Let down by agile

As a scrum master, agile coach type one of the key skills is working with people and teams facilitating their self organisation. This isn’t easy people are a tricky subject, they are all different and require different approaches. Looking for tools to help with this one book I read last year was Patrick Lencioni’s book Five Dysfunctions of a team.



Luckily for us agile frameworks give us a lot of the tools out of the box which help with these dysfunctions. The title of this post agile is letting us down is due to the lack of obvious Agile Cures for the two lower most steps of the pyramid. The base, the foundations, that seems pretty important.




As Scrum Masters we get 14 hours of classroom based training and a multiple choice exam. Nothing is taught about the people skills how to do the job of a coach a people person, this is learnt on the job. Agile is letting us down because is doesn’t teach us anything about how to build trust in teams or work with conflict. We need to learn this for ourselves.


Agile frameworks do give us many things which help to cure the dysfunctions of a team.

Lack of commitment – Deadlines, effectively Timeboxes, sprints and sprint goals which with a facilitator work towards team commitment. Scrum is a commitment based framework.

Avoidance of accountability – Simple and Regular reviews giving us a continuous performance review process. Publication of Goals, big visible sprint goals.

Inattention to results – Sprint review meetings to analyse decisions made during the sprint. Retrospectives similarly to allow the team to review the sprint and generate insights.

We need to learn as coaches, scrum masters, captains:

Fear of conflict – TKI conflict modes, leading with real time permission and diagnosis of types of conflict. The difference between consensus and buy in.

Absence of Trust – Personal histories questions as a retro opener, improv games (last pic on your phone) Myers Briggs, Belbin people profiles.


You could argue that if you manage deliver results using an agile framework the top step of the pyramid the bottom two will follow. I think the skill you have as a facilitator or coach at those two levels and even if you are seen to be delivering there will still be conflict and may still be an absence of trust which is stopping your team from reaching a truly high performing level.


I would like to see more agile coaching and training focusing on building team trust and dealing with conflict.



  1. Thanks Stephen, very interesting. I’d agree and hope that keeping the top three levels well looked after would naturally reduce the need for the bottom two. Would the title ‘conflict’ be better shown as ‘Harmony’? to keep all titles the positive representations.

    With the bottom two levels a quick look at Graves Levels can show how complex it can become ‘http://vievolve.com/values-systems-4/’.

    I tend to find that clear roles and responsibilities and a good leader (not hero!) are the factors which alone have the biggest single positive influence.


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