The biggest impediment

To start the New Year, perhaps we should focus on the biggest impediment. Now, of course, we don’t know the biggest impediment at your place of business, but I can tell you what I see at clients, and what makes sense to me, given human nature.

In my view, it is human nature to feel, “We canna push it any faster, captain.” (See the picture of Scotty.) Meaning: We feel we are going as fast as we can. So, we ignore impediments. We don’t even see them.

The biggest impediment is a lack of focus on removing impediments. This has several manifestations and several root causes. I just mentioned one of the key causes. (To which maybe we could ask more “whys.”) But, I think that is a useful way to describe the impediment.

Here are some of the manifestations:

  • No public impediment list (Do you know where your public impediment list is?)
  • No or poor prioritization of the impediments
  • A Retrospective that focuses too much on the ‘pluses’ and on too many impediments without a focus on the top impediment now
  • No effective action taken after the Retrospective to reduce the impact of the top impediment
  • No serious thought about the whole impediment removal process (e.g., an assumption that the simple framework of Scrum tells us everything we need to know about removing impediments)
  • Too much work on the wrong impediments (low priority ones)
  • No transparency about the group’s (or firm’s) overall impediment management regime
  • No measurement of whether impediment removal or mitigation did anything (such as increased the Velocity of the team)
  • Not enough allocation of the ScrumMaster (and others and $) to removing impediments
  • Comments like, “Why are we working on impediments? We should be doing ‘real work’?”

This is serious. I think a decent ScrumMaster, with decent organizational support (helped along by his being persuasive), can double the Velocity of a team in the first six months. Do the math — would that be worthwhile at your place?


P.S. Because of possible misunderstandings, I must repeat, doubling Velocity does NOT mean the team works longer hours. (No death march). Often it means the team works fewer hours than what has become ‘normal’. In fact, the team should feel that removing impediments is kind of a fun activity.


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