Tuesday, January 11, 2011

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.

But we can tell you what we see at clients, and what makes sense to us, given human nature.

In our 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. Now, there is actually a lot more to say in this vein, but we will ignore that for now.

The biggest impediment, in our view, that we most commonly see is a lack of focus on removing impediments. Now, this has several manifestations and several root causes. We have just mentioned one of the key root causes. (To which maybe we could ask more "whys".) But, we 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 lots of impediments (without a focus on the one top impediment now)
* No effective action taken after the retrospective to reduce the impact of the impediment
* No serious thought about the whole impediment removal process (eg, 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
* No transparency about the group's (or firm's) overall impediment management regime
* Not enough allocation of the ScrumMaster (and perhaps others, perhaps $) to removing impediments
* Comments like "Why are we working on impediments? We should be doing 'real work'?"

This is serious. We think a decent ScrumMaster, with decent organizational support (helped along by the SM being persuasive), can double the velocity of a team in the first 6 months. You do the math. Would that be worthwhile at your place?

PS. Because of possible misunderstandings, we must always repeat that doubling velocity does NOT mean that the Team works harder (No death march). Often it means that 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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