The Pathway to Scrum: How to Remove Organizational Impediments

The Scrum agile software framework doesn't eliminate the problems in your organization, but rather, makes them large, obvious and impossible to ignore. You can then choose to change ineffective processes and conditions or live with them. Here, Knowledge Center contributor Angela Druckman explains how your company can remove its organizational impediments to realize the full benefits of Scrum.

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When organizations discover agile software frameworks such as Scrum, they learn that an important benefit these methods offer is the ability to expose organizational impediments. Indeed, a key responsibility of the ScrumMaster role, in addition to facilitation and coaching, is raising and removing organizational impediments.

But, while on paper it seems innocuous enough, in practice exposing organizational dysfunction can be an uncomfortable process for everyone involved. Individuals often have a strong and personal vested interest in the status quo and may feel threatened when it is called into question. Yet, those questions must be asked. A company cannot truly realize the full benefits of Scrum until it faces its impediments head on and makes an active choice about how to deal with them.

What is an impediment? In my Certified ScrumMaster course, I offer this definition: "An impediment is a process or condition that exists in your organization today that is not in its best long-term interests."

The definition is purposely broad because impediments come in varied forms and sizes. They may be small and relatively easy to fix (for example, a team room that is always too hot, making it difficult to concentrate) or large and seemingly impossible to resolve (for example, a compensation system completely at odds with the goals the company is trying to achieve). Large or small, one thing all impediments have in common is that they adversely affect the team's (and, therefore, the organization's) ability to deliver value.

How can you deal effectively with impediments? The key is to not become overwhelmed by them. Logging, prioritizing and systematically addressing impediments will keep their removal manageable. Keeping the following considerations in mind will set you on a productive path to dealing with the dysfunction you find.