Definition of Impediment
As an agile coach, I have heard often during standup – “I worked on task X yesterday, but was not able to complete it. I plan to work on task X today and hope to complete it. I have no impediments.” This went on for 2 days until I asked how long the task was originally estimated for and the response was – 8 hours. So here we are 16 hours later, we have not yet completed task X and we have no impediments. Upon further questioning I found out that the reason this task was going over the estimate was because the team member was waiting for someone on a different team to provide a particular access. So in fact there was an impediment but this team member was hesitant to call out someone else as one.
This is a story we have all heard – right?
In a culture of competency no one wants to call out another person for not doing their job, so they might not properly identify impediments. One of the new standup questions in the updated scrum guide might aid this issue – “Do I see any impediment that prevents me or the Development Team from meeting the Sprint Goal?” This is one way for team members to call out impediments for the whole team rather than just for themselves.
One thing I did to help my team to more objectively identify impediments – is create a “Definition of Impediment”. This was posted just like the Definition of Ready and Done in the team room on the BVIR’s. The Definition of Impediment is created the same way as the other two definitions – together as a team. Some of the things we listed on our definition of impediment are:
- If a task is taking more than estimated and that is due to waiting time on any person other that the team member – it is an impediment.
- If someone outside the team needed to do something to complete a task and the team had been waiting for over 1 day – it is an impediment.
Each morning during standup, each team member was asked to look at the Definition of Impediment prior to answering the question – ” Are there any impediments ?”. Over the course of 2 sprints the team started becoming more accountable to themselves. They would call out dependencies outside the team that risked becoming an impediments. They would call out dependencies that other team members were not willing to call out. Realizing that estimating is a skill that will improve over time, the team dug into how there were estimating and why their estimates were unrealistic.
The Definition of Impediment helped them see beyond their current agile maturity and identify areas of opportunity to “Be More Agile”!!!