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Vishwadeep Khatri
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Impediment is a hindrance or obstruction in doing something. Agile Impediment is any issue that slows down the speed of work of the scrum team and hence affects the successful delivery of the product.

 

An application-oriented question on the topic along with responses can be seen below. The best answer was provided by Dr. Babita Mallick on 7th Nov 2022.

 

Applause for all the respondents - Himanshu Sharma, Rahul Arora, Dr. Babita Mallick, Anuj Bhatnagar, Mohamed Asif, Ravindra Kulkarni, Godwin Thomas.

Question

Q 519. One purpose of the Daily Stand Up in Agile is to understand the impediments that the team is facing. Elaborate with some examples the different kinds of impediments and how a scrum master should address them.

 

Note for website visitors - Two questions are asked every week on this platform. One on Tuesday and the other on Friday.

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A daily stand-up meeting in Agile is an opportunity for the project team to discuss a project's progress at a high level toward the Sprint Goal and adapt the Sprint Backlog as necessary. The 3 topics that are address in these daily stand-up meetings are:

1. What did you do yesterday?

2. What will you do today?

3. What (if anything) is blocking your progress?

 

Addressing these 3 questions is to make sure everyone is aligned and if anything impedes the team from getting the work done, reduces the team productivity and slows down team speed in achieving the Sprint Goal. Impediments could be of many types such as

- people issues

- team not skilled enough

- technical issues

- operational issues 

- managerial issues like lack of management support.

 

The impediments are different from obstacles (which relates to when something or someone entirely stands in the way. Impediments are also different from risks that are possible events/obstacles that occur while impediments are already reality.

 

All impediments need not be fixed together in one go. But prioritize impediments based on impact on the progress/productivity, cost-benefit analysis, sequencing. Whole team’s viewpoint in identifying the top impediment should be seek and Scrum Master (SM) should ask the team to decide. Typically, SM is the best person to fix the impediments, while sometimes it could also be the project owner (PO)), development team (doers) or some people from outside the team. One expects to see a benefit from work on impediments in about every Sprint.

 

A good SM creates an environment where impediments are raised. One need not wait for daily scrum meet to raise an impediment, but the as soon as one identifies one. And SM will push the team to decide on the impediment and act on removing them. The SM should evaluate on removal of an impediment based on following few questions such as:

1. Is it really an impediment or is it something the development team can resolve themselves?

2. Do we need to remove this impediment?

3. What is the team problem?

 

Something will only become an impediment when it exceeds the self-organizing capabilities of the team. For example, scarcity of a skill might become an impediment if the development team can nott think of an alternate option themselves. Maybe a team member is eager to learn the desired skill and sees this as a great opportunity. Another example is team conflicts does not have to an impediment as SM can lead the team through a healthy conflict and debate into a stronger team.

 

Few strategies that can help in removing the impediments:

1. Don’t wait for daily scrum to raise an impediment

2. Clear Sprint Goal can help in identifying if something is a real impediment

3. Differentiate between blocks and impediments

4. Create a simple flip-over board for easy visualization on the impediment, action plan to remove it and status as this will help in increasing transparency

5. Keep track of fixed impediments and incorporate in the Sprint Review and Retrospective

6. SM should have good understanding of the organizational culture so as to getting things done by choosing the right approach

7. Be brave and creative to take bold decisions

8. Collaborate with PO and other stakeholders

9. Stop spending time and effort in solving the wrong problem.

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Scrum master role is very crucial and important depending on situation and context. Everything with the purpose of helping people and applies Scrum framework better. I will share the different situation in which I try to be relevant for the Scrum master. this blog will describe the most common definitions and examples of an impediment, the Scrum master as an impediment remover and how to deal with impediments.
 

What is an Impediment?

Below is the good definition about impediment:

  • An Impediment is a factor that restricts the development team in its creation of a valuable piece of software, or restricts the team in achieving its progress.
  • Challenges or problems that go out of self-management of the development team 
  • An event that impedes any of the team from working of their estimated speed.

Some nice quotes about impediments are:

  • "A good Scrum Master creates an environment where raising impediments can occur. A great Scrum Master creates an environment where creativity can occur."
  • “A good Scrum master creates an culture where creativity can occur.”
  • “A great Scrum master will remove impediments to improve team productivity and will prepare for forgiveness.”

