also her lack of understanding. She’s willing to learn and ask more whenever she has doubt.

In the next sprint, they start to do pair programming and communicate better, trust is grown between them and such incident never happen again.

In fact, the team sees them as dynamic duo and the engine of the team.

The Iceberg

What you read from the story above is like an iceberg.
Jack got angry.
Debbie was careless.
That was the behavior that people see.
Those are the tip of the iceberg.

As Scrum Masters, we need to be able to see below the iceberg.
We need to be able to address what is actually the underlying reason of things that happen in our team.

Other team members might see Jack as an emotional person, or Debbie as a careless developer.
Addressing those only will not prevent this incident from happening again.

When you go deeper to what’s below that, you might be able to see a wider issue happening in your team.
You will be able to see the unseen.
People say, you can kill two birds with one stone.

Apart from that, Scrum Masters need to keep reminding the team to live the Scrum Values.
Make that as the DNA in them. The baseline of their actions and how they respond to any situations.

When Conflict Arises

“Fear of Conflict -Teams that trust each other are not afraid to engage in passionate dialogue around issues and decisions that are key to the organization’s success. They do not hesitate to disagree with, challenge, and question one another, all in the spirit of finding the best answers, discovering the truth, and making great decisions.”

Patrick Lencioni, Five Dysfunctional of a Team

Conflict is inevitable when you deal with people.
But when you have TRUST among your team, conflicts can be used as an opportunity to grow a stronger team.

By having trust, each team member will not feel insecure of showing their true colors, weakness and limitation.

By having trust, each team member will not see “burst of emotion” as the act of attacking them, but more to a constructive feedback for them to grow better.

As Scrum Masters, it is our mission to grow trust among the team.
Trust is not built in one night. We need to plant it, nurture it and living it.

Address the conflict with upholding the Scrum Values.
Have Courage to speak your mind.
Be Open on your dissatisfaction and limitations.
Show Respect while addressing the disagreement.
Focus on one issue and not bringing up historical and unrelated issues.
Have a commitment to be better in future

Take every conflict as an opportunity to grow and learn.

When you have Scrum Values as team DNA and Trust as the heart of the team, you will have the strongest team ever.


Last but not least, a good friend of mine shared me a quote:
“Conflict is information and handled well conflict is opportunity

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