Scrum: Tracking Impediments

Tracking impediments in ScrumOn a Scrum team, an impediment is anything that prevents the team from being productive. Ideally the ScrumMaster is responsible for tracking and resolving all impediments. However, when there is no ScrumMaster, teams often turn to tracking tools like Bugzilla, JIRA, Mantis, and Team Foundation Server.

I’ve tried a few different techniques for collecting questions and impediments during a sprint: Spreadsheets, issue tracking tools, Post-it notes, the notes app on my smartphone, etc. Every time I’ve attempted to use an issue tracking tool to organize impediments, I come back to the same conclusion: It adds a level of separation between the scrum team and the Product Owner that prevents direct communication and mutual understanding.

The Agile Manifesto says it best, “Individuals and interactions over processes and tools”.

When there are a lot of questions and impediments it usually means the story is not well scoped or is too big and should be broken into smaller stories. Sometimes teams work on many stories at once instead of one story at a time. The term for this is Work in Progress (WIP). Just like in the Lean Software Development, I encourage Agile and Scrum followers to limit the WIP so that several stories are not partly completed at the end of the sprint. Limiting the WIP also allows everyone on the scrum team to have a mutual understanding of answers from the Product Owner, a core concept in Scrum!

In Scrum, there is a dedicated role called the ScrumMaster who is responsible for resolving all impediments and making sure the scrum team (Dev and QA) have direct access to the Product Owner and their delegates. I’ve seen some ScrumMasters use a tool or a spreadsheet but normally they just use a Post-it on the task board so that everyone can see. If the answer is also put onto the same Post-it, there’s no need for an extra tool; the existing Scrum process has a built-in way to manage answers to questions & impediments.

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