Examples of Possible Impediments

Below is the example of possible impediments:

  • Team member conflicts
  • Dominating attitude of few member in team
  • Lack of team coordination
  • Lots of unimportant meeting
  • Lack of product ownership
  • Team member sickness
  • Sudden changes in team
  • Development team tooling issue
  • Lack of competence or required skill
  • Lots of Technical issue
  • Supplier issue
  • Product owner not available
  • Unrealistic management expectation
  • Delay in approvals by management

The Scrum Master as an Impediment Remover

The Scrum master role is to guide development team towards cross functionality and self-organization. The scrum master motivates and supports the team to reach their final goal and use full potential. To achieve this, the Scrum master should ask below question:

  • Is this real Impediment?
  • Can team resolve this impediment themselves?
  • What is real problem?

It is important to realize that all impediments don’t have to be impediments. Is something beyond the self-managing capabilities of team than its become real impediments:

Competency to perform require task can be the real impediments, but believe on team to think off other option themselves. May be team se problem as opportunity for learning and grow and find solution to learn desired skill. Also a conflict between team members does not have a real impediment. This is an opportunity for healthy debate and creates new ideas and good team bonding.
 

It is important that there should be environment where team feels to safe to raise impediments. A Scrum master can help in creating environment. He should encourage teams in trying to solve their problems. Also should respect self-managing capabilities of teams. More important he should prevent something which can become impediment in future.

Tactics for Removing Impediments

Removing impediments can be a challenge. Below I've shared some tactics and ideas that a Scrum Master can consider when facing impediments.

  • Act timely to avoid daily scrum convert into impediment. It is better to have a daily check sheet as per example

image.thumb.png.2e0dac6712fc08fac407c0fc1c3d4fde.png

 

  • Use SMART Goal, if something prevents teams from achieving SMART Goal , than is is an impediment. SMART goal can help to identify weather impediment.

 

  • Realize the difference between 'blocks' and 'impediments'. If only single task is effected than it is a block which can be solved by team themselves. But if overall progress slowing down than than it is an impediments , that kind of impediments needs to solve by the Scrum master.

 

  • Visual Control using an 'Impediment Board'. Impediments board can visualize all impediments easily and this can be good idea to create transparency among team and the Scrum master can monitor board on day to day basis. It can be a Daily work management board also if daily define task does not complete on time than there is some impediments which can be noticed by the Scrum master. this can greatly help to take timely action to resolve impediments.

image.png.3c8cb58cbc4ced2dec756b7cbc781eca.png

 

  • Monitor of fixed impediments. This will provide great input for the Sprint Review and Sprint Retrospective.

 

  • Organization Culture. Each organisation having different culture and its way of working, the scum master should be aware about it and he should understand how things done in the organization effectively. This can save lots of time and efforts in resolving impediments of development team.

 

  • Be Strong and creative in eliminating impediments. The scrum master should ready to ask for forgiveness afterwards when he need to take strong decisions to ensure the development team efficiency.

 

 

  • Coordinate with key Stakeholder as the Product Owner. It is important to coordinate and communicate with product management and stake holders and suppliers. Product owner is key player on this area ensure a healthy relationships with the product owner and key stakeholders.

 

image.png.a56fa9e296e6838f8acae16b837aac55.png

 

  • Save time and efforts: as we discuss in beginning that The Scrum master should focus on real problem, not on all problems. Understand situation and check it is really impediment or a opportunity for development team learning.

Conclusion

By doing some research, I drafted the conclusion of scrum master as an Impediment remover. Mainly I learned is to respect the self-organizing capabilities of team. If every minor issue to be resolved by scrum master, than how team will grow? so it is important to develop team and they have to learn by daily impediment.

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The most critical aspect of a high-performing team is the continuous flow of value to its customers which can be in the form of a product or a service. Anything which impedes this flow of value is an impediment, it is crucial as a scrum master to help teams visualize impediments, resolve issues that are within team’s control & advocate on team’s behalf to remove obstacles in their path.

 
An impediment is anything that prevents the team from doing their work, slows progress, or delays delivery of value. If a team’s goal is to optimize for the fast flow of value to its customers (measurable value), an impediment is anything that gets in a way of the team achieving that goal.
 
The three common types of impediments & how as a scrum master one should handle them are as explained below:-
 
Skill or Capability Gap : 
 
These are the impediments that arise due to skill gap that exists amongst team members & this can lead to uneven work distribution, which leads leads to burnout of frustration amongst skilled team members. 
 
