What prevents you from starting? The key word here is “prevents”.
I wanted to share a snippet of how we were able to help an organisation get started with tangible bite sized pieces of improvement based on an initial retrospective with a simple powerful question: “What prevents you from delivering valuable change to customers every 2 weeks?”
Step 1 : Start with a Powerful Question
This retrospective was with a team which had already been working as a cross functional team for 12 months. While key agile ceremonies were in place was the team working on the right things or delivering them efficiently?
“Scrum doesn’t fix your problems. Scrum shows you your problems. You’re supposed to fix the problems.” — Ron Jeffries
Step 2: Establish the Current State Baseline with Metrics
Utilising simple value stream mapping we were able to map the flow of requests from the customers through to production along with the lead time between stages. On average it was taking 86 days for medium sized requests to move from request to production. This was the powerful metric we needed to start a conversation with leaders around the need to start addressing the waste in the process.
Step 3: Group and Prioritise the Improvements
We divided the feedback and waste into 2 groups. The problems that the team had the skills and autonomy to be able to do something about themselves versus the ones that were bigger then them and required wider Enterprise support to fix. We created 2 backlogs. The team improvement backlog and the Enterprise change Backlog.
We prioritised the backlogs utilising a modified version of SAFE’s weighted shortest job first. The most important thing for the team was having an objective and consistent way to have the conversation each time they needed to prioritise a new item.
Step 4: Incorporate Continuous Improvement into the existing Flow
In reality it is not possible to stop and focus only on continuous improvement. Instead, we agreed to lower the teams overall planned velocity and take on a small amount of the prioritised continuous improvement items each iteration. As we had collected metrics around the waste we could map out a tangible roadmap for measurable improvement.
As the Enterprise backlog of items were addressed centrally through process improvement and team structure these also flowed back to the team which meant even further jumps in their velocity as the process was honed.
In conclusion, the teams will be on a continual improvement cycle for many years to come and the hardest part of getting started was addressed. If you are having trouble getting off ground zero I can highly recommend an independent facilitator to be that sounding board for you and help you take the first step.