Handling Impediments: Deciding on the Actions

Impediment Deciding ActionsAfter you’ve come up with several solutions to deal with an impediment, the next step is to decide which actions you will do with your team to solve it. Let’s dive into who decides to take action and explore different approaches for how agile teams can decide.

This is the fifth post in the series on handling impediments. In previous posts I explored why agile teams need to be able to deal with impediments, how you can recognize problems, what you can do to get a shared understanding of a problem in the team, and how you can find effective solution for solving impediments.

Who decides

Since agile values teams and teamworking, it should be the team who decides on the actions that will be done. Not a project manager or line manager, and also not their Product Owner.

It can be the whole team, or Scrum master together with one or more team members, depending on the impact of the decision and whether the buy in from team members is needed to get the actions done by the team. When in doubt, my suggestion is involve everybody!

A practical approach to get the team to decide on taking action is to raise the need for a decision during for instance the daily stand up or in a retrospective. The whole team is present at such occasions, which makes it easier to reach agreement and ensure that the decision is supported by all team members and will be executed by them.

How to decide

Most people think that consensus is the way that teams should decide. As often in agile there is no single best way.  It would be great if consensus can be reached, alternatively teams can take a decision based upon consent or agree that the decision will be made by a committee of team members.

Deciding by consent implies that if there is no major objection to a decision by any team member then the decision is accepted. It’s a way to take the best possible decision under given conditions. The consent principle is often used in sociocracy: “a whole systems governance method that makes collaboration, self-organization, and distributed authority practical and effective” (source: sociocracy.info).

A practical and quick way to reach a consent decision is thumb voting. Thumb up means that a person agrees, thumb sideways means that they go along with whatever the team decides, and thumb down means that they disagree. If nobody disagrees and most members of the team support the decision with a thumb up, you can assume that the whole team supports the decision.

Sometimes further investigation is needed before a decision to take action can be done. In such cases a team can decide to establish a committee with one or more team members which will explore the viability and consequences of specific actions before deciding. The team can agree to leave the final decision up to the committee, or ask the committee to report back and then decide as a team.

Deciding to take action

Explicit and clear decisions to take action help agile teams to effectively deal with impediments. To make sure that the actions will be done by the team you need to choose how the team decides. Stay tuned for a next blog post on … taking action!

Ben Linders

I help organizations with effective software development and management practices. Active member of several networks on Agile, Lean and Quality, and a frequent speaker and writer.

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