When Things Break Down

We’ve all been there. We’ve watched as something melts down in front of us. Whether it be code being written, or interpersonal conflicts arising, or friction with another team, things can…and do…happen around us all the time which keep our ship from sailing smoothly. When we look at some of the reasons things break down or get delayed, some age-old culprits rear their heads:

Causes of Delay

When things fly off the rails, most people start making excuses rather than doing a root cause analysis of what caused the actual breakdown. Excuses aren’t helpful. Finding reasons *is* helpful. I love the bottom point in the graphic below. Being able to say “we failed” is critical, since “we” collectively didn’t help the person not to fail.


With all this in mind, what are some potential causes of causes? Sure, things break down during a sprint, or with Product Owners or Stakeholders, but behind every breakdown is a cause. What are some of these causes of causes?

Causes of Causes

Honesty and accountability are key in overcoming these obstacles. It starts with personal honesty, and being able to recognize when a mistake has been made. This isn’t necessarily punitive or meant to be a negative. Unintended consequences happen all the time, and we learn and glean knowledge from these types of errors. Ultimately, the goal isn’t to pass blame then sit back with your arms folded in some kind of moral superiority. If one team fails, we all fail. If one individual fails on a team, the whole team fails. The Scrum Master is at the heart of this, having their pulse on what’s going on inside a sprint, or between team members. Team issues are inevitable, but our response to them doesn’t have to be.