Who should fix Impediments?

In the Certified ScrumMasters LinkedIn group, Michael asked: Who should fix impediments, the SM or the Team?

His answer was: Both. And then he discussed.  This topic has drawn a fair number of comments.  Here is one of mine.


1. Michael is right. Who should fix the impediments and how much the Team should be involved is not a simple question.  I think this discussion will bring out the issues.

2. I like what Mike and others said about changing the mind-set of the Team.

3. Clearly, getting the Team involved in impediments is important. To me, the first thing is getting the Team better at identifying the top impediments (imagining that real change can happen), and then better at giving the SM information about how to prioritize them.

4. Clearly the SM should always be working on something, although “observing” is important and hard work. (Observation can identify some people impediments, for example.)  Working to get others to complete the fix of an impediment is also valid.  And the SM should actually fix some impediments, where he has a decent ability to do so. (If an SM does not know what CI means, I would not have him work on Continuous Integration.)  Of course the PO can help fix some impediments (there are plenty of impediments on the business side).

4b. Clearly others can fix impediments.  People outside the Team.  Maybe managers, maybe other people, maybe external people (people from outside the company).  In many cases, it should be these ‘outside the team’ people who might fix most of the impediments. Assuming the Team is best qualified at building the product and that fast delivery of the product is very important.

5. Potentially, the list of impediments is endless, in some sense, because never do we have even one thing running perfectly. So, in theory, we could spend all of our time fixing impediments. I think spending about 1/7 of our time on impediments is reasonable.  (This is a bigger issue, but relates to this conversation.)  There are definitely limits to how much the Team should work on impediments.  Presumably they are best at the ‘real work’ of building this product. And that is very important to do now, quickly.

6. I have never seen a Team reach optimal productivity. Never. They may get to 5x or 10x, but they still have not max-ed out.  I don’t believe Michael Phelps has swum his fastest possible race.  In fact, most Teams can’t win the Super Bowl the next year…they can’t stay at that high level. Never, never, never send out a team without a ‘coach’ (without an SM).


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