Impediment List

(Impediment Backlog)

... the Scrum Team is trying to make progress on the product.

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Team members often run into problems that hinder their progress. Fixing them at the moment may not be possible, practical, and/or in the best interest of the organization or team.

Internal or external events can slow the Development Team’s work. Team members might want to fix the problem immediately, but that takes effort away from making progress towards the Sprint Goal.

On the other hand, if you don’t resolve an impediment immediately, it can shift from being an acute problem to a chronic problem; something you just live with and kind of ignore.

An impediment often prevents the Development Team from doing its work. It may also prevents it from improving its performance. For example, team interaction issues can get in the way of making progress, and slow or outdated equipment may prevent the team from working at its best.

Therefore:

Make the issues visible with an Impediment List; raise them up to the right people in the organization for resolution. ScrumMaster orders the list by relative severity and value.

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Any Scrum Team member may add an impediment to the list to make it visible. This presupposes that the Scrum Team is a Community of Trust, because some impediments may be difficult to raise, such as personal ones relating to health or family situation. A team member should always be able to confide such impediments with the ScrumMaster. In the interest of preserving the dignity of individuals the ScrumMaster may choose to resolve some impediments discretely.

Items on the Impediment List may be resolved by the Scrum Team itself or by others outside the Scrum Team. ScrumMasters may personally attend to impediments that would otherwise be a distraction for the team, and which do not require the team’s expertise to resolve. Alternatively, the Developers may work with the Product Owner to add work to the Product Backlog to resolve the impediment.

During the Sprint Retrospective the Scrum Team is likely to add new impediments to the list. This is also a good opportunity to refine the Impediment List.

The Impediment List is a manifestation of kaizen mind. An empty Impediment List means that you aren’t looking hard enough for ways to improve. (“No problem is a problem.”) On the other hand, impediments must be resolved in a timely manner; otherwise you are not improving. Impediments must not get stale on the list.

True story: A team was complaining about their manager who wasn’t removing impediments for them. I asked if the manager knew what the impediments were and they said they assumed he did. I had the team write the impediments on fluorescent Post-It® notes with the word “Block” in bold at the top, and took them to the manager. As he wasn’t there I plastered them around his monitor so he couldn’t miss them. Half an hour later he called out looking for me. He came up and asked if these were blockers from the team. I responded: Yes, and he smiled saying it was great as he now knew what he needed to be working on.


Picture from: Damian Dovarganes http://www.californiachaparral.com/chaparralfacts/dchaparralgeology.html.