Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Scrum and negotiation



If you search The Scrum Guide for “negotiation” term, you’ll get two matches, both related to negotiation of the sprint backlog between the product owner and the scrum team. Without doubts, making agreement about sprint backlog is a negotiation.

The theory of negotiation says that every time you cannot get what you want without cooperation of others you are negotiating. 

In scrum everything is about of cooperation, so I would say that pretty much all the time, while working in a scrum team, in one way or another, you are negotiating.

Regardless of whether team members are planning their responsibilities for a day, agreeing about sprint backlog content during sprint planning session, discussing the value increment added to the project, making adaptations of process during retrospective, or defining DoR and DoD, they are seated at the negotiation table. 

So how to negotiate in a scrum team?

Maybe you know the old story about couple of kids dividing a pizza. In case you don’t here is the short version:

There is one pizza. There are two kids who want to have it. 

So who will be the winner? Maybe one of the kids takes pizza and wins. Another possibility is that pizza is split half, so both kids will be equally happy.

The win-win and scrum approach would be to talk about WHY each kid wants to have pizza. Maybe one kid likes to eat only crust, and another kid likes to eat only centre of the pizza. Maybe there are no conflict of interests as initially assumed.


So we should always ask WHY while negotiating. Maybe when you know WHY, if needed, you can offer alternative for what was asked, and create a real win-win situation (getting what you want without taking away what others want). Sometimes WHY is already there but you need to listen to other team members carefully.

Recently I’ve attended Advanced agile master class with Alistair Cockburn in Belgrade. Very impressive class. One of the things that was especially striking was when Alistair mentioned that daily standup is meeting for listening, not for talking.

I think in general people can always pay more attention to listening. If you also believe this, your next retrospective may be a good moment to discuss listening and negotiation practices in your team.

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