Thursday, May 17, 2012

7 Aspects of a GREAT Impediment Sticky

A typical impediment sticky
annotating the blocked task.
Just making an impediment list is not good enough.  Yes, it is a start.  But only the start.  Raising impediments at the daily stand-up meeting shows that a team is mature enough to recognize that all problems are better solved in the light of day.  Problems are easier to solve when more than one person is working on the issue.  One of the first steps to getting multiple people working on an impediment is to make it known to the team.

Yet this is the start, not the end of the process.  Yes many newbie teams believe that the Scrum Master's job is to resolve these impediments.  That is a wonderful misconception and will work for a while as the newbie team learns the power of an agile mindset.  But only the maturing teams learn that it is their job to remove these impediments.

So what are 7 aspects on a great impediment card living on the top of your impediment list?
  1. Title - this should be a short pithy phrase; not a dissertation title.
  2. Description - a few sentences that anyone reading the card will get context to the problem, and be interested enough to ask questions.
  3. Who - a name of the person effected by the impediment (should be the person raising it - but OK, if not include both - it is an indication that growth is needed).
  4. Date - the timestamp for the start of the resolution tracking.  If Impediments are resolved in a day then this field may be wasteful - in fact most of this info is waste.  Yet, I'm betting if you are read this far, you have the typical problem of impediments are stale and rarely resolved.  That's why you need the date!
  5. Shepherd - the person who will see this impediment through to resolution
  6. Current status - not a one word status - but a description of the progress, possible workarounds.  This is a log of the resolution process.
  7. Resolution date - a time stampe for the end.  The status above should indicate the resolution.

This is a list of aspects of a great impediment.  If your impediments are not being resolved and you have more that a handful (one for each finger) then you should treat them as more permeant citizens of your task board.   Make the life of the impediment visible.  I'm not going to discuss the resolution process, we'll save that for another day.  But with just this basic data you could start to track the cost of not resolving your impediments.  

Estimate in story points or task hours the amount of effort that would be reduced if the impediment were resolved per day.  Then apply that cost to the impediments life span.  Do this for a few dozen impediments and you may have a wonderful info-graphic to take to your leadership.

Most of the leader's that I've worked with say they understand the impediment resolution process, and why it is important.  Many also say no one ever tells them about the problems.  They say they are willing to help.  Few have trained themselves to go ask, or to question the teams.  Great scrum takes discipline, even at the leadership level.


See Also:
Top Ten Organizational Impediments - by Vodde and LarmanFive Tips of Impediment Resolution - by Stefan Roock



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