In this wonderful blog post, You Are The Impediment, Mike Cottmeyer argues that there are three different levels of impediment management required of a good scrum master/team leader:
- The Tracker
- The Remover
- The Anticipator
He characterizes this as a sort of competence hierarchy for agile managers: Tracking being the minimum one could do, Anticipating being the desirable thing to do. I strongly agree. I see it this way:
- Tracking = History
- Removing = Managing/Problem Solving
- Anticipating = Risk Management
Each level has a valuable skill set associated with it.
Having a history, whether it is a history of sprint velocity, a history of stories, or a history of impediments, is essential to creating the necessary level of information for the team to learn well. Like they say, those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it.
Removing impediments is really about problem solving. Problem solving is all about root cause analysis, building hypothesis, and tracking the results of experiments. It’s common to see teams rush at solutions without taking the time to understand the problem well. We need to get better at using problem solving techniques to help us resolve impediments.
Anticipating impediments that have yet to happen is also known as risk management. Risk management is poorly understood in the agile community. Look for it in books regarding Scrum and XP and you won’t find any mention of it at all. Fortunately, there are some great books on risk management like Waltzing with Bears, that should be required reading for all team leaders.
A good leader needs to cultivate all three skill sets in order to maximize their team’s chances for success.