How Will You Make It Safe for People to Raise Impediments?
Put yourself in the shoes of your people:
- Do you expect them to be open about impediments they having? Are your people concerned that if they bring up a problem that it will reflect poorly on them in the next performance assessment, for example?
- How have you worked impediments in the past?
- Do you people feel pride and get rewarded for working around the impediment rather than removing the impediment?
- Have impediments been around for years with everyone knowing that “no one is going to do anything about it anyway?”
In either case, is it safe for people in your system to raise up the impediments? How will you know if you have these problems? The main clue that you have a problem is that you don’t see impediments. None. Or perhaps some very lightweight ones.
One thing to note. It is often difficult for people to see impediments as impediments as “that’s how things get done around here.” Often they don’t even notice that there is a problem or assume that there is no way to get around the problem; that they will just have to live with it.
How do you encourage the right behaviors from your people? Some ideas:
- Volunteer to work impediments: “pull” impediments to work to show you are serious you are about addressing these.
- Model expected behavior: Be open, transparent about what you are working on and the problems (impediments) you are facing.
- Encourage people to question everything: “Why do we have to get this approval?” “What does this have to take so long?” “Why do we have to do this?” Lead by example.
- Expect impediments: Continuously ask questions like “… in your last retrospective what impediments did you identify that I can help out with?”
- Be incremental in resolving the impediment: sometimes impediments are big and will take a long time to fully resolve. But many times you do not have to solve the problem completely in order the value delivery to speed up. Look at leveraging the 80:20 principle; find the 20% of the effort that will yield 80% of the result.
- Get back to people: ensure you get back to the folks that have the impediment and discuss progress on resolving the impediment. Be active; do not just wait until the impediment is fully resolved.
- Leverage out-of-the-box thinking approaches: For example, ask the Team or Program to determine what their ideal workflow is. See How Do We Get Away from “Business as Usual” Thinking On Teams? for more ideas here.