Impediment List

I just got my copy of A Scrum Book – The Spirit of the Game.  By Sutherland, Coplien et al.  Awesome book. Recommended.


One of my favorites is Pattern #40. Impediment List.

You must read their pages about this pattern for yourself.

But let me add a few things.

Metaphorically, I view this like Bill Belichick’s list at the end of the year of all the things he’d like to improve.  (Belichick is the coach of the New England Patriots NFL football team.  American football is similarly rough compared to international rugby.  Belichick’s team last February won the Super Bowl.   So, the team is already pretty good.)

And I am sure the list is long.

First, he knows things are going to change.  He knows that he could be better in certain positions, and the specific players could become better, each.  Every single one of them.  (Tom Brady is a famous and old quarterback. Even he is not perfect. He gets paid the big bucks. One believes that he is the first to say that he needs to improve.  Which is one of the reasons that he and the Patriots are so good.)

My personal feeling is that after the Top 20 ways to improve (and the Impediment List is just a list of ways to improve — nothing more and nothing less)….after 20, we could write down lots more, but we aren’t going to get to them anytime soon.

Let’s fix the first 20 fully and perfectly (really an impossible job, since perfection is never achieved).  Then we can add some more.

No, actually that is not my advice.  My advice is: keep a list of the Top 20.  And every day consider revising it, to get the new Top 20 on there, and to consider demoting one after you have made significant progress in that area.

It is worth reminding ourselves, in large organizations, that impediments come in all types.  Here are some common examples:

  • people issues within the Team
  • Culture issues
  • imperfect automated testing
  • lack of knowledge of the current programming language
  • poor understanding of the customers’ journey
  • weak relationships with the business side and the customers
  • lack of understanding of what business value will be in 2 years
  • technical debt
  • legacy bugs and how to handle them
  • poor understanding of the current end-to-end technical platform
  • a number of mindset rigidities (eg, the sense that one technical person cannot help another)
  • lack of a stable team
  • incessant distractions from less important work
  • excessive arguments by business and technical managers with minimal decision-making
  • unrealistic expectations that the Team will work with no failures or surprises
  • the people in the team are not used to believing that the Team is responsible and the Team must self-organize


You get some ideas.

I hope you find the Impediments List idea useful.  Read the book!



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One thought on “Impediment List

  1. James O. Coplien

    I still teach this in my CSM classes as though it is one of the Scrum artifacts, though (in its folly) the Scrum Guide no longer gives it artifact stature (so I also advice students to pretend that it is not an artifact for the sake of the CSM exam). Impediment Lists make impediments explicit and transparent and provide backlog guidance for the most fundamental facet of Scrum: improving the process.

    I miss the days when it was still an artifact.

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