Continuous improvement

My feeling is that one of the most important aspects of agile is continuous improvement.  One of the main practices that nurture this is retrospectives.  The team focuses on the things that went well and the things that can be improved.  By turning them into action points, they find their way to the whiteboard.  This way we are sure they get high priority and are not forgotten.

Automatically, after a while you will get less action points.  The team feels like there is not much left to improve.  This is a very tricky moment on your project.  It is easy to slip into an ‘all is well’ mindset.

I like the saying: if you’re not going forward, you’re going backward.  This is why we should keep looking for optimizations, no matter how small.

On my current project, I’ve seen this happening.  It was hard to come up with stuff to improve, so we had very little action points. Until me and a few colleagues visited another firm to see how they embraced agile.  The stuff we saw there, gave us a bunch of new ideas.  This got us started again.

Another booster was the introduction of a new experienced agile developer.  He had some great suggestions to improve our process.

This shows that leaving your trusted environment and sharing experiences has very high value.  It is not sufficient to read books, listen to pod-casts, etc.  The most useful knowledge is gained by practice, whether it’s doing it yourself, or getting coached by people who have done it.

About Nick Oostvogels

Hi, I'm an independent management consultant. My biggest strengths are located in the fields of teamwork, motivation, leadership and continuous improvement. In the IT industry you find a lot of these values in the agile movement, in which I often act as a project leader, product owner or coach. My interests go a lot further, into other industries where we find these values in lean production. Besides that, I try to broaden my horizon as much as possible, always looking for better ways of doing business.

3 comments

  1. eric imbs

    Hi Nick.

    Next time the improvements list starts shrinking, bring in someone who has no contact with the project at all and give them a quick elevator speech [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elevator_pitch] to bring some context to their thinking (without leading them).

    You may not be adding a dozen to-dos to the list, but the sometimes inadvertently insightful perspectives and lateral approach may simply spur your own thinking.

    Cheers,

    eric imbs

  2. noostvog

    Eric,

    Thanks for the comment. Indeed, to get an objective review of the project, it is best to bring in someone who was not involved before.
    Do you believe this person has to be coached about the business domain and technical solution, or would you minimize it to a elevator pitch?

  3. Pingback: Lean and Agile « Nick Oostvogels’s Weblog

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