What are Impediments, Really?

© 2012 William Patrick Swisher

At the Daily Standup meeting, the Developers answer three simple question: What did you do since the last Daily Standup? What will you do before the next Daily Standup? What impediments are blocking your progress? These three questions serve to inform the team, coordinate activities, and expose things that are blocking sprint work.

While the last question is intended to have each Developer “tell all” as it were, it doesn’t always happen. It’s natural for people to be hesitant about bringing up issues that aren’t quite a problem yet especially when they think they can be resolved without assistance.

The Scrum Master should encourage the Developers to bring up any potential issues or needs they anticipate having. Knowing about these ahead of time allows the team to discuss them and take any mitigation steps well ahead of when they prove to be a real impediment. This is especially important when working with remote or offshore teams where walking down the hall or even calling someone up may not be an option. Getting ahead of these impending impediments will save precious time as the sprint draws to a close.

Of course, there will be false positives but the time spent chasing phantom issues is a minor price to pay for addressing the few real issues that could disrupt a team.

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