“Anything that slows the team’s progress towards the Sprint Goal is an impediment.”
All too often I hear team members in Daily Scrum mention the same chunk of work 4-5 days running and say, “No Blockers.” Why is that? Experience tells me there a heap of factors, however the biggest seems to be that we don’t have a common understanding of what an impediment is.
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, an impediment is “something that makes progress, movement, or achieving something difficult or impossible”. In the context of a Scrum team, I would go further.
Anything that slows the team’s progress towards the Sprint Goal is an impediment.
Until our teams recognize what impediments are, they can’t get resolved.
- Low bandwidth connection while working from home
- Email interruptions
- Slack or MS teams scrolling messages at an alarming rate
- People outside the team asking for help (either other teams or management)
- Lack of information
- Waiting for another team
- Waiting for a 3rd party vendor
- Poorly understood Product Backlog Item/User Story
- Slow computer
- Frequent broken builds
- Poor quality chair, desk, small computer monitor
- Slow decision-making
- Too many cat photos in the teams Slack stream 🙂
A couple of things I’ve found help in making impediments more apparent. Change the word to “slowdowns” – it’s a lot easier to admit to being slowed by something that it is being impeded. Go deeper, as the ScrumMaster, and look at the Sprint Backlog or Kanban board to spot items that have spent several days in the same state (e.g. “In Progress”, “waiting for test” etc.). These items are likely impeded by something.
On too many teams people think it’s the ScrumMaster’s job to remove the impediments – “ScrumMaster, I’m out of coffee (or sticky notes), can you get me more?” This is clearly ridiculous. A good ScrumMaster helps the team learn to remove their own impediments. They aren’t a magician who waves a wand and does it all for you.
- Definition of Impediment
- Maintain an Impediment List
- The 3 Levels of a Scrum Master Removing Impediment
- Servant Leader or Slave – a Rant About “Removing Impediments”
Mark Levison has been helping Scrum teams and organizations with Agile, Scrum and Kanban style approaches since 2001. From certified scrum master training to custom Agile courses, he has helped well over 8,000 individuals, earning him respect and top rated reviews as one of the pioneers within the industry, as well as a raft of certifications from the ScrumAlliance. Mark has been a speaker at various Agile Conferences for more than 20 years, and is a published Scrum author with eBooks as well as articles on InfoQ.com, ScrumAlliance.org an AgileAlliance.org.
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