Is There Enough Conflict in Your Discovery Meetings?

agile teams collaboration discovery

By Ryan Fullmer

Jul 27, 2022

Discovery meetings provide the clarity Agile teams need to create high-value solutions. It is a critical step in starting new initiatives, projects and features. One key question to consider is, “Are your teams getting the most out of their discovery sessions?”.

One component that is often overlooked is how the teams are having their discussions. One way to look at this is how much conflict is occurring. Many teams avoid conflict. It’s uncomfortable. They fear that conflict will damage relationships and degrade team performance.

Without conflict, the discovery sessions fail to uncover the best answers and ideas. Teams don’t consider all the ideas, concerns, and perspectives. Commitment to the discovery deliverables and decisions is limited. They will likely rehash conversations and decisions once the work gets started.

Toxic Conflict

 People tend to view conflict in a negative light. It’s a common concern that conflict is going to be personal, stressful, and painful. When they think of conflict, they imagine unproductive behaviors like:

  • Overpowering and being aggressive
  • Being mean-spirited and making it personal
  • Becoming overly dramatic
  • Glossing over problems
  • Caving in to avoid tension

These behaviors create toxic conflict. Fearing conflict causes teams to gravitate toward avoiding conflict. There can be an unspoken rule on the team that it is better to go along to get along.

Productive Conflict

Avoiding conflict is not the answer. Teams need conflict to arrive at the best answers and do their best work. Conflict ensures the discovery sessions are filled with passionate and spirited discussion.

Teams that are comfortable with conflict don’t hesitate to question each other’s ideas. Team members share their thoughts and perspectives and get to the bottom of tough issues. This is productive conflict. The team needs this type of conflict to get the most out of their discovery meetings.

When teams are having productive conflict, you will see the following behaviors

  • Bringing up problems, even when it's uncomfortable
  • Addressing issues head on
  • Expressing feelings
  • Listening to others’ perspectives
  • Focusing on logic and objectivity

Create the Right Environment

You can help create the right environment for productive conflict. As a leader, it’s important that you go first. Develop your knowledge and skills about conflict. Learn about group decision-making, psychological safety and ways to have productive conflict. Share what you learn and model healthy conflict behaviors in your meetings.

Guide your agile teams to take the following actions:

  • Incorporate acceptable and unacceptable conflict behaviors into their team agreements and meeting norms
  • Discuss what each team member needs to feel safe in team meetings and discussions
  • Get to know each team member’s strengths and weaknesses around conflict. Help each other tap into the strengths and address the weaknesses.
  • Use retrospectives to improve the way they engage in conflict

Support Conflict In Your Discovery Sessions

Well-designed discovery meetings support healthy conflict behaviors. Create a meeting design and facilitation plan for your teams' discovery sessions. Use experienced facilitators to guide and manage the discovery meetings. To learn more, download the free guide "How to Use Discovery to Focus Your Agile teams on Solving the Right Problems"

We Can Help

If you want to get the most out of your discovery sessions quickly, we can facilitate one of our proven discovery workshops. We will engage your team and help you gain momentum in an area where you have been stuck. Click Here to Meet With Us

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