Lean production system is about delivering better value to customer and continuous improvement is a key pillar in lean. In simplest terms, in continuous improvement, delivery processes are constantly evaluated and improved systematically over time. However, after working with agile teams for a period of time, I have often observed that teams will be able to improve a lot of aspects apart including delivery processes as well using continuous improvements.
I am a big fan of Japanese discipline and way of life and hence my passion with kaizen, a popular flavor of continuous improvement. Following are what I consider the key aspects :
- Small workable changes over big changes. Preferred that changes are visible in shorter term.
- People participation and ownership is the key and ensure no one is left alone. Ideas should come from teams and feedback session is a tool to bring about this inputs. As the simplest form of evaluation, if after a period of time, if a couple of junior colleagues feel that their opinions are not taken in to consideration, that’s a symptom.
- No quick fixes in general. Long term solution is preferred over small term quick fixes.
- Multiple aspects -> Improvement in multiple parameters (rather than just delivery processes), improvement from multiple views etc.
How can you go about this key cycle:
- Retrospective sessions after each and every sprint is a key tool for this. Its time reserved for team as a whole to sit together and reflect on the various aspects on the sprint and review the effectiveness of improvement points made in past cycles.
o Each member should be given talking time and each of them should be equal for effectiveness.
o Dig into the root cause.
- Have feedback boxes and make them accessible to team (near scrum board) so that any one anyday can give inputs anonymously if required (however please understand the spirit of lean is openness and not anonymity. Use this if there is lack of openness and as a short term option only)
- Feedback from multiple stakeholders in open forum – say product owners, quality managers, people managers, customer etc. Once a month or so – so that team is aware of the perspectives of various stakeholders. Also, this will take away any resistance from team and bring accountability in making changes.
- Share your knowledge with other teams in organization and make this culture an organizational culture.
Potential dangers in feedback meetings:
Time boxing is key aspect of this meeting and you could go crazy.
Expecting equal maturity from everyone. Their inputs and feelings are important but their maturity levels and knowledge might differ.
Lost trust in the improvement process. Participants should see results.