POSTED : January 11, 2016
BY : Sridhar Peddisetty

The old Master instructed the unhappy young man to put a handful of salt in a glass of water and then asked him to drink it. “How does it taste?” the Master asked. “Awful,” spat the apprentice. The Master chuckled and then asked the young man to take another handful of salt and put it in the lake. The two walked in silence to the nearby lake and when the apprentice swirled his handful of salt into the lake, the old man said, “Now drink from the lake.” As the water dripped down the young man’s chin, the Master asked, “How does it taste?” “Good!” remarked the apprentice. “Do you taste the salt?” asked the Master. “No,” said the young man. The Master sat beside this troubled young man, took his hands, and said, “The pain of life is pure salt; no more, no less. The amount of pain in life remains the same, exactly the same. But the amount we taste the ‘pain’ depends on the container we put it into. So when you are in pain, the only thing you can do is to enlarge your sense of things….. Stop being a glass. Become a lake!”

By definition, an impediment is a hindrance or obstruction in doing something. From an Agile perspective, an impediment is anything that keeps a team from being productive or reduces the progress of a well-functioning team to achieve its goals. Some root causes of an impediment include:

  1. Lack of team cohesiveness
  2. Lack of domain knowledge
  3. Lack of technical skills
  4. Limitations to environment
  5. Lack of tools
  6. Lack of well-defined processes or
  7. Lack of managerial or organizational buy-in

More often, an Agile team spends a lot of time in trying to categorize the impediment, be it trying to classify it as a feature, epic, user story, user task, bug or technical debt. Not undermining the importance of classifying an impediment but while looking at an impediment, it’s important to view the impediment in the context of delivering value rather than spending too much of an effort in categorizing it. Just to reiterate, categorization of an impediment sometimes helps to discover new impediments so it’s important but remember that it is in the solutions to those impediments where you find innovative ideas for your team to provide more value. In other words, remind yourself that impediments could be viewed as the tasks that need to be completed for user stories and then the tasks could be prioritized for the value.


To summarize, focus more effort on solutions rather than categorization of impediments. So when faced with an impediment, enlarge your vision of looking at the impediment from the perspective of delivering value.

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