Skip to main content

Managers, Impediments, Responsibility. Oh my!

Here's the situation: a department with 5 development teams, several of which are starting to do Scrum. The Scrum Masters have a problem. They couldn't fix impediments. Not being part of management, they weren't taken seriously by the rest of the organization. Escalating every second impediment to management wasn't working either. When impediments don't get fixed, Scrum doesn't work and everybody gets demotivated. Here's a shot at solving the problem...

One: Identify an Escalation Team (ET) who will be responsible for handling issues when the ScrumMasters get stuck. This consists of the Department Manager and his immediate reports. One of the ScrumMasters is also ScrumMaster for this group.

Two, following Karl Scotland's description of Kanban, embark on a four step process:
  1. Map the value stream
  2. Visualize the process with a Kanban board
  3. Limit WIP to achieve focus and flow
  4. Establish Cadence
The value stream for impediments is pretty simple:
  • Step 1 ScrumMaster attempts to solve problem. S/he may succeed -> go directly to done
  • Step 2 ET attempts to solve problem (and may fail)
  • Done, with a successful or unsuccessful resolution
Three: Find a strategically located spot for the Kanban board, ideally someplace where every, especially management will see it. This creates visibility for the problems (and for those trying to solve them).

Four: Working with the board. Every significant impediment gets put on the central Impediments board. Every day that a ticket is on the board, tick mark goes on the card. When the ticket is done, it gets green dot if the team is happy with the result, and a red dot if not (i.e. management said, "sorry we cannot fix this problem.") The goal is to resolve impediments as quickly as possible and to have as high a percentage of green dots (= team happy) as possible.

My team hasn't looked at limiting WIP or establishing Cadence yet. It's tempting to put up a scoreboard, counting how many impediments got to done (with a red or green stamp) within one day, 2 days, 3 days, etc. A natural extension would be to set up a paralell board for improvements coming out of the retrospectives. This would give the ET a natural two week rhythm.

This approach creates a feedback loop between Management and operational staff. It gives immediate visibility to the problems and reminds people who might not want to cooperate with a lowly, powerless ScrumMaster that management is watching. It might even offer a metric for evaluating how effectively management is supporting its teams.

How do you get management integrated into the Scrum process? How do you make management responsible for making the process work?

Comments

Urs Enzler said…
Interesting idea to use Kanban for Impediments! Thanks

Popular posts from this blog

Scaling Scrum: SAFe, DAD, or LeSS?

Participants in last week's Scrum MasterClass wanted to evaluate approaches to scaling Scrum and Agile for their large enterprise. So I set out to review the available frameworks. Which one is best for your situation?

Recently a number of approaches have started gaining attention, including the Scaled Agile Framework ("SAFe") by Dean Leffingwell, Disciplined Agile Development (DAD), by Scott Ambler, and Large Scale Scrum (LeSS), by Craig Larman and Bas Vodde. (Follow the links for white papers or overviews of each approach).

How to compare these approaches? My starting point is Scrum in the team. Scrum has proven very effective at helping teams perform, even though it does not directly address the issues surrounding larger organizations and teams. An approach to scaling Scrum should not be inconsistent with Scrum itself.

Scrum implements a small number of principles and constraints: Inspect and Adapt. An interdisciplinary Team solves the problem. Deliver something of va…

Sample Definition of Done

Why does Scrum have a Definition of Done? Simple, everyone involved in the project needs to know and understand what Done means. Furthermore, Done should be really done, as in, 'there is nothing stopping us from earning value with this function, except maybe the go-ahead from the Product Owner. Consider the alternative:
Project Manager: Is this function done?
Developer: Yes
Project Manager: So we can ship it?
Developer: Well, No. It needs to be tested, and I need to write some documentation, but the code works, really. I tested it... (pause) ...on my machine. What's wrong with this exchange? To the developer and to the project manager, "done" means something rather different. To the developer in this case, done means: "I don't have to work on this piece of code any more (unless the tester tells me something is wrong)." The project leader is looking for a statement that the code is ready to ship.

At its most basic level, a definition of Done creates a sh…

10 Warning Signs, that your team is not self-organizing

How do you know that self-organization is working? The Bern Chapter of Scrum Breakfast Club looked into this questions, and identified the following warning signs (which I have taken the liberty of translating).

The team reports to the Scrum Master at the Daily ScrumPeople wait for instructions from the Scrum MasterTeam members don't hold each other responsible [for their commitments]The same impediment comes up twice"That's the way it is" => resignation"I" instead of "We"Flip charts are lonelyCulture of conflict-avoidanceDecisions processes are unclear, nor are they discussedPersonal goals are more important than team goals
To this list I would add my a couple of my favorites:
you don't see a triangle on the task board (not working according prioritization of stories)after the daily Scrum, people return directly to their desks (no collaboration)there are a least as many stories in progress as team members (no pairing)
P.S. You can join the …