Impact of conscious and unconscious group dynamics in Agile teams

Impact of conscious and unconscious group dynamics in Agile teams

When people get together to work in groups, conscious and unconscious dynamics come into play that have an impact on how teams achieve their results or fail to do so. When soldiers fight in trenches, any misalignment of Boundaries, Authority, Roles and Task, called BART, can be fatal. While in organisations the danger is not to life, consequences of not managing BART are still significant. Drawing from the tradition of Group Relations Conference methodology and Systems Psychodynamic approach, this session is for any one who works on Agile transformations and wants to deepen their understanding of group dynamics by looking at what happens at both conscious and unconscious levels.

Boundary issues in teams and organisations

What happens when Agile teams feel that managers are intervening too much and they no longer feel self managed? It is a boundary issue and how it is managed can determine how effective Agile implementation is. Boundary issues in groups refer to task, time and territory boundaries and if those boundaries are not managed well, they can lead to dysfunction in a team or organisation.

Exercising Authority

Authority is the right to do work and is formally invested in the job one takes up. However, people also exercise personal authority in how they discharge their roles.  When someone takes authority, they also take responsibility and accountability. What happens when there is abdication of authority? Or someone’s exercise of authority interferes with others work. e.g., In Agile, self managed teams own delivery and hence should have the required authority and accountability. The reality though is that managers are still held responsible perhaps with out the required authority. The dynamics that this creates are well known to anyone who has ever worked with Agile teams.

Roles people play

People occupy roles and they can be formal or informal roles. So what is the role of a coach? When we ask this question to any group of Agile coaches, the answers are almost always different in some aspects while having some similarity. How come a role which is defined same for all coaches is understood and executed differently by those holding that role? Lack of clarity on what roles each of us play in Agile transformations can impact the outcomes.


Conflicts arise if perceptions of task are different from person to person or group to group. And as individuals and teams manage boundaries, exercise authority and execute different roles, the question to keep centre stage is - what for? What is the task of the individual or group for which it has been created? In common parlance its the goal, mission or reason for why a team or organisation exists. e.g., does everyone know clearly what is the overall goal for transformation? And more specifically, does everyone know what task they have to perform so that the larger goal is achieved? If that clarity is not provided, groups can go off track with turf fights, blame games and do everything else but the task for which they were created. Result is the feeling that Agile does not work!

This session will help participants explore these four facets of group dynamics as they play  out during Agile transformations. The application of BART concept is useful for managers, coaches, agile teams and anyone who works with groups.

Acknowledgement: Based on work done by Zachary Gabriel Green and René J. Molenkamp (2005)


Outline/Structure of the Workshop

Introduction to BART  - 15 mins

Small group activity to understand BART and unconscious group dynamics - 30 mins

Small and large group work to explore applications in Agile transformations - 30 mins

Closure - 15 mins

Learning Outcome

- Exploring conscious and unconscious dynamics in groups

- Understanding BART

- Exploring its application for Agile transformations

Target Audience

Open for coaches, managers and anyone working on Agile teams

schedule Submitted 4 years ago

Public Feedback

    • Liked Deepak Dhananjaya

      Deepak Dhananjaya / gunjan zutshi - Taking A Systemic Approach to Agile Transformations - Framework Agnostic Agile

      90 Mins

      Working with teams and organizations over several years, we would often hear comments like Agile doesnt work for us, Agile is good in theory not in practice.  These responses left us wondering what was really happening and led us to what we think are critical missing links. Firstly, implementation of Agile seems very mechanistic and lacking “ a systemic view”. Secondly, frameworks (scrum, Kanban, safe etc) seem to be driving the transformation and have become the face (definition) of Agile.

      We addressed some of these challenges in our work as Agile coaches and this session is to share our approach that emerged from those learnings.“System Driven Transformation (SDT) is our approach - it is not another framework, rather it’s a thinking approach like TDD (it’s a way we approach coding).

      This workshop will help you understand SDT to start looking at Agile with a systemic lens based on the philosophy Framework Agnostic Agile. The philosophy is to honour the values of Agile Manifesto ( and be driven by that rather than the frameworks.  The workshop will help you reflect on missing links in your own systems.

      System Driven Transformation (SDT) approach to Agile keeps centre stage the need/s of the system* that is seeking change.  System can be the smallest team which is implementing Agile or the wider organisation seeking change.

      Driving factor for transformation is the goal for the transformation.  This is what the system desires as outcome of Agile transformation. It is formulated by considering current state of the system; challenges the system is facing or the wishes the system has. This defines everything that is done as part of transformation process.

      A critical part of defining the goal is diagnosis. It is to understand not just what can be seen – the issues / problems / challenges – which are merely the symptoms – but also to figure out the underlying reasons for these challenges. It involves diagnosis of  technology / process ( current software development process, engineering deficits), structure ( organization / team ), people (leadership, collaboration, capability), culture or strategy ( context for change).


      The next step in our approach is to work along with the clients to determine the interventions .There can be many ways to achieve the goal but for us, solutions are guided by the values of Agile manifesto ( and not constrained by existing Agile frameworks. The solution may involve using any of the existing Agile frameworks , or a combination of them. Or, it may also be a unique framework that evolves keeping in view needs of the system. Our interventions also focus on structure and people aspects of transformation so that the change effort is holistic and sustainable.

      This approach is still evolving, and hence this workshop is invitation for people to expand this approach!