Recently, at my current project, we have been going on a journey to make impactful, sustainable improvements to the team and the way we work. This has mainly been facilitated through sprint retrospectives and while the ideas that are generated in the discussion are great, I'm finding that we aren't really sticking to them and tend to forget them, thereby negating their potential entirely.

After some research, I came across the following list which I quite liked. Although it wasn't directed at software development, I still thought it was quite applicable, so that is what I would like to share with you.

Maintaining Results, Step-By-Step

For me, the improvements that are the best suited for the list below are the "longer term" goals. By this I mean ones which will require a cultural shift in the way things are done. For example, one of the items that we identified as part of the retrospective was that tasks aren't broken up sufficiently into smaller chunks, and as a result, they sit in progress for days at a time, thereby not reflecting the true work that is being done.

1. Identify one thing to improve on
Currently, we have about 2-3 items to improve on per sprint. Sometimes they are short actions which take very little time to achieve and can be done as an actual task in the sprint. However, the bulk of the improvements are longer term, cultural ones, like the one I mentioned above. Looking back at it, maybe having 2-3 of those changes was overly ambitious and we should be just improving one thing at a time.

The reasoning for doing this is that it allows you to focus on one thing and makes it much easier to achieve. This lessens the chance that it will be forgotten as there aren't any other things to remember.

2. What daily behaviour will make you better at this?

The next step is to identify a daily behaviour, that takes at most 15 minutes, which ensures that you are becoming better at this. It needs to be short so that it will be quick to do, thereby making it more likely that it will be done. Small changes like this will, over time, become sustained behaviours.

If we continue with the example above, the daily behaviour would be to create a daily reminder before standup to ensure that our tasks are broken down sufficiently and the board is up to date.

3. How can you measure that you are becoming better?
As I have talked about before, if you can't measure it you can't track your progress to see if you are becoming better. You need to identify ways in which you can see if you are improving or not.

In our example, the measurement would be to see if people's tasks and current status are reflecting the actual work that they are doing and that there is movement happening on the board.

4. What fast, consistent feedback can you get?
As per the agile mindset, getting fast feedback is an essential ingredient to improving. You need to get quick, consistent feedback from other people to ensure that it isn't just your own bias making you believe that things are improving. If you are using this method for some personal improvement, tell the people on the team, so they are aware of it and will provide feedback.

The key here is for the external feedback to be fast and consistent. If feedback takes to long for people to give, they won't do it and it needs to be regular to have those checkpoints along the way.

In our example, we could have a quick checkpoint after standup every week on a Friday, to see how everyone thinks we are tracking and if improvements are actually being realized.

I'm going to be trying out the steps listed above over the next few weeks to see how it goes and identify if it is effective.

Until next time...keep learning!