Agile methodologies foster self-organization to reach optimal outcome of productivity, quality, design and general decision making. Self-organization, by definition, means that little space is given to top-bottom directives. It’s all about collaborating, and sometimes it gets messy. Being able to have constructive disagreements is the cornerstone of self-organizing teams. Without constructive disagreements, a team can be polarized into two sub-groups, or a team member can be cast away, or perhaps event worst, the team can be stock in disagreement forever.
The goal of a constructive disagreement should be to converge towards a consensus. Most of the time, it’s neither the solution of A or B, it’s a combination of both or something entirely different that would have never been thought of without the contribution of all disagreeing members.
In 1965, psychologist Bruce Tuckman was studying the stages that a team goes through in it’s lifespan. He came up with the four following stages: forming, storming, norming, and performing in his paper titled Developmental sequence in small groups1. He was attempting to explain the path most teams usually follow to reach high performance. The teams that never undergone the storming and norming phases either stayed at the forming forever and never reached high performance, or were simply never a real team, but rather a group of individuals not truly focused on a common goal2.
In this context, we shouldn’t undervalue the importance constructive disagreements:
For a good summary of each stage of a time lifecycle, have a look at MindTools.com article on Bruce Tuckman4.
- Developmental sequence in small groups, Bruce Tuckman, 1965
- Key Difference Between Group and Team article on keydifferences.com
- Video on Productive Disagreements from Dan Shapiro, author of Negotiating the Nonnegotiable: How to Resolve Your Most Emotionally Charged Conflicts
- MindTools.com article on Bruce Tuckman 4 stages of team evolution