Impediment Is My Middle Name


ImpedimentDepending on how far our agile transformation went, different impediments could be faced. Impediment is the state of moderate anxiousness when encountering the obstacle on the way to reach a certain goal.

To my view, impediments can be divided into:

  •        temporary problems (often due to an  improper risk handling)
  •        structural impediments (could be the same reason as above, but (un)knowledge is in the background)

 

As a child, Impediment was called Risk. If we don’t take care of our children, raise them properly, give them guidelines and education, there is a fairly substantial chance that they turn out into problems. The exact moment when Risk becomes Impediment actually does not exist. It rather goes through the ‘puberty’ phase, a sensitive path, were still a chance to act exists, but rapid development narrows down the maneuver space. So, it is much better to shape risks before this phase.

The success and perception of the organizational transformation will be important for people and teams.If leaders help out to resolve impediments on their way that would contribute to the credibility of incoming changes. Our experience has shown a small number of impediments coming from the teams. Either they were solved by each of the team itself or they were not recognized as such. We believe it’s a mixture. Leaders (together with the team leaders) are there to help teams both to prevent and to recognize impediments.

If an impediment comes suddenly, it means (with some exceptions) that the problem of seeing and managing risks exists. Seeing the risk is a skill and requires system thinking as well as experience (that usually project managers did – please see the post about project managers). Structural impediments are the subjects of our leadership strategy, the main points of our transformation efforts and a vision where to drive the whole organization (even it may sound odd).

Concrete axample: after several years of agile transition and taking Scrum as the main development framework for developing SW, on our leadership team’s impediment board was written:

True deployment of Scrum

It took as long time to hang it there and it stayed hanged for a long time. Why? – Because, if the cultural mindset of the company is to perform, to execute or, to be a bit drastic, only deliver on time, we are convicted to the double change as we go:

  •        Fulfill the existing requirements of the current processes, policies, rules, targets, reports… so we need to make “adapters” towards them to find a place for new practices
  •        Adopt and apply new practices and thinking patterns in the part of the organization we are possible to influence

We progress gradually with the last depending on the former, but also in accordance to the ability to learn and change. If our vision of Scrum deployment is wanted “by the book” with the right SW engineering practices fitting the best our transition moment, we were not there – we had a structural impediment!

Looking deeper, it was indicative that an adequate coaching (or coaches) was missing to deploy Scrum, which was another structural impediment – actually a cause. We were lacking a systematic agile coaching.

This was great! Understanding that the problem exists is a half of the solution! The other half is then left to Mr. Kaizen – continuous work  (see the post) to improve and resolve the issues.

 

Leadertips:

We should learn to see impediments and opportunities to improve in our daily work by regularly and as frequent as possible investing time to think about impediments.

When we visualize impediments, there is an increased possibility for their faster resolution, i.e. a better progress of transformation. Please see also Agile Transition and Transformation post!

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