Impediments Management – 2

A bunch of us got together in Ottawa recently to discuss different issues for managers.

The issue (one of three) chosen was Impediments Management across multiple teams. Including how an management Impediments Removal Team (IRT) would operate.

The example we drew is one of four regular Scrum Teams, each with its own impediments list. Each team worked on its own impediments. In addition, all impediments are visible to the IRT. The IRT chooses one impediment at a time to work on, from the teams’ impediments, based mainly on the benefit-cost ratio, as discussed in an earlier post.

Several points were made, as we discussed:

  1. Communicate the Impediments Management Regime.

Tell everyone about how the impediments are being managed in this overall group — in the teams, by the IRT — so that everyone handles impediments in the most useful way. How they identified, how they are ‘approved,’ how the fixes are implemented, how results will be communicated.

  1. Show the linkage of impediment work to real improvements (to increase team motivation).

Sometimes teams become tired of removing impediments. To help motivate them to continue on, the teams need to see, overall, that all the work on impediments has paid off.

The usual situation is that the work pays off mainly in terms of increased Velocity of the teams.

Making the linkage is not necessarily one-to-one. It is the net improvement after several impediments that is really important.

This requires collecting data, ‘normalizing’ it (to some degree) and communicating it back honestly.

  1. Success.

One manager said that setting up the impediments management regime and an IRT was the first thing he did for adoption across a group of, eventually, 750 — a key to his success in the overall adoption.

And, we think, measuring and talking increasing the Velocity of the teams by removing impediments is key to overall success with Scrum.

Now, the real success is more Business Value delivered per month or quarter. Improving Velocity is a key supporter of that. So, the goal is to move to a culture that understands that and executes on that. (Yes, metrics are a part, but only a small part of that culture.) And, yes, this cultural change is not easy nor does it come overnight. There is thinking, then action, then more thinking, then more action. They reinforce each other.

  1. Next biggest impediment; “If they aren’t breaking rules, they aren’t trying hard enough.”

At least in the firms represented, the feeling was that “the people” were not aggressive enough in identifying impediments. One might say: The next biggest impediment is that they can’t imagine that some things can be changed.

In part the issue is motivation and focus (which are helped as described above). Another big issue is fixed mental ideas, lack of creativity, past negative reinforcements, fear, etc.

So, we encourage managers to challenge them to ‘break the rules,’ not break the rules foolishly and/or thoughtlessly. But, we are willing to consider anything, anything, if it will improve things around here.

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