Obstacle board in agile?

obstacles board
obstacles board

It’s rarely that all projects was finished without obstacle; so, we need to manage obstacles in the most effective way. We’ll see together during this article how we can manage obstacles in an agile project. So,  you can use this method in all project management. I present you the obstacle board.

Obstacle board with the Merril & Covey matrix

This matrix come directly from Kanban univers and bring a good vision of the obstacles management. It has presented in the 1990s by A. Roger Merril, Rebecca R. Merrill and Stephen Covey in their book First Things First.

This matrix helps all managers in their project management and purpose two axes: obstacles urgency and obstacles relevant.

Here is the outcomes of this matrix:

Merril & Covey matrix
Merril & Covey matrix

Complete his obstacle board

To have the chance to follow the progress of obstacles treatments, we enjoy to add two new columns on our board: In progress and Done.

obstacle board
obstacle board

Now, you can follow the advancement of all obstacles that you manage with your board. It’s a very important board because you can use it to present the advancement of obstacles at everybody in the company; if the obstacles is a real problem for the progress of the project, everybody see that.

Synchronization of obstacle board and kanban

It’s important not to let them without action. You have to follow them during the project and to take a real action to stop them. For that, you have to add a new task in your kanban board that it will be linked with the obstacle of the obstacle board.

Here the outcome:

obstacle board to kanban
obstacle board to kanban

This example overhead show a complexe kanban board where you can see 2 kinds of tasks to solve the obstacles (US and classic action for example).

I advice you to use a new kind of task named “Impediment” in your kanban board to help your team to assess the disturbance rate; the team use it to face obstacle. It’s useful for your future progress reports and to improve your predictability.

A few key indicators to add

It’s useful to measure lead time and cycle time. As soon as an obstacle input on the obstacle board, I advice you to notify the effective date. In addition, as soon as an obstacle is in the “in progress” area, you add a little point on the post’it every day in order to follow its cycle time.

Here an example of an obstacle post’it that you can have on your board:

obstacle task
obstacle task

Conclusion Obstacle board

You know foolproof technique to manage your obstacles with a good visual management and with effective measures. Do not hesitate to use this technique (obstacle board) if you have many obstacles during your agile projects.

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About Judicaël Paquet 190 Articles
Judicaël Paquet (agile coach and senior devops) My activities in France and Switzerland: - agile transformation architect - customized agile training - sensitization and manager coaching - agile maturity audits and situations - agile coaching (teams, orga, product owner, scrum master, agile coach) Specialties: scrum, kanban, management 3.0, scalability, lean startup, agile method.

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