Impediments for Agile Teams – Who is Responsible?

Eugene LaiMon, 11/25/2019 - 10:04

From my own experience working with Agile teams, there seems to be significant inconsistencies across how teams handle various practices, which is expected. Teams with varying degrees of experience and understanding of Agile frameworks and techniques may choose to apply them in different ways.

One of the practices that seem to vary greatly is how impediments (or issues) are handled. Some teams feel that the Scrum Master is responsible for handling issues, while other teams rely on the team members to rally around problems to get them resolved.

Which is the right approach? Is there a single, best approach here?


It is my opinion that there is not a single “right” approach here, as long as there is agreement and understanding on how this type of situation should be handled.

More often than not, I encounter Agile teams that assume the Scrum Master will handle all issues and impediments for the team. While this may make sense for some teams, I believe that the team should be equally accountable and not rely solely on one person to solve all of their problems. This is a fine line that most teams struggle to draw…too much or too little engagement from the Scrum Master could lead to an inefficient or unproductive team.

One technique that may promote collective ownership of issues is to log the impediments when they arise, which usually works well if this is done within the Agile Management Tool where all of the team’s work is managed. This encourages transparency and visibility to known problems, which could also enhance team-oriented problem-solving (i.e. “swarming” around the issue).

If an Agile team strives to be the best it can be, it should learn to self-manage and self-organize without someone giving them orders. This team learn that the Scrum Master is not the single person who gets stuck with all the problems; he/she can help facilitate or coordinate if needed, but ultimately, the team must figure out the solution to difficult problems. After all, this is why the team was formed in the first place…to solve hard problems!