Sunday, September 15, 2013

What’s wrong with that impediment list?

Let’s pretend that the impediment list that I just posted (the one from the Charleston class) was a real public impediment list.

What would be wrong with it?

First, the most important thing to say is GREAT!  Finally, we have a public list of key things we can work on.  And, if we work on them well, it will make us MUCH better.

But again, imagine it is a list for only one Team…what’s wrong with the picture?

Here are a few ideas…

1. Too many items.

It just is not useful to have more than 20 or so items in a list for a Team.  Then, if new items come up, you ask “Is it more important than anything on our top 20?”  Usually the answer will be no. Until the Top 20 list gets to be maybe 18 left.  In which case, you might add an item to the bottom. (smile)

2. Not prioritized.

Well, you didn’t know that, but I know that they did not prioritize them. And, if you thought about it, I doubt you would have prioritized them that way for your team.

3. Not ordered.

By prioritized, we mean that the list is in order of what ‘slows down the whole team the most’.  By ordered we mean additional ideas: cost-benefit analysis has been included. Dependencies between impediment fixes has been considered. The items have been sliced appropriately (eg, small enough). Etc, etc.  They are in an order that will lead to the greatest improvement in the least time. Cf TOC.

Cost-benefit analysis means that someone (or more than one) has made some effort to consider the cost of fixing each of the items. This might be done intuitively or more formally.

4. Not well described.

Well, first I will mention again that some items are huge, and hence too vague to be useful.  So, part of describing them well is to make them smaller.  Some are more symptoms than causes. At the very least, the Team should be much more clear than you and I are about what they really mean. Often they were written quickly, and after you discuss ‘what did you really mean’, you realize that different words would say it better.

5. No RCA

The list does not make visible whether any Root Cause Analysis has been done. And of course that must be done.  And the biggest root cause must be fixed first.

6. Small enough?

This is important to say yet again a different way.  The items at the top at least should be small enough …. so that, the top one can be ‘fixed’ or mitigated in one Sprint, and people can feel the benefit in that sprint or the following sprint.  Usually.
Small and actionable. (Where did we hear this idea before?)

7. Take action?

Yes, Virginia, some people use a list NOT to take action.  The list is to enable them to forget about the top item, and NOT to take action on it.

So, hopefully it is obvious to you, me, your Team and company……the list must represent the tacit commitment to take aggressive action on the top SINGLE item. One at a time. And not to take any action on lower items (until the top one is fixed).  And that action always (in general at least) must include a commitment from people outside the Team as well (for money, for maybe some more people, for approval).  (Managers outside the Team won’t be involved in every impediment, but often enough they will have to be involved in some of them.)

Of course, the ‘single-piece-flow’ idea must be applied with common sense. We might have 3 impediments ‘in flight’ in this way: The SM is working on one, the Team is working on one, and Managers outside the Team are working on another.  Maybe this is ok, even good. It depends on common sense.

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