Blocker or Impediment? 

 

In the previous versions of the Scrum Guide, one of the daily scrum 3 questions was “Any impediment”? The Scrum Master will sometimes have to remind the Development team to surface things that are in their way for the day.  The new Scrum guide has now done away with the 3 questions. The reason is that the questions limit creativity.  But does that mean that a scrum team doesn’t have to talk about impediments? The answer is NO!

But first, what is the difference between a blocker and an impediment? Often scrum teams use these words interchangeably however, they are distinct. 

Difference between an Impediment and a blocker

An impediment is anything that is slowing down the Team. This could be work or non-work related however, it is or will affect the productivity of the team.

Some examples of the varieties of impediments:

  • distraction to people on teams or the entire teams

  • unresolved technical issues

  • lack of babysitter for a team member

  • A new team member 

  • Technical debt

  • organizational impediments

A blocker is a showstopper. The Scrum Team is stopped in their tracks, unable to accomplish the sprint goal unless the blocker is removed. A blocker is often an unresolved impediment or an impediment that went unnoticed. Either way, it hasn’t been properly mitigated, and it becomes a blocker. Blockers are often quick to spot because someone on the team grinds to a halt as soon as they occur.

Resolving Impediments

My experience has been that the Developers rarely raise impediments that impact them in the Daily Scrum, instead, they see it as ‘Business as usual. However, they are more likely to raise items that block them and ask for help. As Scrum Master, you don’t want to wait till Sh*t hits the fan. You want to be proactive about it and it starts before the start of the sprint. For instance:

  • Surface and track dependencies

  • Coach the team to take ownership of getting stories to “done”

  • Ensure your team understands the purpose of the Daily Scrum

  • Ensure that the team knows to update their availability 

  • Can create “friends of the team” circle- this is to help facilitate impediment removal

It is okay if your team can resolve impediments themselves, this is great! It means they are becoming self-managing. I am not asking that you take this away from them, but you want to keep track of things that might keep recurring. Remember, Scrum is based on empiricism 

Tool for Impediments removal

There are a couple of ways that you can resolve impediments. Here are tools and techniques that you can use.

  • Impediment Log

  • RAID-  project management 

  • Jira

Last word

As a Scrum Master, always ask your team “What’s in your way?” “What is slowing or going to slow you down today? “What can I help you with today to get you closer to the sprint goal?”

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