There are always hurdles: managing impediments correctly

What are impediments?

Impediments are influences or obstacles…

  • that cannot be eliminated through self-organization within the team
  • that hinder the team’s work and slows down progress
  • that limit the application of the agile Scrum framework
  • that keep the team from getting even better

Impediment examples from everyday agile work

  • Premises that do not allow for face-to-face communication within the team
  • Overheated rooms in summer
  • Too many sick team members
  • Insufficient technical equipment (e.g. small monitors or missing testing environment)
  • Poor availability of the product owner
  • Skill deficiencies in the team
  • Skill deficiencies in the Scrum Master (e.g. mediation skills in conflicts)
  • Lack of commitment from management

Transparency of Impediments

Step 1 on the way to an efficient scope with impediments is transparency. The team must agree that problems are actively addressed and continuous optimization is only possible on the basis of regular, self-critical reflection.

Dealing with impediments

If a problem cannot be solved directly during the daily scrum or as part of the retrospective, it must be recorded in an impediment backlog. Because if forgotten and unresolved impediments add up, it is usually not only the next sprint goal that is in danger but in the worst case the entire project. And even with seemingly unproblematic project progress, there is usually something that can still be improved. A completely empty Impediment Board is therefore more of a sign of a lack of agile mindset — in this case, the Scrum Master’s task would be to help identify problems and to create an open, trusting climate that is open to discussion.

The Impediment Backlog

In our experience, a table with the following columns has proven useful for documenting impediments:

Tip

In order to develop meaningful solutions together, we recommend using SMART criteria when formulating the suggestions or, as with user stories, the INVEST rules. In this way, the solution ideas at refinement or planning meetings can be understood and appreciated more quickly and easily.

Status quo of impediments

The status of the recorded impediments should be checked regularly in the retrospectives. If teams have only been working in a self-organized and agile manner for a short time, experience has shown that impediments accumulate at the beginning — in this case, we have had good experiences with “Communities of Practice”. Similar to task force teams, these reflect at short intervals (e.g. weekly 30 to 60 minutes) with the affected team members on the recorded impediments, record new problems, and coordinate the implementation of solutions among themselves.

Tip

Proven measures for solving impediments should also be made available to other teams within the organization in order to establish a culture of mutual learning. The transparent transfer of knowledge is possible, for example, with the help of newsletters, agile blogs, or cross-team Scrum of Scrums and retrospectives according to LeSS (= Large Scale Scrum).

Conclusion

It is not always possible to remove impediments quickly and easily. A prerequisite for good impediment management — and thus for optimal team flow — is courage, perseverance, a culture of communication, and transparency.

--

--

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store