Impediments: Do they really exist or merely created|Raising the Red Flag

People are trained time and again to inform or mitigate risk in the team by raising the red flag.

“To raise a red flag it means that something potential is blocking which needs immediate attention”. In Agile world it is termed as an IMPEDIMENT.So team members raise a red flag when they are stuck and cannot proceed, this may be due to some internal or external dependencies.

When presenting topics in a seminar the organizers have special dedicated persons who peep in when the last few minutes are left to make the speaker aware that they need to wind up quickly to allow the next person otherwise he may eat up his slot. Some even use a small alarm bell.The point of concern is while we have observed, heard, demonstrated and made people aware of this philosophy; I still find two most important point people forget while administering this:

1-People tend to defeat the very purpose

Why the flag needs to be raised, although they raise the flag but still the aim is defeated for which it was raised. Let me dig more into this as to why this happens.

Imagine the scenario of the seminar mentioned above, the person just waves a flag and leaves without having confirmed that the speaker has had an eye contact with him. This was not the aim after all…The aim is to make him close the event on time, and if he did not notice he will continue as it happens on most seminars when in the last minutes Q & A sessions are in full bloom. So the very purpose of showing the flag was defeated.

Although raising the flag promptly is a proven practice, more important is to ensure whether the flag has been noticed.

We often hear, I have emailed to the database DBA that the database is down so I took up another task. The server was not connecting; I have emailed it to the IT guys since morning and also raised a ticket for this.

And the most wonderful among these were I saw a person put up a red flag on his seat.

People are aware of the fact that the task they were having was of high priority and his manager has made some commitments based on it, they feel they are doing justice as they have some impediments or blockers which is beyond their scope to resolve. So by shooting an email their job is done.

A person with a higher sense of responsibility and ownership will be chasing this down with the external party involved in the transaction and then conclude on it. He might call up the person and request him to look over to the email or note he has left for him. So there is just a change in the way you think and work.

The reason I am highlighting this is because the person on whom the dependency is on, might be having other high priority activities, and your email does not bother him for the day. He might have a look in it after 2 days. So once you chase it up it just gets fast, albeit taking the proper channels and having the correct communication.

2-Have you tried other alternatives:

This is another subtle point but ignored most of the time, before going further and raising an impediment have we explored what all options are available.

There are other alternatives by which I can complete this, raising the red flag should not be taken as a handy tool to pass the buck to other person.We should look for all possible ways to resolve the challenge which in our way to proceed.

So to sum it up we always have different option in our hand; It is for us to decide how to get to the problem solving approach rather than just raising the red flag.

An approach to resolving an impediment :

The person does not explore all possible ways he can resolve the impediment.
The person does not explore all possible ways he can resolve the impediment.

A smarter way to work before terming an issue as an impediment:

Being Proactive,"Smarter Approach"
The person explores all possible ways he could think to resolve the issue before raising an impediment.


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