How Do We Handle Major Obstacles During a Sprint?

Man jumping over a hurdle

Before we dig into how to handle major obstacles during a Sprint, let’s talk about some of the obstacles that a Scrum Team is likely to run into.

Are there issues popping up in the business process? Has a customer identified a bug that needs to be handled immediately? Has the team run into a technical impediment?

Any of these issues might be called a “major obstacle,” but not all of them are under your team’s control. Whether your team can directly address the problem or not, your approach to dealing with big impediments should always start from the same core idea: 

The goal of a Sprint is to produce the highest-value Increment possible. 

Of course, the Scrum Team decides what goes into this Increment (i.e. how to deliver that value) during the Spring Planning.

Typically, teams stick to the planned work for a Sprint. But, this is Agile, so when a change that affects value pops up, plans need to change.  

If the obstacle in question cannot wait until the end of the Sprint, the PO and Developers should meet to discuss how the planned work needs to be adjusted to deliver the most value for this Increment. If the Sprint Goal has become obsolete, the PO cancels the current Sprint and the team starts a new one.

This time, the team uses the updated Sprint Goal that reflects the work necessary to deliver the most value.

Major obstacles appearing often?

In the long term, the Scrum Team should find out the root cause of any and all major obstacles that occur during a Sprint. Did it come from outside or inside of the organization? Does it have to do with a bottleneck in your process?

It may be useful to bring in an outside expert or coach, if the team is unable to determine the cause themselves.

Once you know where the problem came from, the Scrum Team can add the necessary action items in the Product Backlog to help solve it.

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