As a scrum master, one can persuade the leadership in order to help secure more resources or support the team in training so as to build new skills.
 
Process or System Issue :
 
These kind of impediments are primarily due to the inefficiencies in the underlying delivery process or systems that are involved in delivery of value. These inefficiencies are the non value added things that are a part of the legacy processes or systems.
 
As a scrum master, it is of paramount importance to reduce the unnecessary bureaucracy or gains approval to change process.
 
Behavioral Issue :
 
This is one of the most common impediments as it is important for a team to exhibit a certain set of behaviors that will ultimately reflect upon their ability to deliver value to its customers, these issues primarily gives rise to conflicts within the team & can impact big time the entire value delivery chain.
 
As a scrum master, it is important to address any conflict proactively & also provide the necessary feedback in order to coach the desired behaviours
 
Impediments must be reviewed on a regular cadence & must be owned at appropriate levels for eg: an impediment that can be resolved within the team, should be owned by the team. Management of impediments requires careful consideration of whether the impediment is resolvable within team’s control, or whether it requires support from leadership or support external to the team. As a scrum master while escalating impediments for leadership support, one must consider four key things:-
 
  • Try to resolve the impediment at your level i.e. by having a conversation with another team & asking for their support.
  • Make sure that there is a crisp description of the impediment, including its implications.
  • Provide options for resolution, including a recommended option.
  • Indicate priority / severity of the impediment.
 
It is also very important to have an impediment backlog, as by creating a visible, transparent & an actionable impediment backlog, everyone will have a visibility into a list of prioritized problems & issues that the team is experiencing. The team can then be coached & supported as to remove these blockers to value delivery or get support from the leadership as well.
 
Everyone in the team shares responsibility for identifying impediments & most importantly their root cause. It is vital as a team to continually identify new impediments.
 
 
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Impediments are the hurdles or obstacles that prevent any team from completing their work, slow down the work or impact the velocity in the agile world. Anything that hinders the team in doing their work efficiently and effectively is considered as an impediment.

 

Some examples are –

  • Non availability or indecisiveness of key stakeholders for critical inputs, meetings, reviews, and signoffs etc
  • People issues or ways of working within the team
  • Lack of clarity and alignment among the team or stakeholders
  • Unavailability or faulty tools, equipment, access to system etc
  • Too many meetings or pressure from stakeholders/ management taking away a lot of productive time
  • Unavailability of team members due to illness, personal issues, or other reasons
  • Issues with suppliers
  • Factors like power or system outage, data availability issues etc

 

These can be categorized primarily into 2 categories –

  • Internal or Team impediments, which the project team can resolve on its own or with the guidance of their management.
  • External impediments, which are related to other stakeholders or factors beyond the team’s control.

 

Scrum master should follow the below sequence to address the impediments –

  • Record the impediments in daily stand-ups or otherwise (as and when shared by team members) and gather additional information as needed
  • Prioritize the impediments, also ensure that blockers are separated from impediments as blockers can be resolved by the team members and may not impact the whole sprint/ project
  • Publish the prioritized list of impediments with the details like owner, recommended action, impact/ importance, date identified and estimated resolution date etc
  • Address the impediment either with management’s guidance or by collaborating with other stakeholders
  • Finally communicate the resolution to the relevant stakeholders
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Agile team's one of the commonly used practice is Daily stand-ups, which is short and regularly held to aid team coordination. 


Impediment can be anything that keeps the team from getting the work done and that which usually slows the velocity. 
Scrum Master, as a servant leader, helps and enables the team to reach their full potential and capabilities by being an impediment remover. However, everyone on the team shares equal responsibility for identifying impediments and all of those identified need to be flagged in daily scrum.

 

216800816_Standupmeeting.thumb.jpg.75ba612d5190e179f92208c93bf5bd5d.jpg

 

To make effective progress, scrum master should consider and make conscious decision about removing impediments, some examples include that of:

Do we essentially have to remove the stated impediment?
What is the real problem here?
Is it considered as impediment or something which the team can fix themselves?

