Obstacle board in agile?

obstacles board
obstacles board

It’s a rare occurrence for projects to reach completion without encountering obstacles. As a result, it becomes crucial to effectively manage these obstacles. In this article, we will explore how to efficiently manage obstacles within an agile project, and this approach can be extended to various project management scenarios. Allow me to introduce you to the concept of the “Obstacle Board.”

Utilizing the Merril & Covey Matrix for the Obstacle Board

Directly derived from the Kanban universe, this matrix provides a comprehensive framework for managing obstacles. Originally presented in the 1990s by A. Roger Merril, Rebecca R. Merrill, and Stephen Covey in their book “First Things First,” the matrix is particularly useful for project managers. It employs two axes: obstacles’ urgency and relevance.

The key outcomes of this matrix are as follows:

Merril & Covey matrix
Merril & Covey matrix

Completing the Obstacle Board

To closely monitor the progress of obstacle resolution, we recommend introducing two additional columns to the board: “In Progress” and “Done.”

obstacle board
obstacle board

By doing so, you can effectively track the advancement of obstacle resolution across the board. This board holds significant value as it allows you to showcase the status of obstacles to everyone in the company. If an obstacle significantly hampers project progress, it’s visible to all stakeholders.

Synchronizing the Obstacle Board and Kanban


It’s imperative not to leave obstacles unattended. Throughout the project, continuous monitoring and decisive action are essential. To achieve this, consider adding a new task to your Kanban board that corresponds to the obstacle on the Obstacle Board.

Here’s the resulting synergy:

obstacle board to kanban
obstacle board to kanban


In the example above, a complex Kanban board demonstrates two types of tasks for resolving obstacles (User Stories and classic actions, for instance). I recommend incorporating a new task type called “Impediment” into your Kanban board. This assists your team in assessing the rate of disturbance caused by obstacles. The team utilizes it to address obstacles, enhancing progress reports and predictive capabilities.

Essential Key Indicators to Incorporate


Tracking lead time and cycle time proves valuable. As soon as an obstacle is added to the Obstacle Board, consider noting the effective date. Additionally, when an obstacle is in the “In Progress” stage, you can add a small marker to the Post-it note every day to monitor its cycle time.

Here’s an example of an obstacle Post-it that you can include on your board:

obstacle task
obstacle task

In Conclusion – The Obstacle Board

You now possess a foolproof technique for managing obstacles using effective visual management and insightful metrics. Should you encounter numerous obstacles during your agile projects, don’t hesitate to employ this technique, the Obstacle Board, to enhance your obstacle resolution process.

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About Judicaël Paquet 368 Articles
Judicaël Paquet (agile coach and senior devops) My Engagements in France and Switzerland: - Crafting Agile Transformation Strategies - Tailored Agile Training Programs - Raising Awareness and Coaching for Managers - Assessing Agile Maturity and Situational Analysis - Agile Coaching for Teams, Organizations, Product Owners, Scrum Masters, and Agile Coaches Areas of Expertise: Scrum, Kanban, Management 3.0, Scalability, Lean Startup, Agile Methodology.

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