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

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…

Explaining Story Points to Management

During the February Scrum Breakfast in Zurich, the question arised, "How do I explain Story Points to Management?" A good question, and in all honesty, developers can be an even more critical audience than managers.

Traditional estimates attempt to answer the question, "how long will it take to develop X?" I could ask you a similar question, "How long does it take to get the nearest train station?

The answer, measured in time, depends on two things, the distance and the speed. Depending on whether I plan to go by car, by foot, by bicycle or (my personal favorite for short distances) trottinette, the answer can vary dramatically. So it is with software development. The productivity of a developer can vary dramatically, both as a function of innate ability and whether the task at hand plays to his strong points, so the time to produce a piece of software can vary dramatically. But the complexity of the problem doesn't depend on the person solving it, just …

Money for Nothing, Changes for Free

“Money for Nothing, Changes for Free” encourages both customers and suppliers to focus on value.

A key advantage of Scrum projects is that at least once per sprint you have something that could be shipped and no work in progress. You can change direction every sprint, and you can reevaluate whether the project is a good investment or if your money could be better spent elsewhere. Abrupt cancellation is risky for the supplier.

While the concept of an early-exit penalty is not new, Jeff Sutherland gave it a unique allure with his allusion to the Dire Straits hit.
Desired Benefit Incentivize both customers and suppliers to focus on functionality that provides genuine value.
Structure This works with Agile software projects because there is little or no work in progress. After each Sprint, functionality is either complete or not started. Work is basically on a Time and Materials basis with a cost target, often with the intention that the project should not use up the entire project budge…