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Coaching, Coding and Learning By George Evjen

 Book Notes from 'Coaching Agile Teams' By Lyssa Adkins

Coach as Conflict Navigator

  • Patrick Lencioni - The Five Dysfunctions of a Team - names fear of conflict as one of the five dysfunctions.
    • Citing is as the main reason that teams struggle
  • Highly collaborative teams use conflict constructively.
  • On an agile team - in our pursuit of excellence we know that conflict arise and that we can expect both harmony and disharmony
    • Move from conflict to constructive disagreement.


The Agile Coach's Role in Conflict

  • Coaching teams to navigate conflict may feel unfamiliar or uncomfortable to you.
  • With agile - team members stay together longer - life of a project.
    • They don’t move on - nor does the conflict.
  • As the agile coach you -
    • Face the conflict squarely.
    • Skillfully determine the severity of it
    • Mindfully decide whether to intervene and how
    • Generously teach the team to navigate it.
    • Courageously refuses to settle for a team that shrinks from greatness by avoiding it.


Five Levels of Conflict

  • Speed Leas offers a framework we can use to determine the seriousness of the conflict
    • Level 1 : Problem to Solve
      • Every day frustrations and aggravations make up this level
      • When in level 1 - a team will remain focused on determining what's awry and how to fix it.
      • Use words that are clear, specific and factual
      • Team members seem optimistic, moving through the conflict
      • Level 1 as the level of constructive disagreement.
    • Level 2 : Disagreement
      • Self-protection becomes as important as solving problems
      • Team members distance themselves from one another.
      • Good-natured joking moves toward the half-joking barb
    • Level 3 : Contest
      • The aim is to win
      • Multiple issues cluster into larger issues or create a cause.
      • Factions emerge - misunderstandings and power politics arise.
      • People begin to align themselves with one side or the other.
      • Team members pay attention to building their cases.
      • Discussion becomes either/or and blaming flourishes
      • People may not be ready to move beyond blaming.
    • Level 4 : Crusade
      • Resolving the situation isn't good enough. Team members believe the people on the other side of the issue will not change.
      • They may believe the only option is to remove the others form the team or get removed from the team themselves.
    • Level 5 : World War
      • Its not enough that one wins - the others must lose.
      • Only option at this level is to separate the combatants.


What Level of Conflict Is Present

  •  determine the level of conflict in a team - an agile coach must spend solid time with team members.
  • Observe what is going on  before you draw conclusions
  • Determining the level of conflict -
    • Observations
    • Conversations
    • Intuition
  • Three things that help assess the level of conflict
    • Hear complaints
      • Remember that you need not act to resolve these complaints
      • When people complain to us - we think we need to solve it
    • Feel the energy
      • Notice how the team room feels when you first walk in
      • Is there a sense of purpose and forward momentum.
      • Pay attention when the energy seems to become more positive or more negative
        • What caused this shift
      • Pay attention to whether the team uses mostly positive, forward-moving energy or mostly negative, stagnating energy.
    • Focus on the language
      • What people say and how they say it is the main key for assessing the level of conflict on an agile team.
      • Hone in on the words people use when they talk to one another while experiencing different levels of conflict.


What Should You Do About It?

  • The goal of navigating conflict is to de-escalate
  • The most important question to answer is "Do I have to Respond?"
  • First, Do Nothing
    • Agile teams can often navigate conflict by themselves, even conflict up to level 3.
    • If team members navigate the conflict well enough, leave them alone.
    • Chris Corrigan - "The Tao of Holding Space"
      • "everything you do for a group is one less thing they know they can do for themselves"
    • If you decide to intervene there are a few response modes you can employ
      • Analyze and Respond
        • The most comfortable response mode an agile coach can use
        • Consider these questions
          • What is the level of conflict
          • What are the issues.
          • How would I respond to A
          • How would I respond to B
          • What resolutions options are open
          • What should I do.
        • Remember that no one has the whole story
        • Each person's perspective is valid and needed.
        • It is the weakest response mode for building high-performance teams - it puts the coach in the drivers seat.
      • Use Structures
        • Using the 'bones' of agile to navigate conflict
        • The bones are those principles, values, roles that help the team understand how to get the best from using agile.
        • Task orientation - rather than interpersonal orientation works best with a new team
        • A coach should first attempt to address conflict by addressing performance
        • Agile coaches turn the 'bones' in order to address performance as the door to navigating conflict.
        • Devices that remind people of their vision, goals or purpose, or the action they need to take immediately.
        • Context of getting better at a particular bit of agile.
        • You can find much inspiration in the simplicity and depth of agile methods.
        • You bring the conflict up then address it in the context of teaching agile
          • Practice, value, mind-set, vision with the team.
      • Reveal
        • Reveal what you know
        • Teach the team to recognize their own responses and choose what response is best for the team.
        • You give the team a great self-management tool.
        • Get yourself out of the loop remains the goal.
        • You also may see the conflict framework uses as a tool for recognizing and adjusting one's own conflict level before it leaks into the team.
        • Teams that actively navigate conflict can learn to thrive in level 1 conflict.
        • Use conflict to catapult to high performance.
Posted on Wednesday, August 10, 2016 10:03 AM Agile | Back to top

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With the correct approach, one can become the best person in coaching a team. - Dennis Wong YOR Health
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