Chief Impediment Officer

The Scrum Guide suggests that the Scrum Master serves the Development team by ‘removing impediments to the Development Team’s progress’ and describes the Daily Scrum as being an event where the team are encouraged to ask; ‘Do I see any impediment that prevents me or the Development Team from meeting the Sprint Goal?

I would broaden the Scrum Guide’s focus when thinking about impediments; so ‘removing impediments to the Development Team’s progress’ is reframed as something like;

‘removing impediments that prevent your group, organisation, or team from reaching their defined goals.’

This definition encourages everyone on the team (not just the Scrum Master) to take a wider look at how value flows through their entire organisation. It challenges each of us to identify things that prevent us from reaching shared goals and makes it a vital and mutual responsibility to do something about these things – for the continued benefit, success, sanity, and profitability of all.

Of course, these impediments could have many sources; from within the development team, the organisation, or the environment as a whole. 

Here’s my current top 5

  • Lack of Product Strategy or Vision – what you work on changes every day! 
  • Cultural Misalignment – people scream at you for dates and beg for assurance that stuff will be ‘delivered on time and on budget!’
  • Poor Tooling – dusty desktop machines, janky conferencing tools,  etc.
  • Open Offices & ‘Agile Working’ – let’s co-locate and then hide behind headphones – it’s so noisy! And, to make it more exciting, let’s play ‘Agile Working’ desk roulette – every time you come into the office you get to play for a chance to win!
  • Lack of Collaborative Space – let’s put a shed in the car park (that happened!)

Critically, none of my top five are limited exclusively to the development team – quite often it is not within a team’s gift to ‘fix’ the things that hurt them the most. 

So why do these things happen?

It seems that many impediments exist pervasive in the world due to a lack of appreciation for the sheer negative impact they have – both on staff morale, the ability to attract and maintain talent, and, ultimately, bottom line. 

Blinkers removed, a good Scrum Master will see education as a starting point, use data to support calls for change, and then guide the team as they work to move towards better collective outcomes. They will encourage an active continuous improvement mindset and seek to expose rather than pander. 


The Scrum Guide. Jeff Sutherland & Ken Schwaber. 2017. Web.


Go to the profile of Paul Marshall

‘ I challenge and support individuals and teams – helping them find fulfilment and inspiration through better ways of working.’

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