Avoiding & Dealing with Software Development Team Conflicts

Avoiding & dealing with software development team conflicts

Conflicts are almost inevitable, but not invincible in any team in any field, including software development. A report by CPP showed that 85% of employees in the U.S. at all levels experience conflict to some degree and spend 2.8 hours per week dealing with conflicts. 

The fact that various stakeholders participate in a software development life cycle increases the chance of software development team conflicts. Hence, in this article, we will discuss the most-faced conflicts in software engineering, including: 

  • Common software development team conflicts 
  • How to avoid them? 
  • How to deal with them? 

Grab a coffee and go with us now! 

Common Software Development Team Conflicts 

1. Task Conflicts 

Task conflicts arise when people disagree on how a product should be developed and try to protect their own opinions. These can happen within a functional team or between different functional teams. 

Task conflicts within a functional team 

Task conflicts arise when engineers have different ideas on how the software should be developed. E.g., among the dev team, one proposes C++ and others want Python; one offers to use open-source tools but others want something completely private.  

Still, task conflict within a team is not always bad. At a controllable level, it helps avoid groupthink, encourages innovation and motivates people to find out the best methods. It only turns bad when it goes too far! 

Common Reasons: 

  • Project vision conflict: Inattentive project planning or the lack of popularization can result in a situation when not everyone in the team shares the same vision, hence offering different ways to go. 
  • Poor management: When there’s no trusted middleman navigating a team, it can lead to “anarchy” in a workplace in which everyone only believes in their own ideas. 

Task conflicts between functional teams 

Clashes between different stakeholders often happen in software development. It’s because there’re various teams, including designers, developers, quality assurance (QA) engineers, DevOps, etc., participate in a development process and they’re working in dissimilar but interdependent roles.  

E.g., QA engineers try to detect bugs and ask for fixing while developers want to finish the software as soon as possible. Or, UI/UX designers strive for an appealing interface and usability but testers complain that the speed is too low or that’s not what the client needs. 

Common Reasons: 

  • Too many differences: The teams “forget” that they are in different roles but actually working toward the same goal, plus having separate opinions toward conflict resolutions.  
  • Standard ambiguity: Lack of common standards about the output. 

How to avoid task conflicts in software development?  

#1: Set clear common standards for all the members and functional teams.  

For instance, the SRS (Software requirements specifications), which is created to describe the purpose and all requirements regarding a specific software product, or the SDD (Software design document) on how the product should be built. We use the SDD like a “wiki” during the entire development process so that developers know what they have to build, testers know what they have to ensure, and the SRS for everyone has common rules to refer to when encountering opinion dissimilarity. 

#2. Build a collaborative culture among your software engineers. 

First, we should encourage positive communication between stakeholders, such as: 

  • Schedule regular meetings. 
  • Set regular sharing and training. 
  • Host internal communication activities. 

At a higher level, try to help people comprehend the company’s vision, mission, and feel that they are part of the organization. This is actually how you build your organization’s culture, right? It’s hard but it’s worth it! Since everyone will understand that these disagreements are there to make the product better, and will sit down together to find the best solution despite personal opinions.

2. Interpersonal Conflicts

As the software development process depends on the collaboration between software engineers, personal conflicts, or relationship conflicts are almost unavoidable. The causes for this are mostly personality differences, including egos, styles, and personalities.  

While task conflicts are sometimes beneficial, personal conflicts often lead to poor performance and slow down the process. Relationship conflicts even have stronger negative impacts to team performance in complicated processes like software development, per Researchgate analysis. 

How to avoid interpersonal conflicts in software development? 

#1: Build a collaborative culture as we discussed in the previous section. 

#2: Prioritize cultural behavior when hiring. 

During recruitment, consider if the candidate fits your organization’s culture and working environment. Don’t hesitate to ask about why they want to be part of the company, their working methodology, and observe the way he/she behaves. 

#3: Set clear tasks and goals for individuals.  

The truth is when everyone is clear on their duty, the less chance of mix-ups between duties and fewer risks of conflict between colleagues. There’re diversified project management tools in software development such as Jira, Trello, and Asana. Or use a custom KPIs management tool that works for your company. 

How To Resolve Software Development Team Conflicts? 

The first and foremost principle to conflict resolution is to focus on finding the best solutions, instead of proving “I’m right and you’re wrong”. The second principle is to not let anyone feel disrespected or ignored. 

Now we go to the top solutions to overcome team conflict in software development! 

1. When it’s basically misunderstandings. 

Whether it’s a task-focused or people-focused conflict, within a unit or involving various teams, we need communication!  

The first scenario is when it’s all about misunderstandings, happened because information wasn’t communicated the right way or for whatever reasons. Anyway, this is the level where stakeholders typically can give solutions themselves and overcome conflicts. 

2. When it’s a real problem. 

#1: Rely on common standards 

Have all stakeholders sit down and have a common point for all to look at like the SRS, SDD documents and/or available materials. Here are some questions for each party to ask: 

  • Is my work following the project specifications? 
  • Are there too many emotions driving my thoughts? 
  • Do I have the expertise or any data to prove my ideas or against others’ opinions? 
  • If this is the problem, what exactly is the impact that you and I are targeting? 
  • Can we incorporate parts of all opinions that lead to a better impact? 

The real problem will gradually appear when we go through those documents and questions. Particularly, the last second questions are vital to ask. We as different roles working on the same product and there’s an end impact behind every element that we’re working on.  

Commonly, some solutions come forth after discussion and most disagreements can be cleared at this phase.  

#2: Have a reputable middleman.  

If things go seriously, third-party intervention is the option left. He/she may be the project manager, project owner, BA, or client (in the case of service companies). The middleman will join the talk, be a “judge”, and make decisions after all. The keys here are to listen and understand members, then drive them to a solution that’s the best impact instead of proving “I’m right and you’re wrong”.   

Final Words 

Again, we want to emphasize that software development team conflicts are not a new concept or completely bad. As long as we work together, we will sometimes disagree about something, have different opinions on the same situations, and offer various solutions to the same issues. 

The principles of conflict resolution in software engineering are to focus on finding the best solutions, instead of being “right”. Don’t forget that true communication and proper management methodologies will help your team overcome any issues. 

Contact LTS Group for a consultation 

Are you facing custom software development team conflicts and need further detailed solutions to these? Don’t hesitate to contact us if you need a consultation for the next steps. 

Website: https://ltsgroup.tech/ 

Tel: (+84) 24-6660-7474 

Fanpage: https://www.linkedin.com/company/lts-group-vietnam/

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