The Enemy is Called Impediment

Impediment

Depending on the stage of the agile transformation we are entering, we can face different impediments. Impediment is the state of a certain level of anxiousness when we encounter an 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, but also due to some objective reasons like broken server, employees away on sick leave…)
  • Structural impediments (could be the same reason as the above, but structural nature of the issue requests more time and analysis – see the example below)

The organizational transformation success and perception will be important for people and teams. If leaders help out to resolve impediments in the people’s way, they will contribute to the credibility of incoming changes. My experience has shown a small number of impediments coming from the teams. Either they were solved by the teams themselves or they were not recognized as such. We believe it’s a mixture. The leaders are there to help teams to prevent, recognize and solve impediments.

If an impediment comes suddenly, it means (in general) that the problem of seeing and managing risks exists. Anticipating the risk is a skill and requires systematic thinking as well as experience.

The Structural impediments are the subjects of our leadership strategy, the main points of our transformation efforts and vision where to drive the whole organization (even if it may sound odd).

After several years of agile transition, taking Scrum as the main SW development framework, on our leadership team impediment board it was written:

“True deployment of Scrum”

It took us a long time to hang it there, and it stayed hanging for a long time. Why? – Because, if the organizational cultural mindset 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 latter depending on the previous, but also according to our ability to learn and change. If our vision is deploying Scrum ‘by the book’, while using the appropriate SW engineering practices; best in line with our transition moment, we are not there – we have a structural impediment.

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

This was good! Understanding that the problem exists is half of the solution! The other half is then left to Mr. Kaizen – continuous work to improve and resolve the issues – on all levels of the organizations – from the team up to the CEO.

Leadertip:

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

 

2 thoughts on “The Enemy is Called Impediment

  • November 29, 2014 at 9:47 pm
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    That’s a very helpful piece of advice, thanks. Systemic thinking and influencing are definitely key in setting up agile organisations. It eases reluctance to change through a constructive dialog that foster new ideas and new thinking. Many organisations fail in deploying agile processes and mind set because they underestimate the value of “silent” followers, those who can’t find the space to express what they know would be a better idea.

    Reply
    • November 29, 2014 at 11:32 pm
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      Thanks a lot for the comment!
      Yes, the silent followers are perhaps underestimated. In general, to recognize all the profiles including opponents and laggards is important in order to address their specific needs through a constructive dialog. Statistically, some of them will never accept the change and will possibly leave.

      Reply

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