Part of a ScrumMaster’s job is to remove any impediments that are preventing the team from making progress towards the sprint goal. Often, the biggest challenge is not removing the impediment – it is actually getting people to identify the impediment in the first place.
Sometimes it’s a matter of perception. Some people are reluctant to raise “blocking issues” because they are afraid that it is an indictment of the people that may be causing the issue. Solution: call them “Impediments.” Sometimes a simple euphemism changes the perception.
Often someone on the team knows about an impediment and mentions it to their team mates and/or brings it up during daily Scrum but it gets lost in the shuffle. Maintaining a highly visible impediments list on a board in the team’s work area servers a dual purpose:
- Helps to keep the focus on removing known impediments
- Indirectly discourages individuals from becoming impediments
A typical management response to impediments is concern and root causes analysis (“How could this possibly happen? We need to make sure this never happens again!”). The Scrum Master’s response when a team member raises an impediment should be to say, “Great! Thanks for sharing. Now that we all know about it, we can address it.” A team that is comfortable discussing impediments is far ahead of one whose first instinct is to sweep them under the rug or to switch into CYA mode and run for cover.
- Build a team culture that views impediments as a natural part of any challenging project.
- Ensure that impediments are visible to everyone.
- The retrospective is a great place to discuss impediments and how to avoid them in the future.