The Art of Removing Impediments

Been noticing in my career that one skill set Project Managers / Scrum Masters should master, but often don’t is the art of removing impediments.  This is not an easy skill to master and requires curiosity, courage, diplomacy, tenacity and a little bit of creativity and communication.

Often removing impediments involves connecting the right people together.  It is typically a social problem.  Yes, going to Uncle Google or Father YouTube certainly helps with any issues that plague people  the time like, “why doesn’t my OneDrive show up on Windows File Explorer”, but often with teams, these are very specific and challenging issues that won’t have an apparent answer on the grand Internet.

A true leader, whether a “command and control” leader or “servant leader” or something in between should have the curiosity to always be asking and encouraging the delivery team to bring up impediments that impact a person or the team within a short period of time.  I’ll usually state, “come see me in an hour if you and your contacts haven’t been able to figure out a solution to a given issue stopping you”.  However, the expected escalation time frame is really specific to the situation of the team, the project and the company, so use your best judgment, knowing that many team members will stretch the escalation time if they think they are close (but may actually not be even in the same planet).

Also, a project manager should have the courage to ensure the team is following the guidelines on requesting help and be willing to take ownership of resolving that issue with a high degree of urgency.  Project Managers should do anything within their power to help team members as fast as possible, but also show diplomacy, recognizing people’s time and always making them feel respected and important through the addressing the issue.  Project managers have to deal with the human microcosm of tradeoffs and ensure that those that help resolve the issue get the recognition deserved and also in turn be helped when they are in a time of need.

Tenacity is a necessary core skill a project manager must possess to resolve any team blockage as soon as possible.  Don’t ever give up, especially when you feel like it is hopeless.  There is always a solution, given enough time and thought.  That leads to creativity since the solution may require a different approach than initially expected.  The project manager should encourage the team and any parties that get involved to be educated on the nature of the issue and think through every possible path to resolve the problem.  This requires that tenacity to ensure no one feels like throwing in the towel.

Published by Agile Mike

“Agile Mike” has over 25 years of experience with software development and product leadership. He is published under the “Built for Success” column in magazine and held the position of Vice President in the Agile Leadership Network. Michael has taught multiple SAFe courses for over the past three years to over 400 people and is currently an Enterprise Agile Coach at Lean Agile Enterprises and a certified SAFe SPC5, AWS Cloud Architect, Scrum CSP, and PMP.

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