An impediment in Scrum is an obstacle that is blocking or slowing down the progress of the team. It must be cleared in order to allow the team to work productively.
Impediments are found during the work on a daily basis and then discussed in the daily scrum. They can also be identified at the end of the sprint during the Retrospective.
Impediments are very important in Scrum. By the nature of it, Scrum, not unlike Lean, is an approach that tries to constantly stretch the boundaries and brings the problems to the surface. Productivity can then be improved by working and resolving these problems. If they are not resolved, they cause frustration and eliminate on the main values delivered by Scrum.
Team vs. Organization issues
The issues surfaced can be divided into two categories that need different treatment:
Team items are things the team can solve without depending on external parties. Typical examples would be:
- Team-internal measures to avoid repeating a past error
- Other changes to the way the team works
- Creation or modification of tools or workflows to simplify the team's work
- Reminders to take action next time a specific problem shows up
Organization items are things that depend on others to be solved. Typical organization issues would be:
- Infrastructure problems (internet too slow, equipment not available...)
- Problems with input from other departments or teams
Following up on impediments
Impediments that are found on a daily basis are usually small and can be resolved very quickly with a clarifying email, help from another colleague or similar steps.
Larger items as they are also often found during the Retrospective meetings need dedicated steps to be resolved. They are therefore added to schedules:
Team items are added to the product backlog where they are prioritized to be processed. If they are low effort we put them at the top of the product backlog so problems can swiftly be addressed. Larger items (e.g. ideas for tools or product improvements) may not be possible to address rightway so they are kept for later sprints.
Organization items are added to the Impediment backlog, a separate section of the team's spreadsheet. They are also prioritized and then addressed as we go.
Both groups of impediments are reviewed after each sprint in the Retrospective meeting.