ScrumMasters To Coach Relationship Systems




Have you see this:

An employee A talks to his Team Lead to talk to the other Team Lead of an employee B because that guy breaks the work of the employee A.


Or in a "Scrum" organization:

A team member A talks to a ScrumMaster to talk to an team member B that...


And that's not good or bad by itself. Hopefully all the Team leads and the ScrumMaster do their job and pass the feedback. Hopefully also the situation improves. Until a certain moment, when A has another issue with B. Or maybe this time - B has something with A...


In the end, it may turn out that the specific issues rose are just symptoms. Of what? Perhaps, of the relationships between A and B (if there are in fact any relationships at all... but one also could say that absence of relationships is also a kind of relationship). So yes, it is safe to assume it is about their relationships.




While ScrumMasters (or whoever) are carrying feedback between As and Bs - they are not really improving the systems. In fact we are creating more systems! See what's actually happening:

The initial conflict
The initial conflict
The conflict with an intermediate person
The conflict with an intermediate person

As you can see, you're just creating more systems. Does it improve the initial A+B one? Likely not.


Because even if you soften their disagreement, they still don't know how to deal with their relationships. The way to teach is by doing.




In fact, the best thing you as a collaboration coach can do is to ... make the collaboration happen. Though, that can be harder to do than to say.



If the conflict is not in a state of a 'nuclear war', but rather in a space of a 'working disagreement', here is a way to deal with it in order to improve the system.


1. Appoint a meeting you, A and B.
Most likely you need to check beforehand if A and B are OK to be on a meeting with each other. And if not, then you know you're likely in the '
nuclear war' state and this method won't work. Sorry. Find another blog post.


But if they are OK, then:


2. Open up with sharing your observation on their relationships. And ask for their permission to open up this topic.

Start with something like:

 - Guys, thanks for coming. I've noticed you had this disagreement on a topic X. The topic X is important for me as well. But what's the most important is your relationships. This is not the last issue popping up. I hope more to come as I see you as a long-playing team. And I think it is important for both of you to learn how to deal with such situations.


Check for the feedback. In 80% cases they will agree but then immediately start sharing some facts that prove them right and the other party wrong. So now you know there is a disagreement!


 - Guys, this is exactly what I'm concerned with. Do I have your permission to guide this meeting today?


3. Make them agree on anything. This will serve as a basis for further agreement building.


- I know you have different views on the matter. But let me ask you, A, first. What do you want for the team | project | department | company?


Let A speak. Then talk to B:

- Now, B. What do you want for the team | project | department | company?


After B finishes, summarize and find a shared goal:

- What I hear guys is that you both want this ... for theteam | project | department | company. Would you agree?


Iterate until you find something they both agree with.


4. Now let them discuss the details of the situation with that working disagreement.


- Great guys! We now know you both want the same. Now onto this specific question...


It helps if you find an object at a table to use as a token. So that they could point at it (and not to each other).

- This is the situation (point to the object). B, how do you wish it to be different?


Let B share her ideas and let A repeat it to make sure they understand each other:

- A, to make sure you understand each other. Could you please summarize what you've just heard from B?


After A and B agree on what B wants. Do the same in the opposite direction.


5. Seek for intermediate agreements


- So guys, having heard each other, you should now have slightly better understanding of each other's needs. Right?  I'm sure there is a way to satisfy you both. So how can we make sure that the interests of you both are met?


Facilitate a brainstorm and let them agree on an experiment or a trial to run.

The bottom line is that by facilitating this kind of face-to-face dialog between the disagreeing parties you're teaching the system to work with their relationships. The system becomes self-managing and self-healing. What a dream!


And there is nothing more important than teaching that. Our human society (also at work) are nothing but networks of relationship systems. And who, if not ScrumMasters, would teach teams these techniques?


Inspired by Organization and Relationship Systems Coaching.

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