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Is This Obstacle Real? A 4-Step Process to Deal with Obstacles.

This is the second in a two-part series: “Obstacles”

Last week I introduced my approach to increasing a team’s RPM and predictability by identifying and removing obstacles.

Now, let’s go further and look at a four-step approach to help a team effectively deal with the obstacles they uncover.

As a member of a team, you probably see obstacles all the time. You complain and then ask for help. However, when you ask for help, you have to sell others on why this issue should be dealt with. You may very likely be told to “work around it”.

Air Cav infantry Soldiers compete in company challengeSo, once you identify an obstacle, first and foremost:

1. Get a clear consensus that this is truly an OBSTACLE.
Obstacles and issues are different things. Obstacles aren’t risks either. So what is an OBSTACLE? A detriment to success. Something that prevents you from being effective at delivering on a commitment.

Make OBSTACLE a reserved word. Use it only to identify key challenges that need management support in order to remove.

2. Next, clearly identify what the obstacle is.
Is it a procedure that unmistakably interrupts the team’s performance and rhythm? Is it a tool that requires you to do all sorts of work-arounds and forces you to spend eight out of every 40 hours working around it? Is there a person being disruptive because he/she isn’t working on the same problem as the rest of the team?

These are all issues and risks. What makes it uniquely an obstacle, is that you are “working around” these issues and risks and creating unpredictable results. These issues and risks shouldn’t be here. It is reasonable to ask your organization for help in eliminating them so you don’t spend any time on them.

3. Clearly identify what the difference would be if the obstacle is removed.
If the difference is “your day will be better”, you probably did NOT find an obstacle. But, if removing the obstacle allows you to deliver a proof-of-concept two weeks early, then this is tangible and of common value.

4. Finally, directly identify how to successfully eliminate the obstacle.
For example, if this means you no longer need to use the tool – and you can “write your own” – then be clear: We can delete the tool and I do it myself.

If you are the manager of a team that is identifying obstacles, then use the above four steps to clearly test: Is this a real obstacle? Are the benefits of removing the obstacle worth it? How do I support my team?

Let the team deliver for you.
Management’s role is to remove obstacles — not to micro-manage the team. If you don’t support your team in removing the obstacles that prevent it from delivering, you are setting your team up for inefficient and unpredictable results.

And that is exactly what this blog is about — sharing the different best practices and thought leadership around improving your team’s RPM, helping them become more efficient, and, eventually, more predictable.

I’m excited to participate in a blog devoted to my lifelong passion — making software development predictable. How do you identify, understand and remove obstacles? Do you have results to share? Add your comments below. I’ll be keeping an eye out and look forward to everyone’s contributions and the discussions that follow.

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Category: For Decisionmakers, For Practitioners, Team Performance