Continuously improving your team!

Stressing output is the key to improving productivity, while looking to increase activity can result in just the opposite.

Paul Gauguin

The desire to continually improve is a mindset we all should embrace. We must look for the right kinds of improvements. A few years ago I read The Goal: A Process of Ongoing Improvement. The author Eli Goldratt tells a story on how we need to optimize the whole system. We can’t optimize parts or we create issues.

Create Quality

Make quality work part of the total process. Many years ago W Edwards Demming tried to change many of the American manufacturers to do this. They scoffed at his ideas. He eventually took his ideas to Japan. They understood and embraced this. Forever changing the way we look at Japanese goods. Whatever you do look for means to ensure quality throughout the process.

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Measure value

Each assignment we get should bring value to the company or organization. If it does not, we should not be doing it. Deliver value and find ways to measure that value. Perhaps there is a monetary value in what you are doing. Or does it help minimize the time for completion of an activity? When you get a new user story or request for improvement make sure to ask the requester how this is bringing value.

Methodologies

There are many different methodologies you can use to instill quality in your work. For now, we only cover some of the major ones.

Kanban

There are five main principles to Kanban. The first is to visualize the workflow. This helps everyone comprehend the process. Next, is limiting the Work in Progress or “W.I.P.”. This is something we learn when we try to multi-task and get nothing done well. The third principle is to manage the flow. Essentially we want to see the whole system. Make the policies explicit, is the fourth principle. This brings clarity to the work. Finally, we should improve collaboratively. Learn as a team not individually.

Lean

Similar to Kanban, Lean has five principles as well. Start off by identifying value. Next, we map the value stream. Third, we create the flow. Then we establish pull in the system. Our fifth and final step is to seek perfection. This process is repeated to create efficiencies and eliminate waste from the system.

Agile

When most people say agile they are talking about Scrum. Scrum is a process of iterative development. You break the work into short chunks and work on it for a sprint, perhaps two weeks. At the end of each sprint, you deliver something. The idea is to get teams working together in collaborative teams.

Keep delivering!

The first agile team I worked on was a big shift from the waterfall approach I was used to. Every two weeks we delivered some code. I thought early one like we would get burned out. My reaction was different later as it felt like a giant flywheel moving along. We could easily deliver again and again.

Tinker with the process

In the continuous improvement movement, we take the saying, “if it broke don’t fix it” and replace it with, “how can we make it better.” The incremental gains can add up as we make progress. Make small experiments part of your process to keep improving. Learn from each small step and keep moving forward.

Keep tinkering with the process! #Improving Click To Tweet

Honor progress

As we make progress we must reinforce these actions. Even small steps in the right direction must be honored. Getting change rolling can be initially difficult. Then like the snowball, it starts to take off.

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