Reasons for Conflict or Disagreement

As part of the Advanced Scrum Training, Esther Derby presents a section on conflict. One very insightful part of the presentation is a description of four reasons for the existence of conflict or disagreement. They are as follows (adapted from “Advanced Scrum: Collaboration Skills for Scrum Teams” (c)2004-2005 Esther Derby):


1. Lack of Clarity – the communication between parties is missing information or the information is not being communicated in a consistent manner.

2. Position Focus – the parties involved have already each decided on their own solution and are failing to discuss the problem those solutions are addressing.

3. Different Values – the parties are unable to agree because they are holding different sets of values but not articulating those values as part of the discussion.

4. Past History/Personalities – the parties have a previous unresolved conflict that is negatively affecting their ability to work together.

All of these types of conflict are based on either conscious or unconscious failure to be truthful… and therefore the different parties have incompatible perceptions of reality. The Agile Work axiom “Reality is Perceived” then gives us a hint as to how to resolve all of these types of conflict. Find a way to share perception among the parties in conflict so that they have a compatible view of reality.


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2 thoughts on “Reasons for Conflict or Disagreement”

  1. Ideas for possible approaches to implementing “Reality is Perceived” axiom:

    In the case of Scrum, the Scrum Master is in a role of facilitation. Successful implementation of Agile Work axioms would include, therefore, the facilitation of truthfulness. So, the question is: “How does one facilitate truthfulness?”. One obvious, but not necessarily easy, way of doing this is by modeling. The Scrum Master, or team lead, or whatever title is given to the facilitator of process, must be engaged in sincerely striving to be truthful. This may begin with truthfulness with oneself. Is it possible to lie to oneself? Of course it is. For example, if I tell myself, in my internal dialogue, that I am not capable of being truthful, I am lying to myself. I KNOW that I am capable of being truthful because I demonstrate truthfulness on many occasions. Believing that I can’t is believing a lie that I am telling myself. There are many other examples that we can think of. Also, we must agree that human beings have the capacity to affect change in their environments. If an environment (let’s say, a corporate one) suffers from chronic, culturally imbedded practices of untruthfulness, individuals that must function in that environment may feel discouraged from exercising their capacity to be truthful. Truthfulness, in many situations, may require a great deal of courage. An effective facilitator, therefore, will be able to muster up the courage required to demonstrate truthfulness in such situations (and in such an environment in which untruthfulness is culturally embedded, this may be a constant). This effort of the facilitator to exercise truthfulness in situations/environments where it is difficult to do so demonstrates to the team that the way is safe. It’s something like clearing a path, removing obstacles. On many occasions, the obstacles in the way of truthfulness are merely a figment of collective imagination that can be done away with by a single swipe of the truthfulness path-clearing machete. At other times, the obstacles are so deeply ingrained in cultural taboo that confronting them stirs up dramatic reactions – “don’t go there!” Again, this is why it is so important for behaviour to be modeled. Modeling beautiful qualities, such as truthfulness, is attractive to those who have the capacity to perceive and be attracted to beauty. And most people do have this capacity to some degree. This capacity is also something that can be developed.

    Going back to the conviction that every human being possesses the capacity to be truthful – without this, we will not be able to help people remove their obstacles. If we try to create external conditions that force people to be truthful, we disempower them from developing the capacity that they potentially and inherently possess. People need to feel empowered to participate actively in the removal of obstacles. The wise facilitator can gauge how active he or she needs to be in accompanying individuals and groups in removing such obstacles. This is a very delicate balance – a fine art. We must never take it lightly. It is very serious. The empowerment of people depends on it and it is essential for every individual to become empowered in order for each of us to realize our potential, purpose and therefore find meaning and fulfillment in our daily lives.

    So… where do we go from here?

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