How to Handle Impediments, Blockers, & Roadblocks in Scrum

by Jason Gardner (ed.)

In project management, it is common to encounter challenges that can hinder progress and affect the overall success of a project. These challenges can be referred to as impediments, blockers, or roadblocks. However, these terms are often used interchangeably, causing confusion and misunderstanding among project stakeholders. In this blog post, we will define these terms and discuss their differences to help scrum masters, development team members, product owners, and leaders handle project challenges effectively.

The Difference Between Impediments, Blockers, and Roadblocks

Impediments are obstacles that slow down progress but do not necessarily prevent the team from completing the work. These can be anything that gets in the way of delivering the product, such as limited resources, technical issues, or lack of skills. Impediments can be resolved by the team, but it may require additional effort, time, or resources. For instance, if a developer is struggling with a complex coding problem, the team can work together to find a solution or seek help from an expert.

Blockers, on the other hand, are issues that prevent the team from moving forward and meeting project objectives. Unlike impediments, blockers require immediate action because they can cause delays, missed deadlines, and failure to deliver the product. Some common examples of blockers are missing dependencies, severe bugs, environmental issues, or critical errors in production systems. In such cases, the team must prioritize resolving the blocker by doing whatever it takes to remove the issue.

Roadblocks are similar to blockers but tend to have a broader impact on the project. Roadblocks often occur due to external factors beyond the team’s control, such as changes in business goals, regulations, or the market. These challenges may require a significant change in direction or strategy and may cause a project to veer off course. Therefore, it is essential to have a plan in place to handle roadblocks and ensure that the project stays aligned with the overall objectives.

It is helpful to understand these differences and vital to be able to identify and address them quickly. An effective approach is to prioritize and classify challenges as impediments, blockers, or roadblocks, and then allocate the appropriate resources, time and effort to resolve them. It is also crucial to communicate the situation to stakeholders to keep everyone informed and to manage expectations.


In conclusion, understanding the differences between impediments, blockers, and roadblocks and resolving them is essential for project success. By knowing when to identify and address these challenges, scrum masters, development team members, product owners, and leaders can help their teams to maintain momentum and deliver the product on time and within budget. So the next time you encounter a challenge, ask yourself, “Is this an impediment, a blocker, or a roadblock?”, and take the appropriate action to overcome it.


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