Continuous Improvement

Leonor Urena

One of the primary and most defining philosophies of Agile is benefit offered by continuous improvement and as such, Agile practices facilitate near constant opportunities to improve both the people, the product and the overall project. What are the key benefits of continuous improvement? Agile hasn’t committed so much of its practice to continuous improvement without good reason. There are a number of extremely valuable benefits which include:

  • Skill and knowledge sharing, which makes for a stronger and more efficient team.

  • Finding the positive in every negative. Instead of treating mistakes as failures, Agile encourages teams to get a return on the time and effort they have invested by learning from the errors so that they can avoid them in the future, saving time and money.

  •  Establishing faster processes from idea to implementation thanks to streamlined working practises.

  •  Increased adaptability. Businesses which adhere to a culture of continuous improvement are often better prepared to make swift adaptations to changes within a team, project or industry, than a business which uses rigid processes.

  •  Increased productivity thanks to improved staff morale. Agile places emphasis on collaborative teamwork rather than just individual efforts. By not ostracizing team members for mistakes and celebrating success as a whole; individuals are more likely to feel empowered and motivated to do a good job.

So how does Agile facilitate continuous improvement? Many different elements of Agile practises help to facilitate the continuous improvement that makes Agile so effective. Here are some of the key strategies used. Breaking down projects into sprints/iterations Agile focuses on breaking down large projects into small, manageable chunks. These chunks are referred to as sprints or iterations and tend to be between 2 and 4 weeks long. At the start of each sprint a list of tasks to be done is created, giving the team a clear focus for the time ahead. This is significantly less daunting than looking at a whole project as one big picture, which often seems so daunting it is difficult to get started. It also means the team can make lots of small achievements, which improves their morale. Performing Retrospectives Retrospectives are performed at the end of each sprint and are team driven meetings designed to assess the success of the sprint and identify ways to improve processes for the next one. Retrospectives are invaluable as early identification and resolution of obstacles in the project can save time, resources and wasted effort later. Retrospectives are also considered to be a ‘safe place’ for team members to speak honestly and without fear of judgement or blame. This means they are more likely to be forthcoming with problems and solutions, improving and streamlining the processes being used. Performing Stand-Ups Stand-ups are brief daily meetings that provide the equivalent of a status update on the current sprint. They also act as a way to synchronize the team, reinforcing their shared goals, the importance of coordinated efforts and the benefit of skill and knowledge sharing. Most stand-ups focus on team members answering 3 questions:

  • Things done since the previous stand-up

  •  Things planned to be done that day

  •  What obstacles might stand in the way

Many teams use an ‘improvement board’ which lists obstacles that need to be tackled. Visible to the whole team, individuals can then offer direction or assistance to the team member facing the obstacle, sharing knowledge and skill, strengthening the team and overcoming the problem. Providing opportunities to self-evaluate and perform peer reviews Self-evaluations and peer-reviews are additional methods which allow team members to learn from themselves and each other. Peer reviews in particular are considered to be collaborative learning experiences that ensure that both the reviewer and person being reviewed learn something that will enable them to improve the way in which they work. Self evaluations are best performed under the guidance of an experienced Agile coach and are an ideal way of finding and implementing improvements in the way that individuals work. Encouraging effective teamwork Working within a strong and efficient team provides plenty of opportunities to improve. This is because effective teams: - Encourage skill and knowledge sharing, strengthening the abilities of the team as a whole and ensuring that velocity is able to be maintained in the event of absence. - Motivate their members to want to do a good job, which in turn encourages them to improve in order to find the best way of working. - Foster a culture of respect among team members. Teams understand that improvements can’t be discovered without mistakes along the way, and so errors are seen as learning opportunities for the group as a whole, rather than pointing the finger at the individual ‘responsible’. This blog has given you just a glimpse into the ways in which the Agile philosophy of continual improvement can benefit your business. To find out more about getting and keeping your teams performing at maximum velocity, contact us today for no obligation consultation.

About our guest writer

Sustainable Games
I am an Agile coach with a passion to help teams to collaborate, strategize, cooperate and to deliver solutions that are in direct support of strategic initiatives. An agile transition is all about people and interactions and that is my concentration. I apply gamification, and proven techniques to motivate teams. Through these techniques I support teams to drive specific behaviors that contribute towards more effective, productive and harmonious working relationships regardless of the methodology or framework used.

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