An untold story of impediments
Once upon a time there was a beautiful forest. Trees were growing vigorously all around, spreading their seeds and nourishing the soil with their leaves every autumn. Birds and animals were living happy, sheltered under the canopy of branches.
Till one day when a new tree started to grow inside the forest. But that was not something new, you might say. Yet, the new tree was not a usual one – it got bigger with every day, casting a thicker shadow over its surroundings until it was clear to the entire forest that its size and appetite were extraordinary. Leaves of the trees around this greedy one started to turn pale, withering more and more. Around the big tree was growing a larger circle of emptiness, as he was spreading his branches to capture all the sun and all the rains, leaving nothing for the others.
But its seeds, spread by the wind within this circle of emptiness, were missing the shelter of the forest. So instead of sprouting and flourishing, the big tree seeds were drying in the ruthless sun, and rotting in the rain ponds. Lost in its circle of emptiness, with nothing to cling on, with no inheritor to support it, the big and greedy tree eventually died.
The next spring the forest filled the empty circle, restoring its canopy over the remaining stub of the once mighty tree.
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As the forest in my story, the Scrum team is an ecosystem that relies on the basic principle of self-organizing. Make sure, as a Scrum master, that you don’t confuse normal events of an ecosystem life to impediments that you need to remove. As a natural ecosystem, a healthy team is able to get over its internal bumps and hurdles by itself.
Are you feeling confused and not sure when to consider an issue as an impediment or not? Mother Nature might also help us with this. Think of your Scrum team as a forest, of your company infrastructure and standards as the soil in which roots may grow deep, of company customers as the climate that provides the water and the warmth. Every issue that comes from within the forest, from the soil or from the climate is not an impediment. It might be the job of the Forester (Team Leader) to take care of, and restore some natural balances between the trees by planting new ones, or shaping some others. It might be the job of the Meteorologist (Product Manager) to predict how the weather will change in the future, and how the forest may adapt to these new conditions. It might even be a topic in the retrospective that the team must tackle and solve, but it’s just part of the natural life of a Scrum team.
But whenever someone or something from outside the forest prevents it from spreading its roots, stops it from flourishing and blossoming, stands in the way of its growth, then it is your job to get things straight again. That’s an impediment.