In the ever-changing world of organizational development, we could encounter unique challenges that I like to call “potato dysfunctions.” These issues can slow down the growth and effectiveness of our teams. We can look at three main “potato dysfunctions” and connect them to the Scrum Values of commitment, courage, focus, openness, and respect—or, more accurately, to the absence of these values. Let’s dive into these challenges to see how they affect individuals, teams, and the entire organization.

Hot Potato

This problem arises when people shy away from taking responsibility or being accountable, similar to the way one might avoid holding a hot potato. Such behavior results in tasks, problems, or issues being passed around without resolution. Consequently, there’s a significant drop in ownership, deceleration of decision-making processes, and persistence of unresolved issues, all of which can severely dampen team morale and effectiveness. In such environments, even problems that are relatively simple to manage and resolve can stagnate, remaining unresolved within the organization for months or even years. When playing a “hot potato” game, we end up with a lack of courage to do the right thing, and a lack of commitment and focus on solving problems rather than avoiding them. Moreover, there can be times when we metaphorically “throw a rotten potato” by assigning tasks that are more damaging than helpful.

Treating People Like Sacks of Potatoes

This metaphor highlights the dysfunction of viewing or treating team members indifferently, without recognizing their unique talents, needs, or contributions. This can make employees feel unimportant and replaceable, leading to lower motivation, satisfaction, and productivity, as well as higher turnover. Additionally, shifting people from one team, project, or product to another without considering the impact can be harmful. People are not interchangeable like objects; these shifts can result in a temporary decrease in team effectiveness and a heightened resistance to change. It’s essential to acknowledge and respect people’s fears, emotions, and the time needed to adjust to new circumstances. Additionally, people require openness and support from leaders and decision-makers when changes occur.

Badge or Order Made Out of Potato

Here we have a two-sided issue. On one hand, we see the giving of superficial or meaningless rewards within an organization. A “potato badge” is like a symbol without lasting value, making any praise feel empty and failing to truly motivate or honor employees. This situation can create an environment where genuine achievements are ignored, causing employees to feel unrecognized and demotivated.  On the other hand, an “order made of potato” can indicate a culture that values superficial rewards over actual skills, knowledge, and talent. Leaders in organizations play a crucial role in this context: they should encourage appropriate behaviors, acknowledge the hard work of employees, and value the learning and skills that their team members acquire. Without that the focus might be in the wrong place.


If your organization is navigating through complex issues and demands high levels of creativity, moving towards a healthier and more productive workplace is essential. To achieve this, it’s important to recognize and rectify “potato dysfunctions”. Begin by assessing your work environment: do any of these dysfunctional behaviors sound familiar?




Hello! I’m Joanna. I work as a trainer, consultant, mentor, and coach in Action Learning. I’m passionate about helping individuals, teams, and organizations tackle complex challenges. Enjoying my content? Want to learn more? You’re warmly invited to get in touch with me: 🙂

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