 

Some common impediments that the team can face are listed below:
•    Product owner (PO) inaccessibility 
•    Indecisive PO 
•    Internal conflict between team members
•    Poor health of team member 
•    Unforeseen changes in team structure  
•    Shortage of required skill set
•    Loads of technical debt 
•    Issues with suppliers 
•    Undesired pressure from top management
•    Problem with tooling of development team
•    Lots of trivial meetings that the development team need to attend 
•    Restriction to team setting
 

Best practices and tactics to remove impediments: 
•    Understand the organization
•    Collaborate with PO
•    Stop spending time in solving wrong problems
•    Be transparent – Use Impediment board 
•    Have clarity between blocks and impediments 
•    Use sprint goal
•    Do not wait for daily stand-up meeting to raise an impediment 
•    Keep track of fixed impediments 
•    Be brave in removing impediments 
 

If impediment does not go and reoccur, which means team has not effectively identified the root cause and it is suggested to start with the A3 process to eliminate the barriers. 

 

It is important that the team continually identify new impediments which is part of the key concept in scrum continuous improvement and as the team matures ideally the long term goal for the scrum master is to empower the team to remove identified impediments by themselves. 

 

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A Scrum master should identify and remove impediments that keep the team from operating as efficiently as possible.

 

An impediment could be anything that hold the team/s from getting the work done and that slows the amount of work a Team can tackle during a single Sprint. 

 

Most impediments are a form of waste that come in many forms. If its blocking the teams from doing their work, it’s an impediment. 

 

Some examples of impediments

 

·      Unplanned leaves in teams.

·      Not having access to the required software to do the job.

·      Lack of management support, pressure from management.

·      Knowledge gap in the team

·      Team members working on multiple projects

·      Frequent changes in team composition

·      Conflict between team members

·      Too many unimportant meetings the development team has to attend

 

Below are the few actions the scrum master should take to address the impediments

 

·      Should create an environment where raising impediments can occur

·      Should clearly distinguish between blocks and impediments

·      Identify and implement process improvements

·      Should ensure that the team understands and adheres to best Scrum practices

·      Should facilitate scrum events and should make sure that they are positive, productive, and kept within the time limit. 

·      Should coach the team and help them to be self-organized and self-managed

·      Should ensure that team is cross-functional

·      Should keep the team focused on the Sprint Goal and project/product goal

·      Should find techniques for effective Product Goal definition and Product Backlog management

·      Should facilitate stakeholder collaboration as requested or needed

·      Should represent the team to the rest of the organization

·      Should protect the team from interruptions

·      Should keep the teams morale high

Should not spend time on solving the wrong problem

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Impediments are things the slows down an agile team from accomplishing the end results thus affecting the velocity or prevents them from achieving the desired results.

 

How to solve impediments:

Create visibility – Call out all the blockers so that everyone is aware

Find the root cause – Identify what is the main cause of the blockers using 5 why analysis

Escalate when needed – Surface to senior leadership for support

 

Examples of impediments:

IT infrastructure readiness

Head count constraints

Lack of Subject matter expertise

Dependance on multiple teams awaiting approval

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One of the Primary responsibilities of Scrum master for new teams is to coach them to art of working to produced a useable product increment within short sprints. in addition, Scrum master needs to coach the team to identify issues every day and learn to resolves those issues by themselves. The road to excellence is a journey, and the team needs to go through this initial learning with the Scrum master's help. 

 

when there are issues that are outside the team's influences, they are called Impediments. The scrum master needs to won these impediments and resolve them.

 

for example- The lengthy testing cycle may be an organizational level constraints that the scrum master needs to work with the larger organization to find an alternative solutions.

 

to address Impediments, team  conduct daily stand up meeting. The developers synchronize the on-going activities and create a plan for the next 24 hours to drive the development work. also, any impediments are updated to the backlog of impediments and made transparent so others including the scrum master will know the details even if they do not attend the daily scrum.

 

An impediments refers to any problem faced by developers that stops or blocked their planned progress towards the sprint goal. Impediments threaten the completion of the sprint by the pre set date.

 

in scrum, Impediments are continuously identified throughput the sprint , and they are made transparent during the daily standup. There are following tips that the developers follow whenever they face impediments.   

 

1. Make impediments visible- as soon as someone identified the impediments, they make it transparent to other team members through some communication or at the Daily stand up meeting, whichever is earlier.

 

2. Solve the impediments if it is within their influences- if there are impediments that are within the influences of the team to resolve, they need to be resolved by the team either directly or using workarounds.

 

3. Use the scrum master's help for impediments outside the team's influences- if there are impediments need broader collaboration outside the team, the team should seek the scrum's master help.

 

 

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