Scrum Rules: As a Team Member I Share My Obstacles Every Daily Scrum

July 24, 2020
4 minute read

The principles of openness and transparency include being able to be truthful about ways that you are struggling. A Team Member must share their struggles with their Scrum Team and with the Scrum Master so that the team, at least, knows your status. Without that visibility, the Scrum Team may make decisions that are difficult or impossible to implement due to hidden obstacles.

At every Daily Scrum, each Team Member should think carefully about the challenges they are currently facing, and share those challenges. The Scrum Master cannot do a good job without that transparency since a core part of their work is to deal with obstacles. If a Team Member fails to be open about obstacles, or fails to recognize something in their environment as an obstacle, this can slow the team in its progress towards becoming a high-performance team. Obstacles that persist for a long period of time simply because they are not openly discussed can have a demoralizing effect on the team. On the other hand, a team that creates full visibility into their obstacles can enlist the help of stakeholders, work together to overcome those obstacles, and systematically become better and better at doing their work.

In order to effectively share obstacles, a Team Member must understand the concept of an obstacle (sometimes called an impediment or blocker), must be able to use that understanding to identify obstacles, and finally must be able to articulate the obstacle briefly in the Daily Scrum meeting. An obstacle is anything in the physical, emotional or mental space of a person which prevents them from focusing on the work of the Scrum Team. The Scrum Team has detailed tasks, Product Backlog Items, a Sprint Goal and possibly a project or team goal. Some examples of obstacles are useful. A Team Member might find that a task is being blocked because of the lack of a technical tool. An uncomfortable chair might be disturbing a Team Member’s focus. A personality conflict between two Team Members might be blocking the discovery of a good solution to a technical problem. The recent death of a beloved pet might be distracting a Team Member. A functional manager requiring some time from a Team Member to attend a non-relevant but regular meeting might cause task-switching disruptions. In the Daily Scrum meeting, the Team Member should be specific but brief in sharing an obstacle. The Scrum Master of the Team must record the obstacle (and ideally in a place that is highly visible), and must not in any way reject or invalidate the obstacle. Other Team Members may help in overcoming an obstacle, but there should be no problem-solving discussion during the Daily Scrum. Ultimately, the Scrum Master is responsible for creating an environment where Team Members feel welcome to share obstacles by conscientiously working help overcome the obstacles. The Scrum Master has no authority to say that an obstacle is not relevant or is not solvable. If your Scrum Master is having trouble overcoming obstacles, we highly recommend that he or she attends Certified Scrum Master training.

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Bruce Power
Capital One
Equitable Life of Canada
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