April 16, 2014

Agile Coaching Blog

Continuous Improvement: Feel the Change

Continuous improvement sounds great. Most companies have policies that state continuous improvement is what they seek. If we all actually did it, think how great our companies would be!

The reality is that most people and companies do not continuously improve. I certainly don’t! There are many reasons that continuous improvement is so hard. One of them is that change is uncomfortable.

Feel the Change

If we are going to continuously improve, we need to become comfortable with change. Big changes are certainly hard but can we use many small changes to get used to how change feels? Yes, we can. Here is a small experiment to prove it! Most people, without even thinking about it, have patterns and habits that we follow. This is good, because remaking all the same little choices every single day would be untenable to our sanity. We can also use these habits to practice feeling change.

As an example I will tell you about how I put my shoes on in the morning. (Maybe this is starting to sound silly but, stay with me here.)

Continuous Improvement Means Many Small Changes

Tie differently (Image (CC) by Maya83 on Flickr)

If I don’t think about the process, this is what I do every time I put on my shoes:

  • Put on my left sock.
  • Put on my right sock.
  • Put on my left shoe and tie the laces.
  • Put on my right shoe and tie the laces.

I no longer recall why, decades ago, I choose to follow this order of steps. Maybe it’s what my mother taught me, who knows? Now, if I want to feel a touch of change and experience what altering my patterns is like, I can change up the way I put on my shoes. And I learn:

  • I have to think about what I am doing.
  • I find myself dynamically planning what to do next.
  • It “feels wrong” to go out of order.
  • Even though I did it differently, I still accomplished my goal.

Small Continuous Improvement Steps

Most continuous improvement comes in small steps—little changes found in a retrospective or discovered during the work. Even such small changes can “feel wrong” at first and force us to think in different ways.

Practice “feeling” change by altering your little routines. Maybe drive to work by a different route. Have lunch at a different time or place. Even wear your brown shoes on Wednesday for once. Remember what that small change feels like. If you don’t feel that way often during your work, are you really continuously improving?

I challenge you to change something about what you do at least once a week. Observe what you feel and learn from that change. Find ways to insert more improvements in your work and get closer to the continuous improvement ideal!

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About Alan Dayley Alan Dayley

Alan brings more than 25 years of software engineering experience to his Agile Coaching practice. Agile Coach, Certified ScrumMaster, Certified Scrum Product Owner, Certified Scrum Professional.

Alan works with teams and management in strengthening the people side of creative work. A volunteer founding member of the Phoenix Scrum User Group steering team, he loves to help people learn and create innovation at their company and in their life.

“When someone is just starting out with Agile and Scrum, they need to define what the desired goal will be. What is the problem to be solved? If that problem or goal is connected to delighting customers, they will have a jump start on success!”

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